Those following closely know the original Vizio 5.1 “soundbar” was one of the best tech purchases I made in 2013. Unlike traditional soundbars, in addition to being paired to a subwoofer, the Vizio also includes a pair of rear channel speakers (that connect to the subwoofer, which communicates wireless to the soundbar) to provide a true surround experience. Taking into account I’m no audiophile, I’ve been very pleased with the sound quality. Further, I appreciate the lack of clutter with this solution in conjunction with its understated style. Oh yeah – it also quite capably streams Bluetooth audio. Retail was somewhere in the neighborhood of $330, but I picked mine up for a mere $230. Of course, with any amazing value like this there must be some catch. Indeed, the Vizio shipped with a limited number of inputs. Enter 2014…
It seems Vizio has had great success in the audio category, and they’re showing off several new products this year including a smaller 5.1 system and a rather rich sounding pedestal speaker stand. But, of course, I’m most interested in the successor to my unit. The new S5451 soundbar spans 54″, versus the 42″ of 2013, providing a wider soundstage with better separation of the front channel speakers. Additionally, the subwoofer is larger with a broader range. Again, to my untrained ears, the demo sounded fantastic. Yet, practically speaking, I was far more concerned with the rear inputs. And Vizio delivered. Sort of.
The new 5.1 unit includes both a HDMI input and HDMI output jack, along with the requisite ARC for two-way TV<>Soundbar communication. This will be a more versatile solution for many, including me. But what I was really hoping for were multiple HDMI inputs, turning the soundbar into a switch. At the very least the new solution provides a second usable input, beyond the optical — and if your TV cooperates by sending third party 5.1 out via HDMI you’re golden either way.
Pricing and timing haven’t been announced yet, but we anticipate the incoming S5451 will clock in slightly more than last year’s model and perhaps midyear. I’ll of course be watching closely as a potential upgrade.