Vizio S3821 2.1 Soundbar Review: Packs a Punch for the Price
August 19th, 2013
I recently had the opportunity to swap out the 5.1 audio system in my living room with the Vizio S3821 2.1 soundbar and subwoofer. This slimline sound system is a great way to add high quality sound to your flat-screen TV without having to run a bunch of wires, and without breaking the bank.
The speaker bar itself measures 38″ (w) x 3.6″ (h) x 2.9″ (D) and fits nicely beneath or in front of most flat screen TVs 40″ diagonal and up. It also comes with mounting hardware should you choose to wall mount it instead. In addition to the soundbar, the system includes a small powered subwoofer (13.5″ (w) x 11″ (h) x 6″ (d)) that you can set anywhere you have a power outlet, thanks to a wireless connection to the main speaker.
Connecting the Vizio soundbar is simple. The easiest way to go is to connect its optical or coax digital input to the corresponding output on your TV set. Most modern sets can do the switching between multiple video inputs, then output audio using one of these methods. This way, you avoid the need for switching inputs on the soundbar. That said, it does offer a total of six inputs, including one each of digital optical, digital coax, RCA analog stereo, 3.5mm mini and USB. The fifth input is a wireless connection for Bluetooth devices. Vizio is kind enough to include optical, coax and RCA cables in the box. Inputs can be switched from the remote control, and are displayed on the face of the soundbar using a set of small white LEDs. In my case, I only connected a single optical cable to my TV and paired my mobile devices.
Speaking of Bluetooth devices, this thing was a dream when paired with my iPhone and HTC One. Music quality was exceptional, providing room-filling sound in my 400+ sq. ft. living room, and a wide soundstage that bested the dedicated 5.1 speakers I currently have. Its included remote control can also be used to operate your Bluetooth device, including play, pause and track controls.
But the music capabilities of the Vizio 2.1 soundbar are really a bonus. The main use case for this system is for watching movies and television programs, and playing video games, and I’m happy to say it handled all of these with aplomb. I found the sound quality of the soundbar to be quite satisfying, with good dynamic range, and imperceptible distortion even when pushed to the highest volume level it could push out.
The 6″ powered subwoofer isn’t going to make your walls shake the way they do in a theater, but it does offer enough punch to get the point across. Oddly enough, Vizio doesn’t provide wattage specs for the speakers – they only say that frequency response ranges from 50Hz to 19KHz, and that the system can push out 100dB of sound at 1 meter with less than 1% THD.
Top volume for the system isn’t going to make your eardrums bleed, but it is plentiful – more than enough to wake the neighbors and fill a large living space, and its really nice that there’s no crackling or unexpected vibration at peak volume levels. When using the system, I did find that turning on DTS TruSurround offered the best overall experience, as it created an extremely large and open soundstage, and did an admirable job providing a sense of surround when watching movies and playing games. That said, you won’t be able to pinpoint sound locations like you could with dedicated speakers for each surround channel. The system also supports DTS TruVolume for keeping volume levels consistent. Personally, I’m not a fan of messing with dynamic range in that way, so I left that off.
Overall, I was more than pleased with the quality of the Vizio S3821 soundbar. It’s more than sufficient for anyone looking to add high quality sound to their living room without breaking the bank, and works well for a wide variety of content. It’s priced at just $179.99(USD) and can be purchased direct from Vizio, though you can find it over at Amazon for about $20 less.