Soundbars Reviewed: Vizio SB4051 And Samsung 500 Series

Something a little different. For Christmas, the only thing I wanted was a soundbar, because, let’s face it, most TVs nowadays have terrible speakers. I’ve previously written about the Vizio TV I got last year, which I’m still thrilled with. I’ve been using computer speakers attached to the component audio output, and, while OK, I wanted sound that pops. The soundbar I had settled on was the Vizio SB4051-C0.

It’s listed as a 5.1-Channel Soundbar System with Wireless Subwoofer and Rear Satellite Speakers, available at lots of outlets. I bought mine at Best Buy. It has a soundbar, wireless subwoofer, and two satellite speakers attached to and powered by the subwoofer.

Starting with the soundbar itself, the sound is very good, especially for the price. One thing I really like is that it has 3 channels: left, right, and center, something very few soundbars have. Most are simply left and right, called 2 channels. The .1 you might see alludes to the subwoofer. Crisp sound, surround sound is excellent, depth of sound and projection are fantastic. If you are looking at other Vizio soundbars, they have the same characteristics. Most come at 38″ long. This one is 40″. They are also very loud. There is no rating for watts, but in decibels (102).

I find the subwoofer to provide just the right amount of bass. I was not looking for an earth shaker. I don’t like, except in a movie theater. Some complain it isn’t enough, I think it is.

It comes with all the necessary cables, including an optical cable, coaxial audio cable, and HDMI for use with ARC.

Here’s where it breaks down. The satellite speakers never worked, except during the test the system could send out. Nary a sound. Vizio suggested I exchange it. I did. The satellite speakers worked, except the sound was so low I couldn’t hear them beyond 2-3 inches away. I ran the cords multiple ways (from TV, cable box, and Bluray), and couldn’t get the sound increased, and, yes, at least the TV and Bluray were putting out at least 5.1 audio.

Sadly, there is a lot of confusion at Vizio regarding the 5.1. I’ve been told multiple times that the sound has to be true 5.1 for the satellite speakers to work, and multiple times that the system will mimic 5.1 using Truesound. Regardless, I was only going to play for so long with the second one before returning it.

I also had a problem with a slight audio sync problem between TV sound and soundbar, which meant could not turn TV sound on, or use my stereo system to augment, except when plugged into the component outputs. I may have found a solution for that. More later.

I spent some time talking to the folks at Best Buy, and listening to the sound. The best in the price range I was looking (no more than $350) is the Samsung 500 series (HW-J550/ZA), which is a best seller for a reason.

It is only 2.1 channels, meaning right and left on the soundbar, plus a subwoofer. The soundbar has a low profile, which is great for where I place it, being on the mantle over the fireplace. With the TV right behind it on the built in shelf over the gas fireplace, it doesn’t block signal to the TV. The sound is fantastic. One thing I really like is how the sound seems to be coming from around the TV, rather than from the bar sitting below it. Quite a few soundbars I tested did not provide this effect: you didn’t wonder where the sound was coming from, you could tell from the soundbar. The Samsung is expansive, which is a better experience. When you’re watching someone’s lips move on TV, you want to think the sound is coming from them, not speakers elsewhere, if you know what I mean.

The subwoofer is similar to the Vizio, so, just what I was looking for.

I’d definitely recommend the Samsung for anyone who just wants some great sound for a good price. And, yeah, I’ve had it cranked for movies and a Devils game, and it was fantastic. It is also very easy to connect Bluetooth to devices to stream sound, and is as easy as turning off the BT on the soundbar to disconnect, so you can save battery power.

Regarding audio sync, I had a lot of problems with the Vizio, and was having the same problems with the Samsung, though I only tried it with the optical cable. I tried adjust the sync on the TV and soundbar. If you run into this, try checking a setting on your TV, DVD player, and/or cable box, make sure it is in PCM, not bitstream (which is for true 5.1+ audio). I changed, and immediately synced correctly.

I do not remember whether I tried this with the Vizio. The Vizio is a great product, if you can get it to work. Not sure if it is worth it a full price of $349. On sale for $299? Maybe, if you can get the satellite speakers to work. You can also try the 38″ version. I picked up the Samsung on sale for $279, which is $100 off. Took the extra $20 and got a new memory card, which was on sale for $17.99, normally $69.99. One in my table has gone stupid, locked up.

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One Response to “Soundbars Reviewed: Vizio SB4051 And Samsung 500 Series”

  1. captainfish says:

    I like this.
    I have a Sony receiver that pumps out my separate channels – 5.1.

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