Review: Vizio SB4051-C0 40″ 5.1 Sound Bar System
The humble AV receiver (AVR) remains the prime choice for audiophiles that desire a surround sound experience. However, the web of wires and added complexity of AVR ownership isn’t for everyone and that’s where the new Vizio 40″ 5.1 Sound Bar System (SB4051-C0) saves the day. The SB4051 offers easy setup, convenient connection options, and a solid audio upgrade for weak TV speakers.
Read more about the Vizio SB4051-C0 Sound Bar System after the break:
True to its namesake, the Vizio SB4051-C0 40-inch 5.1 Sound Bar System ($350) includes a 3-speaker sound bar that measures exactly 40-inches wide (also 3-inches high and deep). The similarly-styled surround sound speakers and powered subwoofer feature matte-finished metal top plates that add a touch of substance and additional protection to each component.
The speakers’ are wrapped in finely-perforated metal grills that shrug off fingerprints and obvious signs of dust; a nice alternative compared to the glossy plastic used on many speaker systems. Vizio recommends its 40-inch sound bar for TVs 47-inches and larger, and the company also offers 38-inch and 54-inch 5.1 Sound Bar Systems.
Everything a person needs to connect the SB4051 to a TV or other audio source device is included in a well-organized accessory box. Cables for HDMI, optical audio, coaxial audio, and analog audio are provided and a clearly printed guide highlights what connections will provide the best audio experience.
Also in the box are wall-mount brackets for the sound bar and surround sound speakers, but Vizio expects would be wall-mounters to determine the wall type and purchase appropriate fasteners for attaching the brackets. The SB4051’s rubber padded feet add only a couple of millimeters of height to the sound bar helping it keep a low profile when positioned in front of a TV.
The sub’s wireless connection to the sound bar increases placement flexibility, and Vizio claims a range of up to 60-feet line-of-sight. A set of 25-foot color-coded wires connect the surround speakers to the subwoofer. This sat/sub configuration eliminates an unsightly wire run to the back of the room, and it provides ample range and wire length for most room configurations.
The SB4051’s uncluttered IR remote simplified operation with clearly labeled buttons and a context-sensitive 1-line display along the top edge that made it easy to access and configuration more than a dozen individual settings. The remote’s decent tactile feedback made up for its lack of a backlight, and a row of indicator lights along the sound bar’s left side act as a virtual level indicator for many settings. During normal operation, the indicator lights fade out leaving only a pleasingly subtle power indicator.
The selection of inputs on the Vizio sound bar include analog and RCA style stereo inputs, coaxial and optical digital inputs, and an HDMI pass-through. The bar’s HDMI output is ARC-enabled (audio return channel) to receive sound from compatible TVs, and I had no issues using an auto-switch with the HDMI input to connect multiple devices.
Built in Bluetooth support made it simple to link a mobile device to the sound bar for easy audio streaming. The SB4051’s support of aptX streaming technology offers improved audio quality with supported mobile devices compared to a generic Bluetooth connection, and Apple is strangely absent from the lengthy list of manufacturers supporting aptX in its mobile products.
Supported audio formats include Dolby Digital, DTS, and up to 5.1-channel Linear PCM at 96kHz.
Each surround speakers incorporates a single 2.5-inch driver, and the sound bar’s 3-channels utilize 2.75-inch drivers. The ported subwoofer packs a 6-inch driver. My setup placed the surround speakers closer to my ears than the sound bar channels, and this configuration made the surrounds default levels slightly too loud. However, the remote and its useful display made it easy to manually dial the surrounds down to better balance the listening experience. The SB4051 has a basic speaker test to verify everything is connected properly but it lacks an automated speaker setup function that’s commonly included with AVRs.
I started my evaluation of the Vizio SB4051 by streaming some FLAC-encoded audio tracks via Bluetooth from my smartphone. Sound quality improved once I realized that my phone’s music player app enabled some audio processing effects by default. Vizio claims its sound bar system is rated to a sound pressure level of 102dB (<1% THD), and I can confirm that it pushed an ample amount of distortion-free bass and volume for a mid-sized room. The dialog of my favorite podcasts streamed over Bluetooth sounded clean and clear as did the various channels of broadcast TV that I sampled.
The Blu-ray movie Master and Commander has an epic soundtrack that highlighted the system’s bass response and surround sound capabilities. During the quiet portions of the movie, the wooden ship’s subtle creaks and groans enveloped the room. And when the cannons roared, the subwoofer added its appreciable impact as the action convincingly panned around the room. The Blu-ray audio disc of Beck’s Sea Change with its 6-channel high bitrate presentation was another good showcase for the Vizio sound bar system and its ability to clearly reproduce vocals and a variety of stringed instruments. The system’s subwoofer did an admirable job of adding low-end punch to the relatively small speaker drivers.
Bottom lineThe Vizio B4051-C0 40-inch 5.1 Sound Bar System ($349.99) impressed me by providing a simple, clean looking setup with attractively styled components. The system’s ample volume, solid vocal clarity, and low-end oomph proved adept at handling a variety of content and listening situations. Although uncommon with sound bar systems, an automated speaker setup tool for adjusting levels and timing is something I’d like to see Vizio incorporate in future iterations, provided it can be done in an affordable way. With its numerous input options and convenient Bluetooth link, the Vizio Sound Bar System is a compelling and flexible audio upgrade without the complexity of an AVR.
Disclosure: The Vizio B4051-C0 review sample is a manufacturer’s loan
By Robert Heron
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