CNN —  

At just $249.99, Vizio’s new V-Series 5.1 Home Theater Soundbar screams value.

It’s part of the 2021 lineup that aims to streamline its offerings and align Vizio’s home audio division with its TV lines. For instance, you could pair this soundbar, two speakers and a subwoofer system with a V-Series TV for an optimal experience. All that’s required for setup is giving the soundbar power and connecting it to your TV with HDMI. Your TV will recognize the external source, and the soundbar will wirelessly connect to the rest of the hardware.

We’ve tested this home theater solution with a range of TVs over the past few weeks and found it’s an affordable setup that undercuts our highly rated Roku smart speaker setup (two speakers, a woofer and a soundbar). It’s ridiculously simple to get it working with your TV and delivers a crisp, room-filling sound.

Here’s everything you need to know about the V-Series 5.1 Home Theater Soundbar System.

A (relatively) simple setup

The V-Series 5.1 Home Theater Soundbar System comes with a 36-inch-long soundbar, a modest size subwoofer (that weighs just 5 pounds), a left speaker and a right speaker. You’ll also get plenty of speaker cable since you will need to connect the speakers to the included woofer.

Those cables present the main slowdown. Depending on your setup, you may need to move furniture around or run cable underneath it. Ideally, you’ll place the soundbar center under the TV and the woofer off to the left or right. By design, the left and right speakers act as traditional satellites that go in the rear of the setup facing the action on the TV. If you have space constraints, you can also set these up in front, with the left or right on the respective sides of the TV. With this setup, the sound will be less surround and more forward-facing — more of a wall than an oval of sounds.

Either way, you’ll be running cable to connect the left and right speakers to the woofer. You’ll just need to decide how much cable you want to run. And for $250, it’s important to note that aspects of this are wireless, but a majority still relies on cables connecting hardware.

Once you have the left and right speakers set up, preferably near where you might sit (we set ours on the left and right sides of the couch that faces the TV), you’ll be off to the races. You can, of course, leave them unconnected and use the soundbar with just the woofer.

Either way, be sure that the speakers are connected to the subwoofer and that it has power. Like previous Vizio sound systems, the subwoofer will wirelessly pair with the soundbar. It’s handy and saves us from managing another wire.

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Be warned, though, that once you connect the soundbar to power, it will instantly start talking to you, which gets old really fast. It will keep searching for input and remind you of this by telling you that it’s searching. But what’s nice is that once it’s plugged into the TV and recognizes that, you’re set. Just act quickly and use the included HDMI cable to connect the soundbar to your TV.

As far as the design goes, it’s unassuming. All of the included hardware has a soft matte black finish and fabric covering the speakers so sound can easily get out. The soundbar collects dust, so keep a duster handy.

Sound, sound and sound

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Once you’re plugged in via optical or HDMI, you’re ready to rock out with content.

Your TV should recognize that audio can be pumped through an external source, thanks to HDMI ARC support. Essentially, ARC allows signals to go both ways via HDMI, which means one controller for the whole setup: TV and audio. Alongside the ARC-capable HDMI port, you get an optical port, two audio jacks, a USB-A port and a power port. We also had no issues getting the soundbar to pair with the woofer.

So how does a $249.99 sound system sound? Well, it delivers a better sound than what your TV can produce on its own while filing a room, but it doesn’t quite reach IMAX surround-sound levels.

We threw a range of content at the V-Series 5.1: live music, superhero movies (“Avengers: Endgame,” “Captain Marvel,” “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”), “Hamilton” via Disney+ and some reality TV. It’s a wide soundstage in which you can hear the action play around you. You’ll get some floor rumbles, thanks to the woofer, and the 3D audio sensation is quickly noticeable. For instance, playing back the Space X launch, the noises of ignition and a thruster that’s heating up will quickly fill the room. It’s not the most detailed, but we didn’t experience any artifacts or crackling.

Left and right sounded robust, thanks to the speakers. It offers direct channels for those sounds. We highly recommend using the left and right speakers, as it will have a noticeable impact on the sound.

The soundbar itself features three speakers inside. When watching a dialogue-heavy scene with louder background noises, it was easy for the characters’ voices to get a bit washed out. Vocals are generally center in the mix, while the left and right speakers handle background or environmental sound. That resulted in the audio being a bit more muddied. It doesn’t cripple the entire experience, and for the price, we don’t think you’ll be disappointed with the quality.

The woofer surprisingly packs a punch and offers deep bass that you will feel on the floor. Like the rest of the design, it will blend into your environment, but it might surprise you when a deep sound needs to be broadcasted. And when you have all the hardware running, Vizio packs support for Dolby Audio 5.1 — we found that you could tell the difference when listening to “Hamilton” with crispness and more motion within tracks versus speech.

Bottom line

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At just $249.99, it’s easy to see the value with Vizio’s entry-level sound system. It packs a punch with smooth quality across a variety of genres. Running cable wire is nobody’s favorite activity, but the ability to use it in a front or back setup should help solve major qualms.

It sounds good and is an excellent way to boost the sound from your TV with a relatively easy installation and setup.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailer’s listed price at the time of publication.