VIZIO 5.1 Soundbar: Best Bang For Your Audio Buck?

Since dismantling our projector-based home theater in 2005 and embracing something of a nomadic lifestyle, we’ve been sadly lacking in the surround sound department. But, having recently purchased a new home (and new television), we’re finally ready to get a bit more serious with our audio. Yet, I wasn’t motivated to recreate the elaborate config we once sported and have been fixated on soundbar-esque solutions — improved acoustics over the TV’s speakers, yet minimal clutter without fishing wires through the walls.

Of CNET’s top 2013 pics, I went with the (horribly named) Vizio S4251w-B4 for several reasons. First, and perhaps surprisingly, the Vizio is much less gaudy than the octagonal Sony ($300) – and way more tasteful than my other Vizio hardware, with a matte finish and no glowing logos. But the biggest selling point is true 5.1 sound via the bundled rear speakers… which necessitated the purchase of these speaker stands. The soundbar array communicates wirelessly with the subwoofer, which in turn powers the rears with RCA cables. So, while there’s no wires crossing the family room, we wouldn’t call this a true “wireless” solution. However, to my untrained ears, it’s a highly effective compromise – all-encompassing surround sound, limited hardware footprint and minimal exposed wiring (which I obviously still need to tidy up).

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