VIZIO Conquered The Smart TV; Now It Wants To Put Atmos In Your Living Room

Monica Chin

William Wang, the CEO of Vizio, doesn’t give a lot of interviews. Earlier this month, he gave one to me. But he didn’t want to discuss the affordable, high-value smart TVs for which his company is best known. He wanted to discuss soundbars. That’s because Vizio is trying, harder than ever, to convince its customers to care about audio.

Vizio is no stranger to audio. It was an early champion of providing 5.1 surround sound at an accessible price, making a splash in 2013 with its $330 Home Theater Sound Bar. And for several years, reviewers have recommended the company’s affordable Dolby Atmos products as the best budget soundbars you can buy.

For those unfamiliar, Dolby Atmos is essentially the 4K of speakers — it’s really nice, but not all products support it (and neither does all content). Rather than mixing audio into different channels, as traditional systems do, Atmos pinpoints the exact location where each sound should emanate from, making you feel like you’re immersed in the audio. To achieve this, high-end products use upward-firing drivers, which bounce sound off the ceiling. The result imitates the experience of a theater (which might have speakers built into the walls and ceiling) with just a soundbar, subwoofer, and perhaps rear speakers.

But despite the availability of affordable Atmos soundbars, most people still aren’t buying them; home theater remains largely an enthusiast space. “It’s a slower adoption than we would think the market should do,” Wang said“It’s not a commodity at this particular time.”


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