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ARE VIZIO SOUNDBARS ANY GOOD ?
It turns out Vizio is more than just a TV company; they’re actually one of the more successful soundbar manufacturers on the market right now, which is saying something considering the sound bar sales continue to increase every single year, making sound bars one of the hottest market segments in all theatre.
And this is why you can get a soundbar for your new TV in virtually every size, configuration and price. So how does Vizio ‘s new flagship soundbar measure up ? Well settle in because we have a lot of ground to cover as we review the new elevate soundbar from Vizio. On the surface, there’s a lot to like about the elevate soundbar. For starters, it is a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos and DTSX enabled soundbar.
It comes with a nice wireless subwoofer that they say it can reach them all the way down to 30 hertz, as well as two wired surround speakers with upward firing drivers that work in conjunction with the adaptive height speakers on the main bar itself. The elevate has three HDMI inputs; one of which supports eARC as well as ERC. It also has an optical audio input, analogue audio input as well as a 3.5 millimetre stereo jack. It is also accompanied with all of the necessary cables you’re going to need to get up and running. So that is a good thing.
But for those of you looking to cut down on cable clutter, you’ll be happy to know that the elevate also supports Wi Fi, Bluetooth and Chromecast. Speaking of Chromecast, if you have a capable smart speaker, you can even interface with the elevate soundbar using Google Assistant, Siri, or Alexa. Installing this soundbar isn’t too difficult to setup.
Thankfully, there is a remote; the remote is better than the app and more reliable too. We have had this soundbar since mid December and in all that time I haven’t managed to successfully connect it to its own app, maybe once or twice. If you insist on trying to use the elevate with the Vizio smart cast app,more power to you. Thankfully connecting to the bar with Bluetooth is far more straightforward and enables you to bypass the app and enjoy some basic music streaming.
Outside of that, you can 100% control the sound bar using the remote control; just know that you’re probably going to have to fiddle with the settings just a bit. Unlike other sound bars around the Vizio elevate’s price, this one does not have any auto room correction or auto setup functionality at all. There are presets for movies, music, things like that but no real magic bullet solution in order to make the elevate sound best in your room at the touch of a button so you might need to be prepared to tinker with the settings quite a bit in order to arrive at a sound that is balanced from the factory.
In a small room, the elevate soundbar system is way too bass heavy. The wireless subwoofer is good, it is incredibly powerful but its default setting is just way too high; so it has deep bass but it’s completely void of any resolution or articulation, think of the Honda Civic type and not so much Hi fi. And this deep bass drowns out any resolution in the mid and high frequencies. Thankfully, you can go in and tinker with the settings inside the Vizio elevates menu and achieve far better bass results; but if you were hoping for an easy set it and forget it soundbar system straight out of the box, this one may not be for you. Now if you’re willing to put some time in with this sound bar, things improve greatly. After extensive adjustment to almost every parameter within the device’s menu, I arrived at a sound that worked for me. Surprisingly this meant turning the subwoofer down almost to its lowest setting, and I did this for two reasons;
First of all, vocals, especially male voices that are lower in octave kind of like mine sound overly chesty if the volume on the sub was too high. They also sounded as if they were simultaneously coming from the bar and the subwoofer and this isn’t an experience that is enjoyable.I had to turn the subwoofer down which meant that the mid range driver and tweeters were not overpowered. After my adjustments to the bass, the elevate soundbar does exhibit a clear and focused albeit slightly cool mid range. Adjusting the centre speaker level does help with dialogue but you don’t have to go crazy with it. However, a little bit of a bump in its level does help it to sound a little bit more like a traditional home theatre with three speakers across the front.
The tone that’s slightly forward natural mid range when adjusted does help with dialogue intelligibility. This is something that the elevate is not that good at straight out of the box and in its default settings, high frequencies like the mid range are incredibly clear in focus but again just a touch cool. I wouldn’t call them harsh or fatiguing but they can accentuate things like sibilance when pushed. Now obviously you can go and dial the treble back using the remote which I did in order to keep this trait at bay. But if you’re worried if the elevate has the high frequency detail to give it the sonic contrast throughout all of the other musical elements, it has.
You just really have to find the right balance between treble, midrange and bass that works for you and your room because it really is going to differ room to room and person to person. The elevate is a very fast, relatively articulate and focused sounding system. It has real speed and visceral punch that makes watching movies in a home theatre environment very engaging. Now the broadness, spaciousness of that experience can vary depending on how you configure those adaptive height speakers.
With the height speakers facing forward, the lateral width of the soundstage is far more two channel like and broad which I like. With them facing up, that lateral width decreases dramatically almost as if you took your left and right main speakers and replaced them with smaller speakers or just took the ones you had and pointed them upward, leaving the centre channel to do a lot more heavy lifting. Now obviously you can go into the settings and tweak things a bit in order to bring that fullness back, but I think you’re starting to see how there isn’t just one sort of solution that works for every occasion.
The movie preset is the most universal but even it requires adjustment. Now about those height speakers. They are cool and I consider their design rather inspired but I am nervous about the longevity of those motors over time. They are quite noisy even brand new and if you are one to watch a lot of Atmos and non Atmos content, you’re going to put a lot of miles on those motors very quickly.
Now, you can leave them up or down permanently but I think that defeats their design. They do work with Atmos soundtracks and add noticeable height making it possible when used in conjunction with the surrounds to have a dome like surround sound effect which on the Vizio elevate system when dialled in is very, very good. The surround sound speakers are okay; they do a good enough job rounding out the elevate’s surround sound prowess but they just don’t seem to be as capable as the bar itself. The other reason is that they’re not wireless.This is actually my second biggest gripe about this system and that they rely on a proprietary cable to connect to the subwoofer for power and signal. I understand how that could be potentially a good thing but it also means that you may not be able to place the subwoofer in your room where it sounds best.
Thankfully, the subwoofer does appear to have the requisite power to overcome say a placement deficiency but obviously this is not ideal. With respect to the surrounds, that proprietary cable is rather bulky and with these being small speakers, it can cause them to tip or become wobbly on certain speaker stands. Perhaps the Vizio elevate’s most frustrating quirk is its need to tell you everything that it’s doing. I’m not joking, switch from movie to music mode and the sound will completely cut out and a man’s voice will tell you that it’s now entering music mode. Now you can defeat this but it’s not wholly intuitive. I can see how this feature may be beneficial to someone that may be visually impaired but as it stands, I would like to just have it defeatable a little bit more easily, or maybe just not the default setting because right out of the box, this soundbar will not shut up.
And if you get stuck in connection purgatory, you’re probably going to end up doing what I did and that is completely unplugging the bar from the wall itself while you read the manual looking for the fix. Another thing you need to be aware of is it takes a hot second for the Vizio elevate to power up and this may monkey with your displays HDMI handshake needs. When connecting it to the P Series quantum X television, I found that going into the menu and forcing the Vizio to identify its connected devices solved this problem rather than leaving it in auto. The only problem is not every TV is going to have this menu option.
VIZIO ELEVATE SOUNDBAR VS KLIPSCH CINEMA 600 VS LG SN11RG VS SAMSUNG Q 950T
In terms of comparison, the Vizio elevate faces some pretty stiff competition. Now it is one of the more affordable Dolby Atmos soundbar solutions on the market right now but if you can stretch your budget, you will get a better user experience with equal or better sound. For example, the Dolby Atmos enabled sound bar from LG currently retails for 1499 $, but is easier to set up and live with compared to the elevate. Both sound bars have a similar tone and vibe when said correctly. So the extra money that you’re spending on the LG may be worth it given the better user experience and added flexibility.
Another option is Samsung’s Q 950T which I know is more expensive than the Vizio again but we’re going to argue you are getting a little bit more for your investment in terms of usability and sound quality. But if you take a step back from LG or Samsung’s flagship offerings, the elevate becomes very much a value leader in and around $1,000 but if $1,000 is too rich for your blood, there is always the Klipsch Cinema 600 system which at $748 all in includes the wireless surrounds. I think it’s a better value proposition than the Vizio elevate.
I understand that the Klipsch 600 is not an Atmos enabled sound bar but if you can get away with 5.1, I think the Klipsch is the better value, better sounding bar to any another option you may consider. I am also waiting on the new M series 5.1.2 soundbar from Vizio coming later this year (2021). If I were placing my bets, I would say that the M series is going to be less expensive and it’s simple design will likely make it a better fit especially for home theatre novices. So how do I sum up the elevate 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos soundbar from Vizio. On the one hand, this system has the potential to absolutely dominate a very crowded marketplace because its performance can be that good.
But on the other hand, if you’ve never set up a sound bar or a home theatre in general, be prepared for a very steep learning curve and know that you’re going to have to spend considerable time getting to know the Vizio elevate in order to make it sound its best, but if you’re someone that likes to get into the menus, get into the dirt and the nitty gritty and make a product your very own, this is going to be for you. Make no mistake, the elevate is a good soundbar solution, full stop. It’s just let down by a complicated interface. So that’s it. That is my review of the elevate Dolby Atmos sound bar from Vizio.
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