Vizio V-series 2.1-channel soundbar

"The V-Series 2.1 is a fun and affordable home theater upgrade for your TV."

  • Attractively priced

  • Comes with everything

  • Lots of EQ adjustments

  • Very good sound quality

  • HDMI ARC

  • No Wi-Fi, AirPlay 2, or Chromecast

  • There is no definition in the middle

  • No HDMI input

If you look at our previous Vizio soundbar reviews you will find a common thread: Value. Whether it's a 5.1.4 Dolby Atmos model, a 2.1 system, or something in between, Vizio continues to deliver soundbars that are way above their price.

The company's newest 2.1 system, the $ 180 system V-Series 2.1-Channel Soundbar (V21-H8) is no exception.

What can you expect from this extremely affordable TV speaker? Let's take a look.

What's in the box?

Vizio V-Series V21-H8 2.1 SoundbarSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Vizio's reputation for value goes beyond the physical capabilities of its products. In the box, you can literally find everything you need to set up the V21. In addition to the soundbar and the wireless subwoofer, you receive four connection cables: an HDMI cable and an optical cable for digital sound. There is a double analog miniplug cable for connecting a music source based on a headphone jack (or smart speaker), a stereo RCA patch cord for connecting other analog devices and even a set of wall brackets.

A quick guide, a complete user manual, a remote control and a paper template for wall mounts complete the picture. You'll need to dispose of the styrofoam bumpers if they can't be recycled locally, but the box shouldn't be a problem.

design

Vizio adorned its soundbars on both ends with silver-colored caps. It added an air of sophistication to the speakers, but it also attracted attention. I think soundbars should be as discreet as possible – unless they're trying to be conversation pieces – and Vizio's lovely new, all-matte black design language is a big step in the right direction.

Instead of end caps, the soundbar's fabric grille wraps around the edges, creating seamless front corners that remind me of the Sonos Beam. A set of four discrete physical buttons sit on the textured plastic surface. On the back you will find a variety of connections: HDMI ARC, optical, USB (for hard drive based music), an additional analog input and a dedicated analog input for smart speakers.

For less than $ 200, the V21 gives any TV a huge improvement in sound quality.

At 36 inches wide and 2.25 inches high, it's perfect for TV screen sizes of 48 inches or larger. It's short enough that it probably doesn't obscure the bottom of the screen, unless your TV has very small legs.

One major change is the subwoofer. Vizio used to include a sleek wireless subwoofer that could fit under a couch, but the V21 comes with a more traditional cube. While not quite as versatile in terms of placement, it's nonetheless one of the smallest submarines you can find.

Setup and connections

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Setting up the V21 is a breeze. Connect the soundbar to your TV using a digital or analog cable, connect the soundbar and sub to the power supply, and you're done. We were surprised that the V21's predecessor, the horribly named SB3621n-G8, didn't come with HDMI ARC as a connection option, but the V21 fixes that loophole.

Not that it's actually needed – HDMI ARC is most useful for sound bars that support advanced audio formats like DTS: X and Dolby Atmos that can't be transmitted over optical connections. The V21 does not support them, so using HDMI does not offer any advantage from an audio point of view.

HDMI ARC allows your TV to remotely control the volume and mute of the V21. However, this can also be achieved through an optical connection if you train the soundbar to recognize your TV's remote IR signals.

My advice: use the optical connection. Why ditch a valuable HDMI port on your TV when there's no real benefit to it and the V21 doesn't have an HDMI input to compensate for the port your TV needs?

The V21 has a USB port for playing back songs from a hard drive or a USB memory stick. Only WAV and MP3 files are recognized.

If you want to listen to music from a non-TV source, Bluetooth is your best bet. Pairing your phone with the soundbar is as simple as switching the input to Bluetooth and looking for the V21 in the list of available Bluetooth devices. A Wi-Fi connection provides higher quality audio. However, if all you want to have a Spotify playlist for just one party, Bluetooth is more than enough.

Unfortunately, Bluetooth stability is a hit and miss. Over the course of several days, I had some sessions that were perfectly solid while others suffered from frequent dropouts. Interrupting and then re-establishing the Bluetooth connection was sometimes fixed, but not every time.

user friendliness

Vizio V-Series V21-H8 2.1 soundbar with remote controlSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Vizio sent us the V21-H8 model for review. The included remote control is well designed, feels nice, and has nice, clicking buttons. However, it is not illuminated and there is no built-in screen so you can easily see the various modes and levels displayed.

Oddly enough, the V21-H8R – which Vizio lists on its website for the same price as the H8 – comes with the updated display remote. If you have a choice Get the H8R.

When you get the H8, you'll need to learn to decipher morse code like LED dots on the left side of the soundbar that give you visual feedback after each click. With the exception of volume, which is pretty intuitive, many other indicators need a legend to decipher. Some time spent with the manual goes a long way towards avoiding frustration, especially with deeper settings like DTS Virtual: X.

To be fair, Vizio has gone out of its way to demystify some of the LED meanings: a helpful voice will indicate which input or EQ mode you've just switched to and let you know when you've successfully enabled Bluetooth pairing . It could become a nuisance over time. Fortunately, a long press of the mute button will disable it.

Start your favorite movie and you'll instantly hear what your TV's built-in speakers have kept away from you.

The V21 has a dedicated port for connecting a smart speaker like an Amazon Echo Dot (or you can pair it via Bluetooth). Either way, the V21 will automatically lower the volume of your movie, TV show, or music so you can hear Alexa (or Google Assistant) respond to your voice commands. If the answer is 10 seconds or less, the background audio will be cut off. However, if your assistant continues to speak, the V21 will completely mute the show or movie until the response is finished. Not only is this a handy feature to solve the problem of not being able to hear your assistant, but it's also a super easy way to stream music services to the soundbar without having to use your phone.

Sound quality

Vizio V-Series V21-H8 2.1 SoundbarSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

For its price, the V21 sounds amazing. You get excellent stereo isolation and that tiny 5-inch wireless subwoofer adds a surprising amount of low-end boom that makes the whole system feel like a movie theater.

Start your favorite Marvel, DC or Star Wars movie and you'll instantly hear what your TV's built-in speakers have been keeping away from you.

As you'd expect, it can't possibly compete with more expensive soundbars – there's a distinct lack of detail in the mid-range, for example – but for less than $ 200, the V21 will give any TV a huge boost in sound quality, which is exactly what is the point.

Do you like it loud There is more than enough electricity to wake everyone in your house when you roll like this.

The DTS Virtual: X feature doesn't live up to its billing for creating overhead sounds like you get from special high-height speakers, but it does significantly increase the sense of breadth and depth. I recommend leaving it on for any listening where you can sit in front and in the middle.

What I really appreciate about Vizio's approach to the soundbars – even the cheapest ones – is that you have tremendous control over things like bass, treble, and even the subwoofer level. I've tried $ 1,000 worth of soundbars that don't let you tweak the EQ.

Speaking of EQ, the EQ presets (movie, music, dialogue, and game) are great shortcuts for customizing the V21's sound signature. However, you will have to deal again with the deep male voice heralding the mode changes. Dialog mode is particularly impressive as there is no center channel – the usual context for speech enhancement.

Do you like it loud There is more than enough electricity to wake everyone in your house when you roll like this.

Listening to music on the V21 is fun too, but this is where you'll likely notice the limitations of the soundbar. Despite the fact that the front left and right channels do a good job of stereo separation, music still feels cooped up. Vocals and higher frequencies are impressively clear, but there is a vaguely hollow feeling that I attribute to the same mid-range weakness described above.

Don't let that stop you: for better music playback, you'll want to spend more than double the price on a soundbar like the Bose Smart Soundbar 300 that doesn't come with a subwoofer.

Our opinion

Vizio is doing it again. The V-Series V21 Soundbar is a fantastic and affordable sound upgrade for any TV.

Is there a better alternative?

For a 2-channel soundbar with a wireless sub, the V21 is in a class of its own, especially when you consider the price. But I wouldn't be sure if I didn't point out that you can buy this for just $ 70 more Step-up Vizio V-Series V51, which adds a center channel and two surround speakers for a full 5.1 sound system.

How long it will take?

The Vizio V-Series V21 comes with a one year warranty, but I suspect it will have many, many years of use. Loudspeakers are some of the most reliable technology products, and Vizio has a reputation for making products that will last.

Should you buy it?

Yes. The price alone makes the V21 a breeze, but its sound quality and added features will make sure you will make a ton of money.

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