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First Look: An excellent budget sound bar, if it fits

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First Look: An excellent budget sound bar, if it fits

2:42 /

The Vizio S4221w-C4 is an excellent budget sound bar, with great sound quality, an excellent remote, and built-in Bluetooth, but its design won't work in every setup.

Hey, I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET. And today, we're taking a look at the VIZIO S4221w-C4. This is a 2.1 sound bar system and is currently selling for $250. The Vizio style doesn't stand out much, but that's generally a good thing when it comes to sound bars. There's a large black speaker grill on the front with a thin strip of silver running along the bottom. On the far left, there's a series of LEDs that do give you a good job of visual feedback on the volume level. The included subwoofer is wireless, which means you have some flexibility on where you place it-- although you'll typically get the best sound quality if it's within a few feet of the sound bar. One drawback to the design is that it might block your TV's remote sensor if you place it in front of your TV. It's a significant problem as you'll find yourself holding the remote in the air, angling to get the remote signals to your TV. If you're considering the sound bar, your best bet is to find your TV's remote sensor, and break out a tape measure to figure out if the 3.74-inch high cabinet will get in the way. The included remote is excellent. It has a substantial feel and a minimalist selection of buttons that fall easily under your thumb. Even better is the built-in display, which lets you look at the remote right in your hand rather than squinting across the room at a tiny display on the sound bar. On the back, there are four inputs-- optical, coaxial, mini-jack, and analog. That should be enough for all your gear as long as you're using your TV to switch between devices. There's also built-in Bluetooth, which means you can wirelessly stream audio from the vast majority of smartphones and tablets. For sound quality, we had resident audiophile Steve Guttenberg give the system a lesson, and he was pretty impressed, especially for the price. The Vizio's DTS TruSurround mode help to create a wide sound stage on most movies, and the subwoofer was able to get deep while staying well-defined. It even held its own with stereo music, which is typically tough for sound bars. Now, overall, it wasn't quite as good as the Sony HTCT260, which is our favorite pick at this price, but it was a very close match between the two systems. So, all together, there's just not much to complain about on the S4221W. It sounds great, it looks good and it offers all the features I consider important for a budget sound bar. My only hesitation is that the design will block your TV's remote sensor and many setups. But if you can get around that quirk, it's an awfully good valuue for $250. I'm Matthew Moskovciak from CNET, and this the VIZIO S4221w-C4.

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