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Speakers

Before you buy a Bluetooth speaker, read this

Vizio’s little sound bar wireless subwoofer system blows away some pricier Bluetooth speakers.

vizio-sb3621-01

The Vizio SB-3621 system.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The Vizio SB3621 isn't just a terrific little sound bar system for movies and TV, it's also a sweet Bluetooth speaker for playing tunes. It's the first sound bar CNET ever reviewed to earn five stars and an Editors' Choice award. Heck, I'd be just as enthusiastic about the $149 SB3621 if it sold for $300, it's that good. The full CNET review posted last August.

It's first and foremost a sound bar, but I also spent time playing tunes over the SB3621, and thanks to its potent wireless subwoofer, this system packs a wallop no pint-size Bluetooth speaker could dream of mustering. The sub is a mere 6.7x11.8x7.9 inches, and it features a 5.4-inch woofer; the sound bar is also compact, it's 36x2.1x3.2 inches. System connectivity runs to USB, optical and coaxial digital inputs, plus Bluetooth 4.0.

The clarity and dynamism to the sound with movies and music floored me. Yes, it's still a small speaker system, so don't expect it to work miracles in a huge living room or loft space, but nestled in the cozy 11 by 20 foot CNET listening room, the SB3621's capabilities loomed larger than any $300 or $400 wireless speaker I've heard.

Listening to Angelo Badalamenti's original score for "Twin Peaks" the SB362's sound was weighty enough to fully convey the music's ominous tone. The clear sounding 'bar projected a fairly wide soundstage that filled the width of the front wall of the room.

The Vizio SB3621's separate wireless subwoofer.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With Wilco's recent "Schmilco", album leader Jeff Tweedy's vocals and the acoustic instruments were well served by the SB3621. Nice, but Arcade Fire's aggressively harsh "Everything Now" album was just as unpleasant as I've heard it sound on my home system. So the SB3621 can't soften the nasty sound of harsh recordings, but that's true for most of the better sounding audio systems, don't blame the "messenger" for bad sound.

Solo piano recordings rarely cut it with BT speakers or sound bars, but the SB3621 was definitely up to snuff with Patrick Cohen's gorgeous "Satie, E" album. Piano tone was natural, and Cohen's exquisite touch on the keys was preserved, each note's sustain clear.

The Vizio SB3621 is a very musical sound bar that still excels with movies, a feat certainly no $150 BT speaker can match.