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Vizio SB4051-C0 review: Sound bar looks domesticated, still needs taming

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The Good The SB4051 is a bona-fide five-channel system with a wireless subwoofer and actual surround speakers. It has excellent features for the money, including built-in DTS and Dolby decoders and enough connectivity to should satisfy most buyers. The system looks more expensive than it really is.

The Bad Even with its subwoofer turned down as low as it can go, the SB4051 puts out too much bass.

The Bottom Line The Vizio SB4051 packs a wealth of features into a compact sound bar/wireless sub system, and its satellite speakers produce true, room-filling surround sound.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 8
  • Sound 7
  • Value 8

Review Sections

While Vizio televisions have enjoyed a few years of slim, modern designs it's taken a lot longer for its A/V components to catch up. The 2015 range looks refreshingly slick however, with their black grilles and aluminum accents.

The Vizio SB4051-C0 is the company's new penultimate sound bar and at $349 is the "cheapest" model to feature HDMI ports. The older 54-inch S5451w-C2 remains at the top of the line.

While the SB4051 offers great performance with home cinema dialogue, its sound suffers from an overly prominent subwoofer, even at the lowest volume level. Rule of thumb: if you can hear a subwoofer, it's too loud.

On the other hand, Vizio's greatest asset is its true surround-sound capability; at this price nothing else can touch it. Paired with its good looks and a stacked feature set, the SB4051 is a fine option. If only the company can fix that sub.

Design

Sarah Tew/CNET

Compared with 2013's equivalent speaker, the S4251w-B4, the SB4051-C0 is a much more aesthetically pleasing sound bar/subwoofer combo. With its aluminum caps, the Vizio has more than a passing resemblance to Definitive Technology's W Studio which is good for potential buyers but probably bad for DefTech.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While the less-expensive models in the line feature cloth grilles, the SB4051 features a fully metal design with a black powder coating.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As the name suggests, this is a 40-inch-wide 5.1 system which features discrete rear-channel speakers and a 10-inch-square subwoofer. Compared to previous 4-inch tall models, the new bar is quite squat at 3 inches and is specifically designed to fit under Vizio TVs without blocking the IR port. However, if it does happen to block your TV's remote sensor, unfortunately there's no IR blaster to pass on your instructions.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The SB4051 doesn't have a LCD display -- it's all on the remote control -- but the left side of the sound bar has a vertical row of tiny white LEDs that light up sequentially as you adjust the overall volume, center speaker, and subwoofer, or tweak the bass and treble, and so on. These indicate how high or low the settings are.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The remote control is actually quite useful. It looks like most other remotes made by the company, but the addition of that screen makes all the difference and elevates it above the competition. Changing settings is so much easier when you can actually see what parameter you're adjusting.

Features

Vizio has introduced five new sound bars this year, and most are variations on a theme: add a subwoofer here, a pair of surround speakers there. Most are based on a 38-inch sound bar, but the 40-inch version reviewed here is available only with the surround speakers and subwoofer.

Apart from an additional two inches in length over the SB3851, the 40-inch SB4051-C0 adds HDMI connectivity -- one input and one ARC-compatible output -- plus slightly better output levels.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Like any sound bar worth its salt, the Vizio offers Bluetooth with aptX compatibility for streaming from tablets and phones.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Other inputs include coaxial and optical digital, plus stereo RCA, USB and a 3.5mm auxiliary .

Unlike many competitive sound bars the Vizio features both Dolby and DTS compatibility which makes it better suited to budget home theater duties.

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