Not all sound bars have to sound beyond good or have lots of features because not everyone is an audiophile and they may not care so much about extra features such as Wi-Fi. Others just want to get a fairly wide speaker that sounds significantly better and fuller than the small speakers integrated with their TVs. People that want simplicity either do not wish to spend more than $200 on a speaker system or just want the entire sound bar system to be easy to setup. Known for their highly affordable and capable TVs, VIZIO has a couple of cheap sound bar solutions. The VIZIO S3820W-C0 is not the cheapest sound bar in the 2.0-channel category but it still manages to be priced at $120.
The S3820W-C0 is handsomely designed for a budget sound bar. The aesthetics pretty much match their modern VIZIO TVs making them a great companion especially when wall mounted. The front of the sound bar is clean with a small VIZIO logo on the bottom right of the speaker. The very left side features a series of LED lights where certain lights light up depending on the sound bar’s behavior. A lot of these indicators are not immediately obvious so you will have to consult the manual to find out what they mean. The 38-inch speaker tapers to the back giving the entire sound bar that trapezoid look. There are some controls on the left rear side of the VIZIO S3820W-C0 in case you want to adjust the volume, change the input, conduct a Bluetooth pairing or power up or down the sound bar without the included remote control.
It is still important not to lose the remote control because the remote comes with few other buttons including playback controls and certain sound enhancement options. There are dedicated Treble and Bass buttons which change the adjustment mode. Once you changed the mode, you can press the “Previous” or “Next” buttons on the remote to lower or raise the levels. A mute button can be found on the remote as well. The remote control is fully operational out of the box since the batteries are included.
The back of the S3820W-C0 is simple and easy to understand. The package comes with the stereo RCA to 3.5mm cable, digital optical cable and coaxial audio cable. Basically, you have to pick one of these cables and make the connection to the TV. Of course, the digital coaxial or optical cable will yield better results. Also on the back is a subwoofer out in case you have an external subwoofer. Being a 2.0-channel sound bar, it doesn’t have an external or internal subwoofer.
The VIZIO S3820W-C0also comes with a pair of wall mount screws and matching wall mount brackets so you can mount the sound bar to your wall. You can use the wall mounting template as a guide to make the mounting process simple.
For a $120 sound bar you wouldn’t expect the S3820W-C0 to be equipped extra features but surprisingly, the VIZIO S3820W-C0 has a Bluetooth mode allowing you to connect virtually any smartphone or tablet to the device. Any stored music files in your device can then be played right to the sound bar. Even if you don’t have any music files, you can always fire up your favorite streaming app such as Spotify and enjoy your music on the S3820W-C0. This feature gives this budget speaker tremendous value as many other pricier speakers still don’t have Bluetooth.
The VIZIO S3820W-C0 is rated at 98db which means that it should be able to fill a standard living room with sound at a fairly high volume. At high volumes, music and movies sound pretty clear. This could be attributed to the fact that the sound bar has less than 1 percent total harmonic distortion. VIZIO also argues that the S3820W-C0 can sound just fine even without a subwoofer because of the speaker’s Deep Bass Modules which claim to handle low end frequencies. The lows are indeed audible but adding a subwoofer still enhances the quality by a whole lot.
There are a couple of modes you can try out to enhance the sound for certain situations. The DTS TruVolume, for instance, normalizes the volume levels so you can switch channels or stay tuned to one without worrying about any spikes in volume levels. The DTS TruSurround feature produces a virtual surround sound effect which can make movies sound a bit better. Finally, you can adjust the treble and bass levels to your liking.
A decent subwoofer would cost you about $100 to $200. But then again, there are some people that really don’t care about these things and that is why speakers like the VIZIO S3820W-C0 exist. It successfully hits its goal for sound better and louder than the standard speakers on the TV. It even went beyond by adding Bluetooth functionality which happens to work well and makes the sound bar even better as you won’t have to switch on the TV. Your phone can serve as the jukebox especially if it has a lot of music files. Powerful but small Bluetooth speakers cost close to $100 too but cannot be wall mounted or hooked up to your TV. Combined with the decent audio quality and small degree of customization, the S3820W-C0 can be considered as one of the best speakers in this price range.
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