VIZIO has received a lot of praise for making HDTVs that are affordable while still being able to deliver a complete experience. You can get a fairly large display for the price of something smaller as long as you are willing to give up some features. VIZIO is also attempting to mirror their success with home audio systems too. Rather than going for a standard 5.1-channel system, VIZIO’s approach consists of a single sound bar with 2 satellites and a subwoofer. The end result is a surprisingly affordable speaker system called the VIZIO S4251W-B4 priced at $329.
The S4251W-B4 is a 2013 product and the design of the sound bar closely resembles the 42-inch VIZIO S4221W-C4 which costs $80 cheaper but doesn’t come with the satellite speakers. The sound bar looks like a lengthy trapezoidal prism chunk and it makes the sound bar stand out a bit. While it doesn’t use any fancy materials or speaker grill designs, the sound bar doesn’t stand out in an ugly way and should match any basic or premium TV.
The VIZIO S4251W-B4 pretty much comes with all the things you need to get started with the setup process. You have the stereo sound bar itself which houses the left, center and right channels so the TV is best placed right in front of the TV. Just make sure that the sound bar doesn’t block the TV’s remote sensor since the sound bar lacks an IR repeater. A pair of standard-looking satellite speakers are included too along with a matching wireless subwoofer. The package also includes 2 sound bar wall mount brackets, 2 satellite wall mount brackets and the necessary screws making it possible to mount the sound bar and speakers to the wall. The included wall mount template helps you mount these components properly.
The set of cables that come with the S4251W-B4 is nearly complete too so you can hook up the satellite speakers to the subwoofer using included satellite speaker audio cables. Then you can complete the connection process using the digital optical cable, coaxial audio cable or stereo RCA to 3.5 audio cable. It is best to use the optical or coaxial cable for the best quality. If the back of the TV looks messy because of all the cables, you can fix the problem by using the 4 velcro ties and standard cable management tie that are included. There is no direct connection from the subwoofer to the sound bar since the connection is established wirelessly.
The back of the VIZIO S4251W-B4 naturally has the necessary ports that all the included cables can connect to. A USB port can be found next to these ports so you can connect a flash drive too. You can perform basic sound bar operations like volume control and Bluetooth pairing using the buttons located on the side of the system.
The built-in Bluetooth connectivity is one of the main features of the S4251W-B4 and VIZIO definitely deserves some credit for putting it in without jacking up the price. Several 5.1-channel sound systems and home theater receivers don’t even provide that connectivity. Bluetooth may seem limited compared to Wi-Fi but it allows you to connect a greater range of devices with minimal effort. Pairing a smartphone or tablet is a cinch and you may also pair one of those cheaper mobile phones and MP3 players if they also have built-in Bluetooth. After you pair the device, music should be coming from the speakers and sound bar the moment you start playing. You do not have to switch on your TV if you just want Bluetooth playback.
Rather than relying on an onscreen GUI or desktop or mobile app, VIZIO puts the control interface right on the small remote control. The remote has the standard playback controls, volume buttons and menu button so you can utilize the other sound bar features. A small display is found above these buttons so you know what setting you are going to adjust. For instance, you can turn on the TV remote feature if you have a connected VIZIO TV and you wish to control the sound bar with the TV remote control. You may also turn on the Eco Power feature if you want the S4251W-B4 to automatically go into standby mode after a short period of inactivity.
The VIZIO S4251W-B4 noticeably sounds better than the built-in speakers of just about any modern HDTV. You could even get better audio quality if you spend enough time adjusting the parameters of the speakers like the bass, treble, center and surround levels. This process can be a bit tedious for newbies and unfortunately, the sound bar lacks an automatic calibration feature. There are some basic toggles that you can try out that may improve audio fidelity like the surround mode to let all inputs produce 5.1 surround sound and TruVolume which maintains a comfortable volume level. There is also a nifty Night Mode that lowers the bass frequency for comfortable night time listening where dialogues are more emphasized.
The S4251W-B4 is simply a decent 5.1-channel sound system without the messy wires. It is also a great Bluetooth-enabled system that plays nice with mobile devices. For $329, you get a lot of value with the VIZIO S4251W-B4.
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