Whether listening at low or high volume levels, I found that the center channel delivered clear sound, with more depth that I would have expected. Also, movie dialog and music vocals were distinct and more natural sounding than I expected, considering the compact size of speakers in the sound bar.
Without any audio processing engaged, the perceived stereo image of the sound bar is mostly contained within the short 40-inch width of the sound bar. However, once the SRS sound processing options are engaged, the stereo image not only widens, but the sound brought slightly forward towards the listener, creating a more intimate and immersive sound field that also matches better with the surround channels.
Satellite Surround Speakers
For movies and other video programming, the satellite speakers assigned to the surround channels delivered very good sound for their size. Depending on the sound processing mode activated, or when reproducing unprocessed Dolby Digital/DTS signals, the surround speakers projected directional sound or ambience cues well into the room.
One complaint I do have is that when reproducing Dolby Digital/DTS audio with no added SRS processing, there is more of a gap or dip in sound between the satellite surround speakers and sound bar than I am accustomed to in a normal 5.1 channel speaker setup. I would say that this could be dependent on the size of the room in which the surround speakers and sound bar placed. In a large room they would be a long distance apart. The VHT510 is best suited for smaller rooms.
Another observation was a narrowing of the surround sound field from the back of the room to the front of the room. This is due to the shorter physical distance between the front left and right speakers in comparison to the distance between the surround speakers.
The good news is that when the SRS sound processing modes are engaged, the narrowing effect is reduced substantially as the front left and center and right channels of the soundfield is widened and brought forward, and, in combination with the surround speakers, creates a more immersive and balanced surround sound experience
Audio Performance - Powered Subwoofer
Despite its compact size, the subwoofer had adequate power output and low frequency extension.
I found the subwoofer to be a good match for the rest of the speakers. On soundtracks with LFE effects, such as Master and Commander, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and U571, the subwoofer showed some volume level drop-off and definition loss of very low frequencies, but provided adequate bass response for movie soundtracks.
For music, the subwoofer provided good low frequency response, but lost definition with extreme low bass. One example is recordings that contained acoustic bass. Although the subwoofer reproduced low frequencies, the texture of the acoustic bass was muddled. Another example is the famous sliding bass riff on Heart's Magic Man. The subwoofer once again filled the room with low frequencies, but lost the texture of the lowest bass frequencies. However, keep in mind that the extreme low frequency bass in the Magic Man cut is not typical of most music performances is even a challenge for many larger and more expensive subs.
With Dolby and DTS-related movie soundtracks, the the system did a good job reproducing both main front channels and surround effects, as well as providing adequate bass. Good examples of this are provided by the "Echo Game" scene in House of the Flying Daggers the "Blue Room" scene in Hero, and the first "Battle Scene" from Master and Commander.
Even on music-based material, the system faired better that I was expecting and did well on the distinct vocals of Sade's Prisoner of Love, the harmonies in Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and the instrumental detail on Dave Matthews/Blue Man Group's Sing Along.
What I Liked
1. Very good sounding sound bar/satellite speaker system. Good center channel vocal presence. Surround satellite speakers project sound into the room well when set properly.
2. Easy to set up. Since the sound bar, satellite speakers, and subwoofer are compact and are easy to place in your room.
3. Shelf, table, or wall mount option. Wall mounting done without additional hardware (except screws).
4. Wireless Subwoofer provides more placement flexibility - no long and unsightly cable needed to connect sound bar to main unit.
5. Well-illustrated and easy-to-understand user quick start guide and user manual.
6. Very affordable. At a suggested price of $389, the combination of price and performance make this system a good value.
What I Didn't Like
1. Although physical setup is easy, tweaking the sub and surround levels takes a little patience.
2. High frequencies and transient sounds are a little subdued, compared to the mid-range and bass.
3. Satellite surround speakers are not wireless.
4. Subwoofer provides deep bass, but needs a tighter bass image with more texture.
5. Remote control is black and buttons hard to see in dark. The hidden slide out panel is fitted tightly, so when sliding the panel out, the tight fit may result in an unexpected input select or sound processing change.
6. Limited input connection options - one Digital Optical connection, one set of stereo analog connections.
The center channel sounded better that I expected. Often times, in many systems of this type, the center channel vocals can be overwhelmed by the right of the channels, and I normally have to boost the center channel output by one or two db for more vocal presence. However, this was not the case with the VHT510.
The satellite speakers, which are used for the surrounds, also performed their job well. Although very compact, they projected sound well into the room.
I found the powered subwoofer to be a good match for the rest of the speakers, providing deep bass response, but was not as distinct and textured as I would have preferred.
On the other hand, there are only two audio inputs (one analog/one digital), and while the subwoofer is wireless, the surround speakers are not. Also, I found that although the basic volume, mute, and on/off controls are easy to use, the added functions placed in the remote's hidden compartment were difficult to use, due the small size of the buttons and the fact that they are not backlit for easier use in a darkened room.
The VHT510 system is, by no means, an audiophile speaker system. However, Vizio has delivered an affordable, good quality, 5.1 channel system for a more mainstream user who wants better sound for TV viewing without all the hassle of a full home theater receiver and individual 5.1 or 7.1 channel speaker setup. The Vizio VHT510 is a nice, modest, home theater system the budget conscious. It also can make a great second system for the bedroom or home office, or a practical system for a conference room in a either a business or educational-type setting.
For a further look at the Vizio VHT510 5.1 Channel Home Theater System 5.1 Surround Speaker System, Check out my supplementary Photo Profile.
DISCLAIMER: Photos in this review or the profile that show the speaker grills removed are for illustrative review purposes only. Consumers that remove the speaker grills on the VHT510 home theater system will void the manufacturer's warranty.