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VIZIO VHT215 Home Theater Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer - Review

No Hassle Sound for Your TV

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Vizio VHT215 2.1 Channel Home Theater System with Accessories and Documentation

Vizio VHT215 2.1 Channel Home Theater System with Accessories and Documentation

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
Vizio is primarily known for its very affordable TV line-up but they also have line of practical audio products that add to your TV viewing. The VHT215 is an audio system that combines a sound bar with a wireless subwoofer that provides consumers with a way to get better sound for TV viewing without having to use a system with a lot of speakers. For more details on how to set it up and how it performs, keep reading this review. After reading the review, also check out my Vizio VHT215 Photo Profile.

Product Overview

Features of the Sound Bar portion of the VHT215 include:

1. Speakers: Two 2.75-inch midrange drivers and one 3/4-inch tweeter for each channel (four midrange and two tweeters total).

2. Frequency Response: 150Hz to 20kHz

3. Inputs: 2 HDMI in with 3D pass-through and CEC control, 1 Digital Optical, 1 Digital Coaxial, and 1 analog audio in (3.5mm).

4. Output: 1 HDMI with ARC (Audio Return Channel) support.

5. Audio Decoding and Processing: TruSurround HD, SRS WOW HD processing, PCM, and Dolby Digital source signals. SRS TruSurround HD works best for TV and movies and can perform its processing functions with both two-channel and 5.1 channel source material, SRS WOW works best for music, but can only be used with two-channel sources.

Although the VHT215 can accept and decode Dolby Digital, it cannot accept or decode DTS. However, when playing a DTS Blu-ray Disc or DVD on a Blu-ray Disc player connected to the VHT215 using HDMI, the Blu-ray disc player will default to PCM output so that the VHT215 can accept the audio signal.

SRS TruVolume also included to provide dynamic range adjustment.

6. Wireless transmitter: 2.4Ghz Band. Wireless Range 60 feet

7. Sound Bar Dimensions (with stand): 40.1-inches (W) x 4.1-inches (H) x 2.1-inches (D)

8. Sound Bar Dimensions (without stand): 40.1-inches (W) x 3.3-inches (H) x 1.9-inches (D)

9. Sound Bar Weight: 4.9lbs

Features of the Wireless Subwoofer unit of the Vizio VHT215 include:

1. Driver: 6.5-inches, long throw, high excursion.

2. Frequency Response: 30Hz to 150Hz

3. Wireless Transmission Frequency: 2.4 GHz

4. Wireless Range: Up to 60 feet - line of sight.

5. Subwoofer Dimensions: 8.5-inches (W) x 12.8-inches (H) x 11.00-inches (D)

6. Subwoofer Weight: 11.0lbs

Note: Both the sound bar and subwoofer have built-in amplifiers, but no official power output ratings were provided for the sound bar and subwoofer individually. However, Vizio does state a total output power for the entire system as 330 watts, but no further clarification if that is a continuous or peak power output rating and whether it is measured using a 1kHz or 20Hz-to-20kHz test tones.

Suggested Price for entire system: $299.95 Compare Prices.

Additional components used in this review:

Blu-ray Disc Player: OPPO BDP-93.

DVD Player: OPPO DV-980H.

TV/Monitor: Sony KDL-46HX820 (on review loan).

Software Used

Blu-ray Discs (3D): Adventures of Tintin, Hugo, Immortals, Puss in Boots, Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

Blu-ray Discs (2D): Art of Flight,Ben Hur,Cowboys and Aliens, Jurassic Park Trilogy, Megamind.

Standard DVDs: The Cave, House of the Flying Daggers, Kill Bill - Vol 1/2, Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut), Lord of Rings Trilogy, Master and Commander, Outlander, U571, and V For Vendetta.

CDs: Al Stewart - Sparks of Ancient Light, Beatles - LOVE, Blue Man Group - The Complex, Joshua Bell - Bernstein - West Side Story Suite, Eric Kunzel - 1812 Overture, HEART - Dreamboat Annie, Nora Jones - Come Away With Me, Sade - Soldier of Love.

Set-Up

Vizio VHT215 2.1 Channel Home Theater System - Connections - HDMI

Vizio VHT215 2.1 Channel Home Theater System - Connections - HDMI

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
The Vizio VHT215 is extremely easy to unpack and set up. After unboxing both the sound bar and subwoofer, place the sound bar above or below the TV (wall mounting hardware is provided if you choose that option), and place the subwoofer on the floor, preferably to the left or right of the TV/sound bar location, but you can experiment with other locations within the room.

Next, connect your source components. For HDMI sources, simply connect the HDMI output of your source (such as Blu-ray Disc player) to one of the HDMI inputs (there are two provided) on the sound bar unit and then connect the HDMI output provided on the sound bar to your TV. The sound bar will not only pass both 2D and 3D video signals to the TV, but the sound bar also provides the Audio Return Channel feature which can send audio signals from the TV that received by the TV's tuner back to the sound bar using the HDMI cable that connects from the sound bar to the TV.

For non-HDMI sources, such as an older DVD player, VCR, or CD player - you can connect either the digital or analog audio outputs from those sources directly to the sound bar, but you must connect the video from those sources directly to your TV.

Finally, plug in the power to each unit. The sound bar comes with an external power adapter and the subwoofer comes with an attached power cord. Turn the sound bar and subwoofer on, and the sound bar and subwoofer should automatically link up. If the link hadn't taken automatically, there is a button on the back of the subwoofer that can reset the link, if needed.

Performance

In evaluating the audio performance of the VHT215, it must be kept in mind that this is a 2.1 channel system and not a mutli-speaker 5.1 channel system. Starting off with this perspective, I must say that the VHT215 provided a much better listening experience than the TV's built-in speaker system for TV programs and movies, but was not as impressive as music-only listening system. For music listening the midrange was fine, and the bass was good considering the small subwoofer, but I did detect some audible distortion with vocalists that have breathy voices, such as Norah Jones.

The VHT215 incorporates three sound processing features: TruSurround HD, SRS WOW HD, and SRS TruVolume. SRS TruSurround and SRS WOW provide a very good surround image from both two-channel and 5.1 channel surround sound source material, utilizing just the sound bar and wireless subwoofer. The surround image generated by SRS TruSurround HD and SRS WOW although not as directional as true Dolby Digital surround, does provide a satisfactory listening experience by widening the sound stage and providing a better sense of audio depth and some immersion effect that cannot be attained merely by speakers built-into most TVs. In addition, I found that the frequency transition between the sound bar and subwoofer was smooth.

For analog cable TV audio sources (connected from the TV to the VHT215 using the HDMI ARC option), SRS Volume aided the listening experience by providing more stable audio output between programs and TV commercials as well as when changing from one channel to another that may have differing audio output levels. However, with audio from HD cable channels, the SRS Volume function did not work as well as there was some volume pumping both within and between HD channels. The volume pumping effect also occurred with some Blu-ray and DVD source material that was fed to the VHT215 from the TV using the HDMI ARC option.

Although no power output ratings were provided, the VHT215 easily delivered room filling sound in a 12x15 foot space.

The VHT215 is not a direct replacement for a true multi-speaker system in a large room, but does a great option for those that are looking for a basic system that can enhance the audio portion of the TV viewing experience without a lot of speaker clutter. For those that have a home theater system in their main room, also consider the Vizio VHT215 as a second system in bedroom, office, or secondary family room.

What I liked About the Vizio VHT215

Vizio VHT215 2.1 Channel Home Theater System - Remote Control

Vizio VHT215 2.1 Channel Home Theater System - Remote Control

Photo (c) Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com
1. Straight forward setup.

2. Wireless Subwoofer capability reduces cable clutter.

3. Good sound quality from both main sound bar unit and subwoofer.

4. TruSurround HD provides satisfactory surround immersion experience.

5. The Audio Return Channel feature functions very well.

6. The sound bar can be shelf, table, or wall mounted (template and hardware provided).

7. The sound bar had no difficulty passing either 2D or 3D video signals from HDMI-equipped sources to the TV used in conjunction with this review.

8. The remote control features a slide out compartment for less-used functions.

What I Didn't Like About the Vizio VHT215

1. SRS TruSurroundHD processing not as distinct as Dolby Digital or DTS 5.1.

2. The VHT215 cannot accept or decode DTS without conversion by the source device to PCM via HDMI connection.

3. High frequencies are a little harsh on some music vocals.

4. Subwoofer provides adequate bass for a modest system, but definitely rolls off on more challenging low frequencies.

5. SRS TruVolume function worked well in some cases, but not in others.

6. Remote control is black and buttons hard to see in the dark.

Final Take

If you are looking for a no-frills way to enhance your TV's sound, and also access audio from up to five additional components, without investing in a multi-speaker 5.1 channel home theater system, the VHT215 is a good value for $299.95.

For a further look at the Vizio VHT215, check out my supplementary Photo Profile which included more details on both the sound bar and subwoofer, as well as an explanation on the operation of the provided remote control.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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