Vizio V21 review: Best budget soundbar of 2020 so far

Regardless of its preposterous identify, I was very jazzed about the Vizio SB3621n-E8 soundbar when it arrived out in 2017. It was a good-sounding, inexpensive soundbar and has remained my favored benefit over the previous a few years. The Vizio V21 reviewed here is its purely natural successor and enjoys a quantity of upgrades over and above a less difficult identify. The new bar provides HDMI, improvements the cosmetics and contains an intriguing intelligent speaker link.


  • Excellent house cinema sound on a budget
  • DTS Digital:X enhances immersion
  • Functional connectivity, with HDMI ARC

Will not Like

  • Subwoofer is compact and not pretty articulate
  • Voice assistant link not tremendous handy

The sound good quality is as unhurried and purely natural as just before, but the opposition is significantly more durable these times. Polk and Yamaha have been snapping at Vizio’s heels for several years, and models like the new Polk Signa S3 offer even greater sound for a little bit more revenue.

If you want to up grade your TV’s sound for under $two hundred, the Vizio V21 really should be between your leading decisions, and it will play again songs in high-quality manner as well. It can be not fairly as astonishing or energizing as the unique SB3621, but that’s alright. The V21 stands on its own merits as a trustworthy speaker at an outstanding benefit. 

Vizio V21 ports, features and remote


The leading panel.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Soundbars are black blobs for the most element, listened to and not seen, and the V21 follows the field template to the letter: simple black with a mesh go over and a slightly textured plastic leading. The topside also provides a series of controls together with enter variety, Bluetooth and quantity manage. 

Though the length of the soundbar is no lengthier in the identify, as with the SB3621 (Sound Bar, 36 inches, 2.1 channel… get it?) the Vizio V21 is also 36 inches lengthy. That identify nevertheless contains a lame Easter egg, on the other hand, because this is a 2.1-channel soundbar.

The wi-fi subwoofer that will come with the system is a approximately 8-inch cube — now black as an alternative of silver — and it features a down-firing driver and rear port.


The LED now improvements shade according to the enter.

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Soon after years of problems (at least from me), Vizio has up to date the soundbar’s LED display screen. Instead of an inscrutable series of white dots the display screen can now alter shade according to the enter and signify quantity amount by ascending vertically. It can be completely usable, even though a regular alphanumeric display screen would be even clearer.

The most noteworthy addition is the HDMI ARC port. This connector allows you to hook up one particular cable straight to the ARC port on the again of your Tv, and it is finest if you just use the streaming features developed into the Tv itself, or use the Tv to switch amongst inputs. If you have a more intricate system, for example an exterior streamer, you can use the bar’s optical link. Other choices include Bluetooth, USB, a three.5mm analog enter and a further, all-new three.5mm link for your “voice assistant speaker” (go through: Amazon Echo Dot ($40 at Amazon)).


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The concept powering the “VA” (voice activated) enter is noble ample. You join your intelligent speaker to this port and the soundbar switches to the enter routinely when it hears a command. But the principal issue is that you then need to use your remote to switch again to a further source manually. 

I am guaranteed Vizio is seeking to cater to people who want to use their Dot as a songs or podcast source and get advantage of the V21’s excellent sound. In my experience, on the other hand, switching again to HDMI or optical to use the V21 with a further source — like the Tv or a match console — immediately turned troublesome.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

That remote is functional and rather uncomplicated to use, even if you need to try to remember to use the up and down buttons to manage the sub quantity as an alternative of the more purely natural quantity keys.

How does the Vizio V21 sound?

Due to the requirement of screening at house, I really don’t have a Vizio SB3621 for immediate comparisons, but the V21 is just as even-handed as I try to remember the past design staying. Instead I compared the new $one hundred eighty Vizio towards a few of other 2020 models, the $250 Polk Signa S3 and the $three hundred JBL Bar 2.1 Deep Bass, but it is naturally worth holding in thoughts the considerable cost distinctions.

In comparison to those two items, the Vizio’s magic formula weapon is its DTS Digital:X compatibility. The element, initially seen in Yamaha speakers, allows humble soundbars like the V21 to emulate a encompass system, and it performs pretty well. Alas the JBL and Polk lack this incorporate-on and so did not offer you the exact same amount of immersion.

While the even bigger sub of the JBL Deep bass made available the finest bass articulation of the a few, the JBL could not beat the Vizio in Digital:X mode for immersion, specially when it arrived to the foyer scene in The Matrix. Bullets whizzed toward me and the ratatatat that precedes the soldier’s “Freeze!” was more pronounced on the Vizio than both the Polk or the JBL.

The larger subs of the Polk and JBL greater helped convey the gunfight’s effect, on the other hand. The Polk served up an thrilling and kinetic efficiency, thanks in element to the larger and more articulate sub. The Vizio was overcome by some of the reduced notes in the synth-bass rating by comparison.

The Vizio’s expressive midrange created motion picture dialog sound obvious and well balanced. All through the thanator chase in Avatar (at 26:53), streaming from Disney Furthermore, the Vizio sounded sonically fuller than the Polk, which was a small hollow in comparison, with weaker, reduce midrange. Adjusting the Polk’s bass manage and sound mode did not shore up the stability in a significant way.

The most-pricey JBL Deep Bass 2.1 was the most entertaining in this scene. The larger sub was capable to capture more of the reduced frequency results — from the pad of the thanator’s footfalls to the mild roar of the waterfall — and the jungle sounded more alive with bugs and managing water.

With songs, the Vizio did not sound as dynamic as both the JBL or the Polk, but nevertheless conveyed a authentic sense of stereo sound. The smooth handover to the subwoofer meant that acoustic songs and male voices in unique sounded purely natural, even though the Polk was nevertheless slightly greater. When Ben Harper did his spooky “in your place matter” with his tune Widow of a Dwelling Person, a few of the cheapest guitar notes on the Vizio bonged in a way that sounded out of place. There was a increased distinction amongst the guitar and the voice on the Vizio, but I could not get the boom out even with the bass manage at its cheapest (there was a big bounce amongst and 1). The Polk was more pleasant in general with songs, with a greater deal with on dynamics and more strong bass efficiency. It can be the design to pick if you favor songs over flicks.

Should really you invest in the Vizio V21?

There is no these kinds of matter as a fantastic soundbar — thanks to dimension and budget constraints, their engineers need to make a quantity of compromises. None of the a few I analyzed in this comparison can offer you almost everything to every person. The Vizio and the JBL are inclined toward house theater sound while the Polk’s principal toughness is songs. In basic, the Vizio made available greater immersion than the some others and the Polk is the finest compromise amongst the a few models.

If you have $two hundred or much less, the Vizio is a good option, with strong bass and an expressive midrange. It can be a high-quality follow-up to the SB3621 with the HDMI onboard in unique a welcome element. I cannot say however how it will stack up towards the finest soundbars of the year, but you can find no denying it is an outstanding benefit presently. 

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