Solid bass presence
Not very forward compatible
At $180, the Vizio V-Series 2.1 (there's also a pricier 5.1-channel version available) boasts a lot of value: You're getting a 36-inch, stereo channel soundbar and a hefty wireless subwoofer alongside a suite of useful features and pairing options. Generally, the design elements, remote, connectivity, and overall functionality are very solid—while nothing will blow your mind, so to speak, we can't imagine anyone would have complaints.
Where you might find yourself wishing you'd spent a little more is in the features category, but you'd probably have to spend quite a bit more to get a perceptible increase in sound quality. The bar itself is loud, clear, and balanced even with only two speaker channels, and the subwoofer boasts ample bass (a bit too much at times, but more on that below). For what you're paying, this soundbar/subwoofer combo is a stellar value, and—especially if you're still toiling under the mediocrity of your TV's stock speakers—should be on a short list for anyone looking to seriously revamp their cinematic audio.
About the Vizio V-Series 2.1 Soundbar
If you're hunting for this soundbar out in the wild or online, you may see it by a couple of different names. On Vizio's website and on the actual product's box, it's called the Vizio V-Series 2.1 Home Theater Soundbar, but you may also see it identified as the Vizio V21-H8. Whatever it's called, here are the specs you'd probably rather hear about instead:
- Weight: 5 lbs. (soundbar w/ feet)
- Speakers/drivers: 2 drivers (soundbar), 1 woofer (wireless subwoofer)
- Wireless connections: WiFi, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth 5.0
- Wired connections: HDMI ARC, 3.5mm input, optical audio, USB input
- Sound formats: DTS TruVolume, DTS Virtual:X, Dolby Volume, .WAV (USB only)
In the box, you're getting the soundbar, subwoofer, and the HDMI/optical cables you'll need to get going. Both the soundbar and sub are powered via identical power cables. You're also getting a standard Vizio soundbar remote with included batteries.
What we like
It certainly blends in!
In this price range, you shouldn't expect anything jaw-dropping from a design standpoint—but for soundbars, that's usually a good thing. If you're hoping for a soundbar that will seamlessly blend into your entertainment center beneath your TV, though, this Vizio fits the bill.
The company has stepped away from the almost overly flashy silver/metal design of its past soundbar/subwoofer combos for the 2020 V-Series soundbars, though that may not be the case for the pricier M- and P-Series bars. The V-Series 2.1 soundbar and subwoofer are quite plain from a design standpoint: It's all black and dark gray.
In our estimation, this isn't a bad thing. My living room isn't exactly a picture of finery (I also own a Vizio M-Series Quantum TV from 2019), and the soundbar fits right between the TV's feet, perfectly blending into my AV setup. The subwoofer is tucked away next to a black leather loveseat, and is equally invisible. It allows the whole system to provide its audio furnishings without really disrupting the visual look and vibe.
It's easy to set up
Another thing we really like about this affordable bar/sub combo is how simple it is. As you're probably aware, the soundbar and subwoofer are wirelessly pre-paired out of the box, so all you really have to do is plug them both into a power source and you're good to go. They even use the exact same AC cable—it really couldn't be simpler.
On the rear side of the soundbar, you'll find generous indents for connecting the power cable. Then, it's as easy as running the included HDMI cable from the bar to your TV. Setup was especially easy for me because I own a Vizio TV, which recognized the soundbar via HDMI CEC and essentially "set it up" for me (whatever that involved).
The only annoying bit is that every time I turn my TV on now, I get a prompt that says, "The soundbar was found and set up. Control with the TV remote." It seems like after a week of prompts it would stop telling me that, but I still have to click "OK" every time to get the message to go away.
You'll find a useful set of on-set controls along the top of the bar—power, sound mode selection, input selection, Bluetooth, and so on—but I don't think I've personally used them once; the included remote is very useful and has plenty of buttons. You can adjust bass and treble, as well as the subwoofer, separately from the main volume control, which is all most people will need to do. You can also jump through inputs and sound modes. However, once I had the EQ (equalization—essentially adjustment of bass and treble emphasis) where I liked it, I used my TV remote 99% of the time to simply adjust the volume. Easy peasy.
It has great sound for the price
So, you get the picture: This bar/sub combo is the essence of simplicity, from its design to its user interface and controls. Where it truly shines (for what you're paying) is in sound quality.
Just how impressive you find the Vizio V-Series 2.1 may well depend on what kind of sound you're upgrading from, but for me, it was a huge improvement. I wasn't using stock TV speakers, but rather one of those short-lived LG sound "plates" from five or six years back. It wasn't a bad audio solution, but it really struggled with bass, both in terms of providing it consistently and not rumbling like a Jeep on safari during certain frequencies.
By comparison, this Vizio was a revelation. Not only was its 2.1-channel iteration much louder and clearer, overall, than my 2-channel sound plate, but its EQ, sound modes, and especially its bass presence are excellent, especially for this price range. I was honestly so taken aback by the warm, rumbling bass from the subwoofer that I nervously glanced towards our walls and asked, "Are we allowed to have this?"
I've been using the Vizio V-Series 2.1 as my main living room audio solution for a few weeks, and have thrown just about everything at it: action movies, comedies, TV show binges, music streaming over Bluetooth, and—of course—all kinds of video games. My only complaint is that sometimes the subwoofer, specifically, is a bit overwhelming in terms of bass.
Almost everything sounds amply loud, crisp, and balanced in the "Movie" sound mode (which is the default), but more than once I found myself hastily fumbling for the soundbar's remote in order to turn the subwoofer down. Granted, my apartment is in a Philadelphia house that's quite old, and its hardwood skeleton and flooring elicit huge amounts of surface reverb, so it might be a more "me" problem than an indication of the sub's actual potential for boom boomin' bass, but it's worth noting.
Overall, the verdict here is that in this price range, the sound quality is awesome—Vizio nailed it. Especially if you're upgrading from stock TV speakers, you're going to love the way this soundbar/sub combo hits.
What we don't like
It's not terribly future-proof
As you might guess with this price range, you're not getting all the bells and whistles you might with a pricier product. Granted, we can't hold that against the V-Series, as it is definitely intended as a step-up-into-entry-level kind of soundbar, but if that's where you're at in your audio journey, you should know a bit about what you're not getting.
The major "lapse," from an audiophile's point of view, is that you aren't getting any Dolby Atmos compatibility (for that, you'd have to step up to Vizio's M-Series soundbars or higher). Even without upfiring or height-channel type speakers, quite a few mid-range soundbars hitting the market right now are at least compatible—meaning they can downsample and utilize Dolby Atmos sound, even if they don't have upfiring speakers.
If this is your price range and level of interest, missing out on Dolby Atmos may not matter to you, but it's at least worth taking note of. Likewise, you also aren't getting the center channel or surround speakers that come with the Vizio 5.1 soundbar—which will cost you an additional $80. If you don't mind paying a little more for a bit more audio fidelity, it might be worth investigating the 5.1-channel model.
Last but not least, you're also not getting HDMI eARC here, a newer addition that allows uncompressed audio pass-thru. This is really only available on higher-end 'bars right now, but again, it's worth being aware that you won't have the forward-compatibilities of both Dolby Atmos and eARC with this soundbar/sub combo.
Sharing isn't always caring
The phenomenon I'm about to describe is a bit hard to quantify as a problem with this soundbar specifically as much as it might be a problem with my own WiFi security, but it's a problem that cropped up only while using this soundbar, so it's enough to make me suspicious.
Basically, every now and again, someone—I'm not sure who—is casting to the soundbar. Not only this, but they seem to be casting to it accidentally. This has resulted in two of three instances where we're watching TV, and suddenly someone else connects to the soundbar and starts playing music or YouTube videos, and cranks them to maximum volume because (I assume) they're not hearing anything from the device they meant to cast to.
This was jarring enough when we were in the middle of watching something, but having it happen out of the blue when we were both already in bed was truly discombobulating and startling. If someone is stealing my WiFi, that's on me, but as far as I can tell, no one is stealing our juice. Because we have a Vizio TV that automatically set the soundbar up when we connected it over HDMI, it appears that it may simply exist as a cast-able object in tandem with the TV (since we never actually went through the process of connecting the bar itself to the internet).
If that's the case, it seems like a bit of an oversight, especially if (like me) you live in close quarters with many other people, and those other people like to imbibe a little too much and then cast videos and music to the wrong device. I can't fully implicate Vizio in this little security snafu without further investigation into potential WiFi thieves, but I have enough cast-able sound devices in my home that it seems like it would have popped up before now otherwise.
This is more of a concern when you consider the ability to utilize Siri, Google Assistant, or Amazon Alexa, via pairedsmart speakers. While these features are a great addition for such an affordable soundbar, any potential "open door" in terms of WiFi casting might be more of a hindrance than a help. As it stands, I'm still investigating where the issue originates (whether it's the soundbar or my own WiFi acting up), but it's worth mentioning to interested shoppers.
Should you buy it?
If you want to step up your TV audio, absolutely. There are likely many great value-focused soundbars on the market this year, but the Vizio V-Series 2.1—at a very friendly $180—may just be the value winner of 2020. While its design and functionality are as humble as blueberry pie by midrange standards, it's understandable that Vizio had to cut some corners in that department to keep the price so low.
The real advantage is that it sounds really good for its price range, and might be one of the best-sounding 'bars under $200 I've used. If you've been suffering your TV's stock speakers for too long and have been hoping to upgrade without breaking the bank, the Vizio V-Series 2.1 Home Theater Soundbar is worth checking out.
Are there cheaper, more affordable soundbars out there? Sure. But unlike those, this one won't leave you thinking, "Maybe I should have spent a little more."
Meet the tester
Editor, Home Theater@Koanshark
Lee has been Reviewed's point person for most television and home theater products since 2012. Lee received Level II certification in TV calibration from the Imaging Science Foundation in 2013. As Editor of the Home Theater vertical, Lee oversees reviews of TVs, monitors, soundbars, and Bluetooth speakers. He also reviews headphones, and has a background in music performance.
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