Robust surround sound
Surround speakers could stand out more
The V51-H6's main draw is that you’re getting a heaping helping of speakers—a three-channel soundbar, two surrounds, and a hefty subwoofer—but the soundbar is also more than the sum of its parts. Not only is this one of the most affordable surround systems around, but its software is also robust and flexible enough to allow for a deep level of customization, should you so choose. It's also easy to set up and start using if you don't want to fuss with anything.
Of course, with that affordability does come one notable drawback: for all these speakers, the V51-H6 doesn’t sound oodles better than the standard 2.1-channel version (which is as much a commentary on the power of the surrounds as it is the robustness of the core soundbar and subwoofer). While it sounds great overall, it won't be replacing movie theaters any time soon. But for what you're paying, this system is sure to feel like a steal.
About the Vizio V51-H6
The Vizio V51-H6 is a 5.1-channel system, meaning it includes five standard speakers and one subwoofer. Here are the core specs you’ll want to know about:
- Price: $249.99 MSRP
- Dimensions: 36 x 2.24 x 3.18 inches (soundbar), 4.72 x 2.24 x 3.19 (subwoofer)
- Weight: 5 lbs. (soundbar with feet), 7.3 lbs. (subwoofer)
- Speakers/drivers: 3 drivers (soundbar), 1 woofer (wireless subwoofer), 2 x satellite (rear) speakers
- Wireless connections: WiFi, Chromecast, Spotify Connect, Bluetooth 5.0
- Wired connections: HDMI ARC, 3.5mm auxiliary audio, optical audio, USB
- Sound formats: DTS Digital Surround, .WAV (USB only)
In the box, the V51-H6 looks almost identical to the 2.1-channel version, but once you open it up, there’s a lot more going on. You’re still getting a 36-inch soundbar and Vizio’s weighty five-inch wireless subwoofer, but the included remote control presents a considerable upgrade by comparison. And, of course, you’re also getting surround speakers.
It’s also worth noting that while the subwoofer is wireless, the surrounds aren’t: wherever you place them in the room, keep in mind that you’re going to need to run cables that connect them to the sub.
What We Like
Full room sound at a bargain
There’s plenty to say about Vizio’s 5.1-channel V-Series surround sound system, but the feather in its cap is simply that it provides such a comprehensive audio system at such an affordable price. When I reviewed the 2.1-channel version last year, I found it to be impressively robust, delivering sound that filled the room and boasting especially commendable bass for something so affordable. The 5.1-channel system matches those expectations, and then exceeds them thanks to its additional surround speakers.
I did note one drawback during testing: due to the size of my TV and the odd shape of the room, my living room setup didn’t allow me to optimally place the satellite speakers far enough behind our loveseat. However, because of this I can confirm that the speakers add appreciably to the mix even if you can’t place them in the ideal spots in your home (generally, it’s recommended that surround speakers are placed at ear height behind the listener, to the left and right of the center channel).
I sampled the 5.1-channel system over a number of weeks, giving me plenty of time to finagle with all of its various surround modes and software enhancements—more on that later. What I can say without a doubt is that the V-Series 5.1 soundbar sounds way too good for what Vizio is asking. If you’re looking for detailed mid-channel and stereo soundbar audio, you’re getting it here. If you want a subwoofer that has enough power to send rumbling vibrations through your chest, you’re getting that here too.
While the full surround effect (i.e. how well-placed and discernable audio from the satellite speakers is) will vary depending upon the level of mastering in the source content, there’s no denying that the sheer driver count on display in this 5.1-channel system adds robustness that goes well beyond the average 2.1-channel soundbar, and is in a whole different universe compared to standard TV speakers.
A full rewatch of the Lord of the Rings trilogy over a long weekend was one notable instance where the V51-H6 showed its quality. I’ve watched these movies many times, in theaters and at home, and am quite familiar with the general balance of dialogue, music, and sound effects in traditional stereo environments, which made it very easy to tell just what this soundbar was bringing to the table.
While the surround sound speakers didn’t always stand out like they could have, listening to them here was still an immense upgrade. Battle scenes are particularly good. The subwoofer handled the thumping stomp of the Oliphants rampaging towards Minas Tirith with impressive punch, while the surround speakers wrapped the steel of swords and grunts of battle in the aural space around the symphonic score. It was wonderfully immersive—at least for a system that can be had for around $200.
In a time where it’s rather irresponsible to go to a movie theater and all of us are watching movies at home, the availability of a solid 5.1-channel system in this price range is easy to love. Did I always feel like I could clearly hear and appreciate all of the audio differentiation happening during every piece of content? No—and avoiding these so-called “crossover” problems might be why you’d want to pay for a more carefully tuned system. But if you just want the general effect of a full-room audio upgrade, you could do a lot worse.
Joy, thy name is an LCD remote
I would jump through a lot of hoops to enjoy a 5.1 system like this, but fortunately, the V51-H6 doesn’t force you to. In fact, it’s super easy to use, and it’s all thanks to the remote control’s LCD panel.
If there’s one low-key but consistent complaint about soundbars, it’s that their feedback systems can be rather obtuse. The typical soundbar remote allows you to adjust things like soundbar and subwoofer volume, and indicates these adjustments via various LEDs on the soundbar itself. They might increase from one to five to show volume being raised, or change from white to blue to show that the soundbar is in Bluetooth pairing mode. Many modern bars also utilize voice prompts, announcing “Movie” or “Music” when you switch between sound modes.
These systems generally work just fine, but it’s only in the last couple of years that they’ve become more or less universally functional across brands. The V51-H6’s remote eliminates all of the potential guesswork, cleanly allowing you to select between the system’s many surround presets and modes, as well as adjusting the volume of various speakers. The rectangular display window hardly adds to the remote’s general size, but it adds a layer of system feedback that feels invaluable to the product on the whole.
You might not need a remote with such a display for just any soundbar/subwoofer combo, but with the wealth of adjustments the V51-H6 makes possible, you’ll be very glad of this one. There are four core buttons arranged around the volume rocker: EQ, Level, Setup, and Effect. Each of them contains essentially a full menu of customization options: EQ lets you select from amongst sound modes like “Movie” or “Music”; Level allows you to individually tweak frequency emphasis like bass, treble, dialogue, the center channel, the subwoofer, and the surround speaker volume and balance; Setup enables a wealth of options, such as enabling eco power mode, triggering input search, adjusting the brightness of the soundbar’s LED indicators, and adjusting audio delay settings; and Effect is how you tell the soundbar where in the room the satellite speakers are placed or toggle virtual surround on and off, among other things.
There are lots of ways to tweak, adjust, and customize your experience here—more than it would be practical to list, really. While I’m jazzed that this affordable system allows for such a wealth of customization options, the remote control—with its wonderfully informative display—is the unsung hero of that experience.
Generally an excellent, responsive experience
While my time with Vizio’s 5.1-channel V-Series wasn’t without some glitches or hiccups (more on that below), generally I found myself impressed with how responsive and easy it is to use, especially when considering that it more than doubles the normal amount of soundbar speakers.
That’s not to imply that the V51-H6 is excessively complex: if anything, it successfully hides its considerable customization options behind a simple initial setup. While I enjoyed tinkering with it and optimizing it for various content types, I found that in the “Movie” mode, with the sub and surround speakers set to normal levels, just about everything sounds good.
Once you’ve learned your way around the remote control and have the speakers set up where you want them, the V51-H6 can be integrated very smoothly into your TV room (though you’ll have to take some care with where you place the speakers). It ultimately takes shape as a simple solution for much, much better audio than you’ll get from your TV, with the option for a deep level of control should you so desire it.
What We Don't Like
You’re bound to have some glitches
I haven’t used enough high-end surround systems to claim expertise over why some of the V51-H6’s various issues cropped up during testing, but I can at least advise buyers that they’re bound to run into a few.
I used the V51-H6 in conjunction with a 50-inch Vizio M-Series Quantum from 2019, while my source devices were an Xbox Series X and an Xbox One S. Every now and again, the volume would become or start out at a bafflingly quiet level—too quiet to have not been a glitch—while at other times, it would suddenly get much louder.
I thoroughly checked the audio output settings for the TV as well as the two Xboxes, and none of these volume hiccups had ever happened in relation to any settings being manually adjusted. It happened sporadically enough across various types of media (things in HD, 4K, HDR, etc.) to leave me thinking that the average consumer would likely have some hiccups as well, but not often enough that it warrants more than a passing mention. While it’s difficult to know whether these glitches were related to my TV or source devices specifically, I can at least say that this kind of thing hasn’t happened with the other soundbars I’ve tested over the last year.
These hiccups may be especially applicable to Vizio TV owners, who may find that the way the TV automatically fosters parity with the soundbar makes for an appealing simplicity but likewise is not without some hangups. When you turn your Vizio TV on, it will tell you that “the Vizio soundbar was found and set up.” I found that on occasion, it simply wouldn’t tell me this, and then we’d experience mild but still annoying audio delay and have to turn the TV off and on again to fix things.
In my opinion, these kinds of occasional lapses in the otherwise streamlined process are part of the sacrifice you make for getting such a performance-focused system at such an affordable price: costs had to be cut somewhere, after all.
One person’s “boring” is another’s “invisible”
One thing you’re not really getting here, despite the full array of speakers and flexible software, is a speaker set with much aesthetic sensibility. While some soundbars aim to look downright fetching on your TV stand, the 5.1-channel V-Series—from the soundbar, to the subwoofer, to the surround speakers—may as well be invisible.
Dressed head to toe in matching black charcoal, the 5.1 V-Series is like a troupe of ninjas in your living room—one tall one, one fat one, and a couple little dudes—who hide in the nooks and crannies around your couch and entertainment center, providing rad audio. Of course, the other way to look at this is that in a living room that’s bright or features softer, pastel colors, these boxy black objects are going to stand out in the wrong way.
While this is, again, a case of getting what you pay for, it’s worth bringing to the attention of aesthetically-minded buyers if only because this particular speaker setup takes up so much more space in your room than the average soundbar. You’re going to see it every day, so it’s worth thinking a little about whether you like the way it looks.
Should You Buy It?
Yes—if you want surround sound at an unbeatable price
If you're looking to upgrade your TV speakers, your best bet is to grab a great soundbar. While you can get some amazing soundbars for upwards of $500, I'm guessing most people don't want to pay more for their soundbar than they did for their TV. With the V51-H6, you're getting a lot for just a couple hundred bucks: not just a solid soundbar and a robust subwoofer, but surround speakers too. This soundbar gives you the opportunity to immerse your living room in quality audio without making a huge investment.
There are a couple of reasons you might not go for the V51-H6. Maybe you don't have the space for surround speakers (or even a subwoofer), and if that’s the case, you might want to go for something more compact like an all-in-one bar. Or maybe you're pretty serious about audio and willing to spend more for a step up in general quality: in that case, we'd direct you to this powerful bar from Klipsch.
But if you're just looking for solid surround sound without breaking the bank, the V51-H6 is one of the most value-packed home theater audio solutions you’ll find. For a couple hundred dollars, this 5.1-channel surround system really has no business being so robust and flexible.
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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