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Vizio M-Series 5.1.2 vs Monoprice SB-600: Which budget Atmos bar is best?

Two impressive budget Dolby Atmos bars. But only one can win.

Credit: Reviewed/Jackson Ruckar

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Until very recently, buying a Dolby Atmos soundbar system on a budget was a one-way street. Vizio offered the best, and basically only, soundbar capable of delivering three-dimensional sound for under $500. It even followed up its first successful Atmos system (the SB36512-F6) with the similarly impressive M-Series 5.1.2 before most competing brands had a chance to challenge.

Now, a new budget Atmos bar has set up shop a few doors down. Monoprice’s SB-600 soundbar is a worthy adversary to Vizio’s M-Series 5.1.2 on multiple fronts. Both of these soundbars offer great value. But when push comes to shove, one has to be the better buy. Naturally, we pitted these systems against each other to suss out which is best.

Buy the Vizio M-Series 5.1.2 from Amazon

Buy the Monoprice SB-600 from Monoprice

Price

Not coincidentally, both the Vizio and the Monoprice have a retail price of $449.99. To make matters tougher, there’s no real difference in the equipment that each system provides for the cost, either. In addition to the soundbar, wireless subwoofer, and rear surrounds themselves, each system offers essential accessories, from HDMI and digital optical cables to wall mounting hardware.

If we’re splitting hairs, Monoprice’s Atmos bar has been seen on sale for around $400. But when comparing sticker-to-sticker prices, this one’s a stalemate.

Our pick: Tie

Monoprice-price
Credit: Reviewed/Jackson Ruckar

While usually identical in price to Vizio, the SB-600 can be found on sale for less.

Design

As with most of these categories, it’s hard to determine a clear winner here. Vizio revamped the look of its soundbars for this latest generation, and it shows in the M-Series. The classic, boxy aesthetic and silver end caps from Vizio soundbars of old are gone. Instead, the M-Series sheds the sharp edges and adopts a darker shade overall, with a remote decked out in all-black trim to match.

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For its part, Monoprice’s SB-600 took us by surprise when we unwrapped the system to reveal a much sleeker style than originally anticipated. It resembles something akin to a bargain bin Sonos Arc, and that’s a fine compliment. The system’s included subwoofer and speakers are dressed in the same attire and sized to fit neatly into most spaces in a living room.

There are no eyesores to be found in this bunch, and either would fit well into most setups regardless of decor. But there’s just something remarkable about the way Monoprice was able to design the SB-600 while staying on budget, giving it a slight edge in this round.

Our pick: Monoprice SB-600

Monoprice-design
Credit: Reviewed/Jackson Ruckar

Monoprice managed to give its budget Atmos bar a sleek design

Setup

Part of the reason many folks opt for soundbars is the ease of setup that most systems offer, and the Vizio and Monoprice are no exception, though their inclusion of surround speakers does require some extra steps.

Both soundbars have a solid selection of connections, including HDMI eARC, which is the default connection both for ease of use and as the only way to consume Dolby Atmos content. While there are some wires to connect, it doesn't take long to get things set up if you follow the instructions.

Monoprice lets you place its subwoofer almost anywhere you want.

There is a small yet significant difference in the rear speakers, however. Vizio’s rear surrounds need to be connected to the subwoofer via included wires; the Monoprice’s, by comparison, are tethered to each other, with one of the surrounds needing to be connected to power. You’re going to have to incorporate wires no matter what, and the style that suits you better may depend on your living room layout. But Monoprice’s tactic allows you to place the subwoofer almost anywhere you want in the room, which is a level of flexibility that Vizio can’t provide.

Our pick: Monoprice SB-600

Features

Vizio-features
Credit: Reviewed/Jackson Ruckar

Vizio's M-Series 5.1.2 supports Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and DTS Virtual:X.

Wi-Fi isn’t supported by either of these soundbars, which is a disappointment. But they do come with Bluetooth for your music streaming needs, as well as a diverse group of inputs. Along with HDMI eARC/ARC connection for your TV, each has additional HDMI inputs (Monoprice's has two, Vizio's has just one) with support for 4K/HDR passthrough. Each also has digital optical and 3.5mm analog inputs.

Vizio does gain an advantage thanks to its support for DTS:X and DTS Virtual:X sound formats which, despite being less popular 3D sound entities than Atmos, positions the M-Series 5.1.2 as a more versatile option than the SB-600's Atmos-only configuration.

Our pick: Vizio M-Series 5.1.2

Performance

Out of the box, the stock performances of the Vizio and Monoprice are surprisingly similar. Both have far better Dolby Atmos effects than should be possible for less than $500. Both offer relatively detailed sound no matter what content you throw at them, from movies to TV shows or music. We preferred Monoprice’s center channel slightly for its impressive clarity. But Vizio’s subwoofer, despite being a smaller 6-inch driver compared to Monoprice’s 8-inch woofer, is a better complement to the rest of its speakers.

The M-Series can adjust height channel levels to correct for higher ceilings.

The biggest discrepancy here is the ability to tune each system’s sound. Monoprice has four DSP modes, plus the ability to adjust bass, treble, and surround sound volume. Vizio, meanwhile, has customization options for almost everything. Need to boost the center channel to hear dialogue better? No problem. Do you have higher ceilings in your living room? The M-Series' height channel levels can be adjusted to get a more immersive sound, which can mean the difference between good and nearly nonexistent Atmos depending on the listening environment.

Both of these soundbars do well for their price point without any additional tinkering. But the ability to adjust the channel levels in order to get the best sound for any space gives the Vizio M-series a definite advantage, making it more versatile and potentially a better overall performer.

Our pick: Vizio M-Series 5.1.2

And the winner is ...

The scoreboard suggests that we’re in a bit of a standoff here, which speaks to just how solid both of these soundbars are for their price point. But ultimately, Vizio's M-Series 5.1.2 is our soundbar of choice. The larger collection of sound formats is a nice addition, but even more important for varying environments is the ability to adjust individual channels at will, particularly the height channels. This feature can be integral to the overall effectiveness of the vertical immersion that is so crucial to Dolby Atmos content.

Still, especially if it’s on sale, the Monoprice SB-600 is a good alternative. Each of these soundbars accomplishes the improbable feat of delivering impactful Dolby Atmos for a price that no other brand in the business can touch. Vizio's bar simply offers more for your money in some crucial areas, including Dolby Atmos performance, which is the biggest selling point here.

Buy the Vizio M-Series 5.1.2 from Amazon

Buy the Monoprice SB-600 from Monoprice

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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