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Home theater systems & soundbars

Vizio S3821w
 
Approximate retail price:
$137.95
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Summary: A 2.1-channel soundbar.
Dividing line
Community icon7 people have reviewed this model.
Type: Soundbars
User Reviews
User Reviews

(2 of 2 customers found this review helpful)
 
4.0
Premium? No. Excellent? Yes!
9/10/2014
Pros
All cables included
Balanced sound
Easy Set Up
Good Value
Cons
No Virtual Surround Sound
Best Uses
Ambient Music
Tv Speaker Replacement
Comment:
I have a 42 Vizio TV that is a few years old now and while the TV is amazing (I get compliments on it all the time) the sound is, well, less than stellar. It's ok, but the ambient sounds tend to drown out the voice, meaning I have to crank up the TV volume to hear everything. That means EVERYthing is loud. I want quality, not necessarily volume. After reviewing several makes and models of budget sound systems, and being very happy with my Vizio TV and Vizio Blu-Ray player, I decided to take the plunge. I couldn't be happier!<br /><br />Granted, if you are an audiophile looking for stunning, Bose-like, quality (or whatever high end brand you prefer), this isn't for you. If, however, you are looking for a fairly inexpensive way to improve the overall quality of your TV speakers, I highly recommend this system.<br /><br />Set up was simple and easy. Plug the bar and the subwoofer into outlets. One optical cable from the back of the TV to the sound bar. Choose the optical input on the sound bar (it doesn't dynamically choose). Pair the subwoofer. That's it. Up and running. The only issue I had was after the set up, my TV speakers and the bar were competing. It did take a quick internet search to see the suggestion to turn off the speakers on the TV. That totally worked. The only annoying thing is that since the bar and the TV are both Vizio, the TV remote (my TiVo remote) controls both volumes. The sound on the TV is off now, but it still moves the volume indicator on the TV. I either have to use the sound bar remote (ONE more remote...), or angle the TiVo remote in such a way that it only hits the bar. For someone not as OCD as I am, where if the TV volume is off it HAS to say 0, then this won't be a big deal. ;-)<br /><br />Now, for the sound quality. In a word: excellent! It totally solved the voice problem. Voices are clear and loud, without having to crank up the volume. As a matter of fact, I can have the volume on the bar lower than I could on the TV and still hear/understand everything clearly. And the sound quality is better, even at a lower volume!<br /><br />Once you crank up the volume, though, is when you get to experience the power of this little system. Again, it isn't crystal clear, 7.1 channels, of blow you away movie theater sound. But, it does fill the room and provides a nice little boom on the bass.<br /><br />To test it out, I used the Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Blu-Ray. The move was awful, but I wanted to see what the pod race scene sounded like. ;-) I turned up the volume and got what I expected - rumbling booms from the bass, crystal clear sound, and a much more immersive experience with no distortion. What I did NOT get was any surround sound. I was really hoping to hear the pods move across the screen with the sound. Never happened. I think the speakers on the bar are just too close together to achieve any kind of sound movement. I was a little disappointed in this, as I have heard other speakers that can simulate surround sound (like Bose). This isn't one of them. And, of course, there is no rear sound at all (which I wasn't expecting).<br /><br />Music sounds great as well. I played Led Zeppelin I through Apple TV and heard a great balance of vocals and bass, neither one overpowering the other. Again, it totally filled the room, without being annoyingly loud.<br /><br />Also, on the music side, I love playing music when entertaining, but really don't like having album art, or anything else, showing on the TV. I was able to use the Sirius satellite app on my iPad and play it via Bluetooth, with the TV off. I was very pleased.<br /><br />Lastly, on the plus side, was gaming. I played Batman: Arkham Asylum on an Xbox 360, and even though I've played this game through several times, I heard sounds I had never heard before. It did a fantastic job, not just on the bass, but on the ambient sounds. I heard leaves rustling, foot falls, fires burning, and other background noises in a way I hadn't experienced before with just the TV speakers. Again, balanced without overpowering anything else.<br /><br />My only other let-down, though, so far, has been football. I was hoping to get a lot more crowd and game noise, but I don't. The announcers, however, and nice and clear. Which isn't necessarily a good thing. ;-) Not sure if this is the system, or the signal/mix from the TV station, but it is disappointing nonetheless.<br /><br />The bottom line is this is a really good system, especially for the price (I paid around $120 at Costco). Again, it isn't going to be the best you've ever heard, but if you are looking for a really nice upgrade to your TV speakers, this is an excellent choice.
How long have you owned it:
A month or less
Bottom Line
Yes, I would recommend this to a friend.

(21 of 21 customers found this review helpful)
 
4.0
Great Product for the Price.
4/11/2014
Pros
Easy Set Up
Improves Tv Experience
Low Cost
More Than You Pay For
Cons
Confusing directions
Best Uses
Comment:
I have a hearing loss, and my greatest difficulty is hearing conversation clearly on my new flat panel TV. Since many sound systems are nearly as expensive than the TV itself and I wasn't sure it would be worth it, I've been reluctant to spring for the extra cost. When I read the review of this system, and found it at Costco for even less that the Consumer Reports suggested price, I decided the give it a go and am I ever glad I did. I can now hear conversations, even on programs like Grey's Anatomy (All the actors are mumblers) and now the music comes across beautifully.<br /><br />Obviously, I'm not an audiophile, but, I do enjoy music, and now, love hearing every bit of the dialogue. The only reason I didn't rate it five stars this that this is obviously not a high end system: it doesn't pretend to be one and shouldn't be rated as one. It is worth what you pay for it though, and much more. I would definitely recommend it to others.
How long have you owned it:
A month or less
Bottom Line
Yes, I would recommend this to a friend.

(18 of 20 customers found this review helpful)
 
4.0
Only One Glitch...
1/27/2014
Pros
Easy Set Up Connections
Easy to set up
Few Wires To Run
Lots Of Wires Included
Remote Is Simple
Sounds Great
Cons
A Remote&mdash;just What I Need
No HDMI connection
Oh Joy&mdash;another Remote
Online Support So-so
Best Uses
Movie night
tv watching
Video Games
Comment:
First, I bought the next model up (S4251w-B4) which adds 5.1 surround and a pair of satellite speakers which plug into the wireless bass module, but my comments apply to this model, too.<br /><br />The box is huge and oddly shaped, but it's easy to unbox and setup. <br /><br />Once setup it sounded great. I agree with CU's assessment. It cost far less than similar systems from other manufacturers, but it really added to our movie- watching experience in a 14 x 20 foot room. It felt as if we had to turn it up fairly high to really get a theater-like feel, however, but once we found the volume level we wanted, it sounded powerful and immersive.<br /><br />I'm a little nervous about the lifespan of some of the materials used. Speaker housings are plastic, the screening material feels like it will tear easily, and the sub woofer feels fragile, similar to laminated particleboard Ikea uses for furniture, but thinner. <br /><br />The simple remote lets you do stuff like choose an input, adjust volume/mute, but also is used to adjust sound parameters. Ours has a small LED screen, but the S3821 does not. It has a nice soft-touch backing. Volume buttons are horizontal, a bit unintuitive, but no biggie.<br /><br />The one glitch we had was with source connections. Our system is wired with HDMI. The soundbar does not offer HDMI input, and you could run into an unexpected issue because of it. I first tried to use the recommended connection, a Toslink digital out port, to connect to our older Sony LCD flatscreen, but got no sound. After doing some forum digging, I discovered that some TVs—even newer ones—turn off the Toslink digital output if the source signal is via HDMI. Technical reasons.<br /><br />This is not the fault of the soundbar, but it may affect your purchasing decision. Know that if your TV does not support digital pass-through, you will need to use another connection, perhaps analog. That was a bit of a bummer, but I got it working after scratching my head for an hour.<br /><br />Still, good value and sounds great so far.
How long have you owned it:
A month or less
Bottom Line
Yes, I would recommend this to a friend.
The Vizio S3821w is part of the Home theater systems & soundbars test program at Consumer Reports. The Vizio S3821w Home theater systems & soundbars features and specs include Plays 3D Blu-ray discs, 3D capable HDMI switching, Ethernet connection, WiFi connection, Wireless subwoofer, Component-video (in/out), Stereo analog audio (in/out), iPod dock, Analog to HDMI video conversion, Video player disc capacity, Wireless surround speaker amps, AM tuner, Active subwoofer, Auto speaker calibration, Coaxial digital audio (in/out), FM tuner, HDMI (in/out), Internet streaming access, Receiver OSD, Optical digital audio (in/out). In our lab tests, Home theater systems & soundbars models like the Vizio S3821w are reviewed on HD picture quality, 480i DVD picture quality, Upconverted DVD picture quality, Sound quality, Versatility, Ease of use, Overall score, Number of channels, Number of speakers supplied. Consumer Reports subscribers share reviews of the Vizio S3821w based on personal experience. The user reviews of the Vizio S3821w include star ratings, pros, cons, best uses, and a bottom line review to help guide your purchasing decision of the Vizio S3821w.
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