Vizio’s new all-in-one soundbar brings the bass, but forgets the Atmos
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About the Vizio M-Series AiO Soundbar
Sleek and simple footprint
Below average Dolby Atmos
There aren’t any intricacies to be made aware of regarding the AiO and what comes with it, and that’s a good thing. Included is what’s now considered to be standard operating accessories—an HDMI cable, a remote (with batteries!) and an operating manual. Once you establish power and a connection to your display, you’re off to the races.
The soundbar produces great sound no matter what’s playing.
If you’re going to design a one-stop shop for a soundbar, it’s going to need to be compatible with a vast multitude of content. That’s exactly what the M-Series AiO is.
A button on the remote meant to boost dialogue exclusively would have been a welcomed addition, albeit an understandable omission since the AiO doesn’t have a center channel. Even without that, though, Vizio’s latest all-in-one showcased an adaptive soundstage that sounded great across a wide variety of content.
There’s some surprisingly good low end here for an all-in-one.
All-in-one soundbars notoriously lack bass, and that’s not really a coincidence. Even though many claim to be 2.1-channel systems, as the Vizio does, a subwoofer crammed into a bar simply doesn’t have enough air space to create any significant thump. That was the case with the previous M-Series all-in-one, and I was fully prepared for that to be the case here.
Outside of the inclusion of Dolby Atmos and DTS: X (more on that later), there isn’t a lot of pomp and circumstance surrounding the M-Series AiO. Instead, it sports a minimalistic, yet sharp footprint with an equally simple setup process. For reference, I asked a friend with incredibly limited A/V experience to unbox and set up the AiO while I was doing a few household chores. He had the bar unpacked, connected to both the TV and power and ready for the first round of the NFL Playoffs in about five minutes.
This is no surprise given Vizio’s track record, but it’s also remarkably straightforward to use. The included remote has (almost) all the controls you could ask for, allowing you to easily swap out different preset EQs (Movie, Music, Game, Direct, and Dialogue), toggle the bass or treble as needed, change inputs, and mute the bar at a moment’s notice. You won’t have the ability to really tinker with the sound the way some audiophiles may prefer. But for the use case of an all-encompassing setup like the AiO, it’s exactly the streamlined soundbar that it needed to be.
The Dolby Atmos experience is flat-out subpar in this AiO.
Dolby Atmos was a curious inclusion to a 2.1-channel soundbar that retails for $180 and doesn’t, in fact, have dedicated height channels to utilize. The odds were against the AiO in that respect, especially considering there are so few examples of decent Dolby Atmos under $500, let alone the $200 water mark. But I gave the AiO the benefit of the doubt, and sampled several Atmos scenes to see what I could find.
It doesn’t help that the AiO doesn’t have any way to manually boost height levels via the remote, on account of actual height channels being nonexistent in the soundbar. Even the ability to redline height response, though, wouldn’t have saved a lackluster Atmos experience in what is otherwise a wonderfully capable soundbar.
I will die on this hill, even as more and more soundbars seem to abandon the feature altogether. But the AiO is without Wi-Fi, meaning your only independent music streaming option is Bluetooth. Of course, Bluetooth 5.2 connectivity is far better in terms of quality than previous interactions of the technology. But Wi-Fi is still the king when it comes to retaining great streaming sound.
More than sound quality, though, Wi-Fi is essential for continuous, automatic updates that can keep a soundbar’s software up to speed. Why the AiO passed on Wi-Fi and its proven added benefits, but then tried to fashion a Dolby Atmos experience out of a 2.1-channel bar is beyond my comprehension.
If peak Dolby Atmos experience isn’t a requirement, this soundbar may just be for you.
In so many respects, Vizio’s M-Series AiO is an exquisite example of what all-in-one soundbars can do. It presents great sound across all kinds of content, delivered in a package that’s stealthy and incredibly easy to use. And, in an unexpected twist, it puts out an impressively decent amount of bass considering its stature.
If you can forget about Atmos, though, you’ll see the M-Series AiO for the solid, all-in-one solution that it is.
Vizio’s M-Series all-in-one soundbar, the M213AD-K8, is one of the best soundbars for under $200.
Nick Woodard is a tech journalist specializing in all things related to home theater and A/V. His background includes a solid foundation as a sports writer for multiple daily newspapers, and he enjoys hiking and mountain biking in his spare time.
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Source: USA Today Technology