If you’re looking to improve the sound quality of your TV viewing experience, while putting an end to the volume assault that often accompanies commercial interruptions, look no further than this family of soundbars from Vizio (2.0, 3.0 and 5.1 versions are also available, but this review only covers the 2.1 38″ version). This series was created with DTS TruVolume technology, designed to normalize volume output. This feature frees you from scrambling for the remote every time your show breaks to another impossibly louder-than-necessary word from our sponsors that you can hear throughout the house.
I can think of a couple instances where you might not want this technology. While watching a movie, you might prefer to hear the fluctuations in volume between a soft coffee shop conversation, and the explosions of an action scene. And then there’s the rare situation that you’d actually want the commercials louder than the programming, an unanticipated problem I experienced while hosting a Super Bowl party during this soundbar test. If you do end up in one of these situations, you can just turn off the TruVolume control with a simple button press on the provided remote.
The Vizio 2.1 38” (S3821 W-C0) soundbar produces clear, full, dynamic sound, focused on the mid and low ranges. I could hear greater detail with this soundbar than with my standard TV speakers, and the wireless subwoofer creates a thump that you can place almost anywhere, without the hassle of running speaker wire throughout your living room.
Other features include a 12 pip LED display, simple function bass and treble EQ, DTS TruSurround, and six inputs that include USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Pairing with Bluetooth is very simple and straight forward, with the streaming audio being true to MP3 quality sound.
The 12 pip LED display can be confusing to decipher which input is selected. The 12 LEDs are grouped in pairs: the first two LEDs display input one, the third and fourth LEDs display input two, and so forth. If you’re using multiple inputs for multiple devices, this will be frustrating (until you have the input numbers memorized). But if you can set up your entertainment system using just one of the inputs, it shouldn’t be a problem. (Luckily there is a dedicated Bluetooth button on the remote, so this annoyance is eliminated for music streaming.)
The soundbar can be mounted to the wall or placed on a shelf under the TV. Mounting is pretty straightforward, a two-bracket mount system, requiring the use of a provided template to ensure proper spacing. If you’ve already mounted your TV to the wall, this is even simpler. All of the hardware comes provided in the box. It’s important to note that the rear-positioned buttons will be difficult to access, if the soundbar is mounted. The remote, however, takes care of this minor inconvenience.
Overall, the Vizio 2.1 38” soundbar and subwoofer combo is a great system for a range of audio needs and preferences, providing an enhanced volume experience, the option of automatic volume normalization, multiple device inputs, and Bluetooth pairing, all without the hassle of running wires or a complicated setup. It’s a great upgrade that will no doubt enhance your entertainment system and listening enjoyment.
You can pickup the Vizio S3821 W-C0 Soundbar, with its accompanying subwoofer, at Amazon for $158, and Amazon Prime members get an extra $10 off.