One frequent criticism leveled against sound bars is that they simply can't produce the same sound experience as a true 5.1 home-theater system. The Vizio VHT510 (*Est. $350) attempts to counter those claims by offering more of a hybrid approach; it features a three-channel sound bar for front-channel audio, but it ups the ante by including two small rear channel speakers that connect to the sound bar's wireless subwoofer. By wiring the rear speakers to the subwoofer, Vizio's sound bar keeps the area in front of your TV neat and clean while supplying a true 5.1 channel listening solution that most critics say is unmatched by standard sound bars, although a bit lacking compared to better -- and more expensive -- full surround-sound solutions.
Many people choose to go with sound bars over true home-theater setups because they fear a complex installation. Even though the Vizio VHT510 includes rear speakers, reviewers say that setup is a breeze. The only inputs are an optical digital port and a stereo audio connection, and, as previously noted, the subwoofer is wireless. The rear speakers connect to the subwoofer via cables with proprietary connectors, and they are clearly labeled to avoid confusion. One downside to the simplicity is that reviewers say the lack of inputs and the addition of proprietary connections limit the system's versatility.
The extra speakers give the Vizio VHT510 the best surround-sound chops of any sound bar, and reviewers say the audio quality itself is pretty good, too. Overall, the system delivers perfectly acceptable sound, although critics noted that low male voices and heavy action scenes can cause some problems. Musical playback is also superior to most sound bars, though still not quite perfect.