The Vizio S4251w-B4 (Est. $330) is one of the few sound bars that can deliver true 5.1-channel surround sound, thanks in part to its two rear-channel speakers and wireless subwoofer. It's not the best-performing sound bar by anyone's standards, but experts say sound quality is adequate for small listening rooms. True surround-sound capabilities combined with a host of features make the S4251w-B4 a great hybrid of sound bar and home theater system.
True surround sound for small rooms. Unlike most sound bars, the Vizio S4251w-B4 can create a true surround-sound field, thanks to its two wireless rear-channel speakers. Sound quality is good overall, but this sound bar works best in small rooms. Will Greenwald at PCMag.com says the rear speakers are underpowered and that the "soft midrange and flat high end are disappointing." CNET's Matthew Moskocviak calls the S4251w-B4 "an adept home theater performer," even with action movies, but "only average with CDs."
Could block your TV's sensor. The Vizio S4251w-B4 sound bar sports a trapezoidal-shaped, matte-black aesthetic and weighs 8.9 pounds. A cloth grille runs the 42.3-inch length, and a black strip hosts LED status lights on the front. At 3.7 inches high, the sound bar could block a low-mounted IR sensor on your TV if stand mounted. (Unfortunately, if it does, there's no signal repeater or other workaround.) The 14.7-pound subwoofer is wireless, and the two rear-channel speakers plug directly into it. That helps reduce wire clutter, as you won't have to run cables across your room. Connectivity is standard: analog audio as well as both coaxial and optical digital audio. One nice touch is the USB port, though it can only read .WAV files off a flash drive.
DTS and Dolby decoding, with a catch. The Vizio S4251w-B4 includes built-in Bluetooth capabilities. This is particularly convenient if you'll want to wirelessly stream audio from smartphones and other mobile devices. The minimalist remote is a welcome touch; it sports a monochrome LCD display, which shows things such as which input channel you're using. DTS and Dolby surround-sound decoding is built in, but reviews tell us that due to limitations in most TVs, you'll likely need to attach components such as a Blu-ray Disc player directly to the sound bar to take full advantage of that. Otherwise, the sound bar will substitute DTS Circle Surround simulated surround sound. CNET finds differences, but says that the DTS processing coupled with the rear speakers produces a 360-degree effect that is good enough to please most listeners.
A solid sound bar/speaker system hybrid. If the simulated surround sound of other sound bars doesn't cut it for you, and you don't want to deal with the cost and complexity of a home theater system made up of discrete speakers and a home theater receiver, the Vizio S4251w-B4 is a welcome compromise. The included wireless rear speakers provide dimension to the otherwise limited sound field of standard sound bars. Sound quality is good, especially for movies and TV. "It's not quite a no-compromise sound bar," writes CNET's Matthew Moskovciak, "but it's as close as you'll get for $330."
The Vizio S4251w-B4 sound bar earns 4 stars out of 5 at CNET. Here reviewer Matthew Moskovciak praises the rear speakers, saying the S4251w-B4 offers "unparalleled home theater sonics from a sound bar," but isn't without its share of "quirks." A video review accompanies a written analysis.
Review: Vizio S4251w-B4 Review: A Sterling Sound Bar for Surround-Sound Devotees, Matthew Moskocviak, May 14, 2013
Will Greenwald is much more critical of the Vizio S4251w-B4 than reviewers at other sources. The sound bar receives 3 stars out of 5 at PCMag.com. Greenwald says the S4251w-B4 is a "decent" sound bar that falls short on performance and style compared to similarly priced models.
Review: Vizio S4251W-B4 Home Theater Sound Bar, Will Greenwald, May 15, 2013
The Vizio S4251w-B4 earns high marks from Darryl Wilkinson. The sound bar receives an overall score of 4.5 stars out of 5, as well as 5 stars out of 5 on value. Analysis here is in-depth, but straightforward enough to be of value to those who are not technically inclined.
Review: Vizio S4251w-B4 Soundbar and Wireless Sub Reviewed, Darryl Wilkinson, May 20, 2013
Robert Silva reviews the Vizio S4251w-B4 and gives it 4 stars out of 5. Silva lists pros and cons, and hands-on testing is thorough.
Review: Vizio S4251w-B4 5.1 Channel Sound Bar Home Theater System - Review, Robert Silva, Not Dated
The Vizio S4251w-B4 sound bar earns 4 stars out of 5 as well as an Editors' Choice nod at DigitalTrends.com. "Vizio's S4251w-B4 is one of the best values in audio we've seen in some time," writes Caleb Denison. Analysis here is on par with higher-rated sources and includes hands-on testing.
Review: Vizio S4251w-B4 Review, Caleb Denison, May 14, 2013
More than 100 owners post reviews for the Vizio S4251w-B4 on Amazon.com. Here the sound bar receives an overall score of 4.4 stars out of 5. Most reviews are positive, though many say the sound bar suffers from some minor quirks.
Review: Vizio S4251w-B4 5.1 Soundbar with Wireless Subwoofer and Satellite Speakers, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of August 2013