The Vizio VHT215 is an excellent budget-priced sound bar that delivers strong audio and packs in features like a wireless subwoofer and HDMI ports. However, its subwoofer can occasionally struggle and the optimal surround-sound field is very narrow, though it sounds outstanding inside that small bubble.
One of the best-sounding budget sound bars. You're making some trade-offs when you buy a budget sound bar, but experts say the Vizio VHT215 is one of the best performing low-cost sound bars available, with clean, clear dialog and a fairly potent low-end. However, while the wireless subwoofer that pumps out the bass is surprisingly meaty, experts say it can have some issues handling consistently low sounds, like ominous rumbling. "Simply put, the Vizio's little ported sub tends to boom and make its presence known," Lawrence Ullman writes at Home Theater magazine, throwing off the sound balance by a bit. The tricky bass is most notable while playing music, critics note.
The simulated surround-sound effect field is very narrow -- around 5 feet -- but if you figure out a way to find the sweet spot, critics say that it is surprisingly convincing.
Sleek and simple. The simple design of the Vizio VHT215 wins praise: the wireless subwoofer connects easily, setup only takes a couple of minutes and the outstanding remote makes it easy to make minute on-the-fly audio adjustments. The sound bar also includes HDMI ports with full 3D pass-through and audio return channel support, something missing in the Best Reviewed budget sound bar, the Yamaha YAS-101 (*Est. $250) -- and many pricier sound bars, for that matter.
Solid features for a budget sound bar. The Vizio VHT215 packs in the previously mentioned HDMI ports and top-notch remote control, as well as an alphanumeric LED display in the front that displays pertinent information. There is also built-in SRS and Dolby Digital decoders, though no DTS decoder.
A lot of bang for the buck. The subwoofer may misbehave in some circumstances, but experts say the Vizio VHT215 delivers a great overall sound for the price, and the HDMI ports are a surprising find in a sound bar this cheap.
If you're in the market for a budget sound bar and don't need chest-thumping bass or HDMI ports, critics slightly prefer the Yamaha YAS-101 and its integrated subwoofer. It doesn't pack the same punch as the Vizio VHT215, but it nevertheless delivers a satisfying wallop -- and it doesn't run into the Vizio sound bar's subwoofer woes, either. Music lovers won't be satisfied with either, however, and should look for a more expensive sound bar like the Zvox Z-Base 580 (*Est. $500).
1. Sound & Vision Magazine
This head-to-head roundup of four low-cost sound bars pits the Vizio VHT215 against budget options from Samsung, LG and Harman Kardon. After extensive testing and deep discussion, the Vizio VHT215 comes out on top with a Certified & Recommended award thanks to its potent blend of looks, audio power and HDMI connectivity.
Review: Budget Bars: Soundbars from Vizio, Samsung, LG, and Harman Kardon, Geoffrey Morrison, Aug. 14, 2012
The Vizio VHT215 is pitted against three other sound bars in this review as well, but in this case, it's simply outmatched: The competition costs hundreds (and in one case, over $1,000) more than the Vizio. Bryan Gardiner says "audio performance was marred a bit by an overactive subwoofer, which proved hard to dial in," but nevertheless says the Vizio VHT215 is an "outstanding value" overall.
Review: Big Sound for Small Spaces: 4 Sound Bars Reviewed, Bryan Gardiner, July 31, 2012
3. Home Theater Magazine
Lawrence Ullman subjects the Vizio VHT215 to numerous benchmark and subjective tests. While he's overall quite bullish about the sound bar, he has more reservations than some other reviewers, giving it average scores in most of the individual ratings criteria. Still, he says "The Vizio VHT215 2.1-channel soundbar delivers good sound that's a significant step up from the feeble audio coming out of the compromised built-in speakers employed in most modern ultra-thin TVs."
Review: Vizio VHT215 Soundbar, Lawrence E. Ullman, March 8, 2012
The tag team of Steve Guttenberg and Matthew Moskovciak test the Vizio VHT215 and come away highly impressed, giving it an Excellent rating. The adjustable audio, comprehensive remote and HDMI inputs earn the most praise.
Review: Vizio VHT215 Review, Matthew Moskovciak and Steve Guttenberg, May 16, 2012
PCMag.com also gives the Vizio VHT215 an Excellent rating after extensive testing, but Will Greenwald finds the remote to be overly complicated. "If you want a simple speaker system to give your home theater a boost without running many wires, the Vizio VHT215 is a great choice," he writes. "It sounds clear, and its subwoofer packs enough punch to make you feel the action in movies."
Review: Vizio VHT215 Home Theater Soundbar, Will Greenwald, July 6, 2012
Audioholics.com is a major online resource for audio enthusiasts thanks to its comprehensive reviews and well-versed reviewers, and the coverage of the VHT215 upholds that reputation. The sound bar receives a supplemental video review, as well, and Andrew Gash says the device is a great option for people who want to improve their HDTV's sound for a low price.
Review: Vizio VHT215 Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer, Clint DeBoer and Andrew Gash, Feb. 15, 2012
Robert Silva's review of the Vizio VHT215 is highly technical, but if you can understand the jargon, it's highly informative as well. Silva doesn't swoon over the sound bar as much as other reviewers, citing questionable performance on both the low- and high-ends, though he says it is a great way to enhance a standard HDTV's sound without spending much money. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Vizio VHT215 Home Theater Sound Bar with Wireless Subwoofer - Review, Robert Silva, Not Dated
ConsumerReports.org tests a number of sound bars, including the Vizio VHT215. Ratings do a good job of highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of a sound bar, but the editors don't explain them in detail.
Review: Home Theater Systems, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, Not Dated