What Vizio’s mid-range M512a-H6 lacks in Wi-Fi connectivity, it makes up for in huge, thrilling, room-filling sound. Slated to ship in July for a listing worth of $450, this 5.1.2-channel M-series soundbar from Vizio is straightforward to arrange, affords loads of discrete audio changes, and delivers immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound courtesy of upfiring drivers.
Now, a sub-$500 soundbar just like the M512a-H6 (which Vizio calls an “M-series” soundbar, sitting between its high-end P-series and budget-priced V-series fashions) will essentially imply settling for some compromises—on this case, no Wi-Fi assist, which suggests you’ll must do with out AirPlay 2 and Chromecast performance, in addition to assist for native audio streaming. The great news is you could add a voice assistant by connecting a wise speaker by way of a 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth, a nifty characteristic that’s new to Vizio’s 2021 soundbars. Should you actually need a Vizio soundbar with Wi-Fi talents, take a look at the $999 Elevate, which connects to Wi-Fi and helps Chromecast streaming.
This evaluation is a part of TechHive’s protection of the most effective soundbars. Click on that hyperlink to learn evaluations of competing merchandise, together with a purchaser’s information to the options it’s best to take into account when procuring.
The Vizio M-Collection M512a-H6 is a 5.1.2-channel soundbar, that means it has bodily drivers for the left, heart, proper, left encompass, and proper encompass channels (the “5” within the “5.1.2” designation), in addition to a wi-fi subwoofer for low-frequency results (the “.1”) and two upfiring drivers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X top cues (the ultimate “2”).
The principle soundbar unit homes a complete of eight drivers, together with a 2.19-inch full-range driver and a 0.79-inch tweeter for every of the left, heart, and proper channels, whereas the left and proper top channels every get their very own three-inch upfiring drivers.
These two upfiring drivers bounce pontificate your ceiling to supply Dolby Atmos and DTS:X top results, a better and extra reasonably priced different to putting in top audio system in your ceiling. A ceiling that’s too excessive, too low, or vaulted might blunt the effectiveness of the upfiring drivers; in that case, you can activate DTS Digital:X, a virtualized 3D audio mode that doesn’t depend on upfiring or in-ceiling audio system. We’ll focus on Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and DTS Digital:X extra within the efficiency part.
Transferring alongside, the wi-fi subwoofer will get a 6-inch driver, whereas the 2 encompass audio system every get a 1.61-by-2.22-inch full-range driver. In all, that’s 11 drivers for your complete system.
Vizio didn’t provide detailed dimensions for the principle M512a-H6 soundbar housing, however measuring it with my tape measure, it got here out to roughly 40 x four x 2.6 inches (WxDxH). That’s comparatively broad for a soundbar, stretching nearly your complete size of my 55-inch LG C9 OLED. And when it’s sitting in entrance of the TV, it’s tall sufficient to dam a sliver of the display. As compared, the 9.92 x 8.Three x 11.69-inch (HxWxD) subwoofer (Vizio did give us the measurement specs for that element) is pretty compact so far as wi-fi subwoofers go.
In addition to merely plunking the soundbar in entrance of your TV, you may also mount it below the TV, and Vizio has helpfully included mounting screws and brackets for each the principle soundbar unit and the encompass audio system, together with a mounting template. You additionally get a beneficiant cable package, together with an HDMI cable (which not all soundbar producers trouble to place within the field), together with an optical cable, a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable, a stereo RCA-to-3.5mm cable, and 4 cable ties.
Inputs and outputs
Within the left rear cavity of the M512a-H6 are two HDMI connectors, certainly one of which is an enter whereas the opposite serves both as an output or an HDMI eARC interface. That offers you two choices for connecting the soundbar to your TV by way of HDMI: one, you can join a video supply (comparable to a streaming video participant, a Blu-ray participant, or a sport console) to the HDMI enter, after which ship video and audio to your TV by way of the HDMI output (4K HDR passthrough is supported), or two, you can join all of your video sources to your TV after which ship audio right down to the soundbar by way of the HDMI eARC interface. As a result of the M512a-H6 helps eARC, you’ll have the ability to ship lossless audio codecs comparable to Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Grasp Audio to the soundbar by way of HDMI, supplied your TV additionally helps eARC.
In addition to its HDMI connections, the soundbar comes with an optical (Toslink) enter, a USB-A port (which solely helps the playback of MP3 and WAV audio information), and a 3.5mm auxiliary jack.
A last enter on the M512a-H6 deserves particular point out: a second 3.5mm jack devoted to connecting a wise speaker, comparable to an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. You can even join a wise speaker to the M512a-H6 by way of Bluetooth, ideally suited for Google Nest audio system (just like the Nest Mini) that lack 3.5mm output jacks. As soon as linked, you’ll have the ability to channel your voice assistant and some other audio from the good speaker by way of the soundbar’s drivers. The soundbar can even decrease the quantity from its energetic video enter if you use the good speaker’s wake phrase, making it simpler to listen to the voice assistant’s reply. Fairly cool, however do not forget that when you can hear a wise speaker by way of the M512a-H6’s drivers, you received’t have the ability to use voice instructions to manage the soundbar itself.
So, let’s get this out of the way in which: The Vizio M512a-H6 doesn’t assist Wi-Fi in any respect, which suggests no audio casting by way of Apple AirPlay 2 or Chromecast, no native assist for streaming music companies, and no technique to management the soundbar’s settings by way of your telephone. On the brilliant aspect, it means you received’t must take care of connecting the M512a-H6 to your property wi-fi community, a course of that (for me, a minimum of) has been a headache with different Vizio soundbars.
As an alternative, you possibly can soar straight to putting the soundbar in entrance of your TV (or, as I discussed earlier, mounting it below your TV) and powering it on with the included energy twine. Subsequent, you’ll want to attach the subwoofer’s energy twine (so no, the subwoofer isn’t fully wi-fi) and determine the place to put it—which, within the case of Vizio soundbars with wi-fi encompass audio system, requires some strategizing.
Fairly than wirelessly connecting to the principle soundbar unit or plugging right into a separate wi-fi transmitter, the M512a-H6’s encompass audio system plug into the wi-fi subwoofer. (That’s a standard design for Vizio’s 5.1- and better soundbars, by the way in which.) Meaning you’re confronted with a few less-than-ideal placement choices for the subwoofer: both subsequent to your couch, thus simplifying cable administration however probably putting the sub too shut for consolation, or in a extra conventional spot behind your TV, which suggests you’ll have to string cable for the linked encompass audio system throughout your ground. The great news is that Vizio has been beneficiant with the precise speaker cables, that are every roughly 30 ft lengthy, they usually’re additionally skinny sufficient to cover below a carpet. Ultimately, I opted for a subwoofer spot that almost all customers will probably select out of comfort: subsequent to the couch, about three ft away and a foot or so from the wall.
As soon as the pre-paired major soundbar unit, subwoofer, and wi-fi surrounds are powered up, they need to all join to one another robotically; that’s the way it labored for me, anyway. There’s additionally a guide pairing course of if the automated pairing doesn’t work correctly.
Buttons, distant management, and indicators
On prime of the principle Vizio M512a-H6 cupboard are buttons for energy, enter, Bluetooth (which you’ll press and maintain to enter pairing mode), and quantity up/down—nothing uncommon right here.
The M512a-H6’s distant comes with a single-line, backlit LCD on the prime, which helps you to scroll by way of settings and choices comparable to trimming the speaker ranges, adjusting the encompass steadiness, testing the drivers, and switching encompass modes. Whereas the backlit show is useful for utilizing the distant at the hours of darkness, you’ll nonetheless have to memorize the place of the assorted EQ, Degree, Setup, and Impact buttons, that are not backlit. Fortunately, you possibly can simply discover the distinguished quantity and mute controls, which sit beneath a four-way navigational pad, by contact.
On the left fringe of the M512a-H6’s entrance panel is a column of 10 LEDs that serves quite a lot of capabilities. For instance, it might show the principle quantity stage, in addition to present you the extent of particular person audio system and channels as you’re adjusting them. A secondary mild on the base of the column can glow totally different colours relying on the detected audio format—for instance, inexperienced for Dolby Atmos, white for Dolby Audio, and amber for DTS. The principle column of lights dims after a number of seconds as does the secondary mild, and I by no means discovered them distracting whereas viewing.
The Vizio M512a-H6 comes together with your typical sound modes, together with Film, Music, Direct, and Sport. In addition to the principle audio modes, there’s additionally a Encompass Mode that may disable the encompass audio system and remix the audio for the remaining drivers (there are many customers who merely by no means use the encompass audio system, I’m informed), and you may also deactivate Peak Mode to modify the peak drivers off (if, for instance, your ceiling isn’t appropriate for upfiring drivers).
Should you do determine to nix the encompass or top audio system, you possibly can activate DTS Digital:X, an audio processing expertise that (as I discussed earlier) can idiot your ears into considering they’re listening to top and encompass cues with out the necessity for top or encompass audio system. Now, one would possibly ask why would you trouble paying additional for a soundbar with top and encompass audio system if you happen to don’t plan on utilizing them. That’s an excellent query, however apparently it occurs, and in that case, DTS Digital:X—which sounds moderately good, however inferior to utilizing precise top and encompass drivers—is there in order for you it.
In addition to the audio, encompass, and top modes, there’s a DTS TruVolume setting that narrows the dynamic vary of the sound, ideally suited for taming the sounds of explosions or different loud results, whereas an evening mode dials down low-frequency results for late-night viewing. There’s no one-touch voice management, however there’s a Dialogue Degree setting below the Degree menu on the distant.
I examined the Vizio M512a-H6 utilizing a variety of video sources, together with the UHD Blu-rays of Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Again and Blade Runner 2048, which each have Dolby Atmos soundtracks; the 4K Blu-ray of Apollo 13, which options DTS:X sound; the usual Blu-ray of Titanic, with DTS-HD Grasp Audio tracks; and the iTunes variations of Prime Gun and 1978’s Superman, which every have Dolby Atmos sound. In addition to films, my spouse and I additionally binged-watched extra episodes of The West Wing and Youthful than I care to rely. For many of my film and TV testing, I caught (unsurprisingly) with the Film, Encompass, and Peak modes all enabled.
As for the M512a-H6’s total efficiency, properly… wow. We’re speaking huge, daring, aggressive audio with nice dynamics, loads of pop, clear dialogue, and many increase—maybe too a lot increase, which is a matter I’ve encountered on different Vizio soundbars with subwoofers that sit subsequent to the couch.
Within the Battle of Hoth sequence in The Empire Strikes Again, the sound of cascading snow showers as an Imperial Walker toppled to the bottom triggered some good top cues, as did the ice pellets falling from a collapsed ceiling within the Insurgent base. I additionally cherished how the M512a-H6 sounded throughout the Apollo 13 launch sequence, with the exhaust from the towering Saturn V rocket seeming to billow above and round my ears, together with a pointy pop because the tower jettisoned from the highest of the spacecraft. The dogfight with Viper in Prime Gun was a sonic showpiece, with the jets thrillingly hovering over the mountains and roaring into the body. (I ought to word that my spouse, usually not a soundbar fan, gave me a slack-jawed look throughout this scene, and pointedly mentioned: “This soundbar’s good.”) Lastly, dialogue sounded clear and pure throughout The West Wing and Youthful, whereas incidental music cues sounded heat and vigorous with out being pushy.
Now, earlier than I sound too gushy right here, I ought to level out that the Vizio’s bass response is usually a little a lot at instances. I remedied this by dialing again the subwoofer stage practically all the way in which, which nonetheless yielded a stable punch with out veering into overly boomy territory. In fact, an alternative choice can be to maneuver the subwoofer additional away from the couch (I positioned the sub about three ft away) or throughout the room behind the TV, which (once more) means you’ll must take care of the speaker wires. However in my case, somewhat tweaking of the subwoofer ranges did the trick.
Vizio’s M512a-H6 soundbar delivers highly effective, vibrant sound for an affordable worth, full with Dolby Atmos and DTS:X assist, a straightforward setup course of, and loads of changes for tinkering with audio settings—which is an effective factor, contemplating the soundbar’s tendency to push the bass into boomy territory. You’ll have to accept no Wi-Fi or casting assist, nonetheless, which is par for the course relating to $500-ish soundbars.