In the last few years, sound bars have become popular as an audio upgrade to the often undersized speakers integrated into HDTVs.
Now, as those HD - and Ultra HD - TVs are growing beyond 60, 70 and 80-inches, sound bar manufacturers are matching that expansion with longer models like VIZIO's 54-inch S5430w-C2. (For reference, a 60-inch TV [measured diagonally] is about 54-inches wide.)
Not only does this comparably-sized sound bar look more fitting under a big TV, the extra space in its cabinet provides for improved left and right channel separation and fuller bodied audio spread over a wider listening angle.
Perhaps equally important to the musical digerati, the VIZIO S5430w-C2 supplies Bluetooth Streaming with AptX for wirelessly connecting tablets, smartphones and computers for music playback on the sound bar.
This unit is considered 3.0, which means it includes left, right and center channel speakers. Because of its larger sealed air chambers the low-end, deeper bass reproduction is quite respectable. If you want to make the system a true 3.1, you can plug a separate powered subwoofer (which is not part of the S5430w-C2 package) in to the sound bar.
And if you desire a full blown 5.1 sound bar system and are patient, VIZIO will be releasing the S5451w-C2, a 54-inch sound bar with wireless subwoofer and two surround speakers. (Price and availability yet to be announced.)
Out of the Box
The VIZIO designers did not break the traditional sound bar mold. The front grille is a black mesh with a matching flat black plastic cabinet. The only flash is the silver stripe racing along below the grille.
On the far left, tucked under the accent stripe is a row of indicator LED lights that are only noticeable when then are lit. They assist when setting Treble, Bass, Dialog, Surround and Subwoofer levels.
The unit contains three 3-inch full-range drivers (one each for the Left, Right and Center channel) and two 6-inch x 3-inch Deep Bass Modules (passive radiators). (Sound Bar Frequency is rated at 60Hz - 20kHz and Sound Pressure Level is 103dB.)
Like Center Channel speakers, sound bars are not always the easiest to place in your home theater setup, especially if the TV is not wall mounted. Ideally the bar is situated just below the screen. But if the TV's stand protrudes out the front, as it often does, the sound bar has to jockey for space and can end up blocking the remote control's IR sensor.
This placement predicament is solved if the TV and sound bar are wall mounted. VIZIO supplies wall mounting brackets for the sound bar as well as a paper template for properly spacing the brackets.
Generously, VIZIO also provides all the cables you might need to hook up the sound bar, including one HDMI and one Digital Optical audio.
On the side of the S5430w-C2 is a group of operational buttons for Power, Input, Bluetooth Pairing and Volume. All of the functions can be performed with the remote control. But for those times when that little rascally remote decides to hide in the cushions, it's comforting to know that you have backup buttons.
In the center of the back of the sound bar are the connections.
On the left panel of audio inputs are one RCA Stereo pair, one Digital Optical (Toslink), one Digital Coaxial, and one 3.5mm Stereo minijack. And if you do have an extra powered subwoofer, you can plug it into the Sub Out above the power cable connection.
To the right is one HDMI input (for a cable from a set top box, a game console or maybe a Blu-ray player) and one HDMI output that connects to an HDMI input on an ARC compatible TV. The USB port supports .WAV format files only.
Integrated into the sound bar is a Bluetooth (Wireless) adapter. The S5430w-C2 does not offer an NFC (Near Field Communication) function.
The pewter and dark gray remote control is petite-palm-sized, (1.5 x 5.5-inches). It features the basic operational buttons and a little display that indicates what function you are adjusting.
The setup for the VIZIO S5430w-C2 sound bar is fairly straightforward, though the first time you connect it to your TV, the directions say to not use the HDMI cables.
The manual does a good job of walking you through the steps which will differ depending on your assortment of sources.
If you are connecting to the sound bar via Bluetooth, the manual explains the simple pairing process. It also warns that "a Bluetooth signal has a range of up to 30 feet. Keep in mind that Bluetooth is a compressed audio format, so streamed music may lose some integrity when compared to a wired connection."
Though this sound bar includes aptX® enhanced streaming technology and if your Bluetooth devices are similarly aptX® outfitted, then the Bluetooth audio bandwidth can match CD performance.
Of course, if you prefer a wired connection, the sound bar provides a number of options, analog and digital.
The VIZIO S5430w-C2 sound bar performs as advertised. The audio quality is damn good for a sound bar. Don't expect high-end home theater speaker eminence, but the unit delivers rich, full-bodied sound that can easily fill a mid-sized room.
What is particularly noticeable is the distinct sound separation from the three speakers. That extra width does produce the goods.
The low register is well represented, but if you want floor rattling bass, then attach a powered subwoofer. The remote has a separate subwoofer control.
Even though the sound bar provides a Surround setting, you can't achieve a true enveloping surround that a 5.1 or 7.1 speaker system can produce.
On their website, VIZIO lists the S5430w-C2 at $299, which is a highly competitive price for this great sounding 54-inch unit. Even better, I was able to find an online retailer offering this 3.0 Home Theater Sound Bar for $50 less.
At that price, if you are in the market for a quality audio upgrade to your new big (60-inches or larger) screen TV, then the S5430w-C2 should be at the top of your list.
With its excellent sound quality, the 54-inch wide VIZIO S5430w-C2 sound bar makes a great complement to the large screen HD and UHD TVs that are becoming more and more popular these days.