Vizio S5451w-C2 Sound Bar Home Theater System Review

A Wide Sound Bar System for Large Screen TVs

Vizio S5451w-C2 5.1 Channel Sound Bar System
Vizio S5451w-C2 5.1 Channel Sound Bar System. Image provided by Amazon.com
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Sound bars are a very popular solution for getting better sound for TV viewing. They are easy to set-up and easy to use. However, Vizio has been offering a variation of the soundbar concept that combines the sound bar with both a wireless subwoofer and two additional surround speakers. Last year, I reviewed their S4251w-B4 System, which featured a 42-inch sound bar as its centerpiece, but with the increasing popularity of TVs with 55-inch and larger screen sizes, a 42-inch sound bar doesn't quite physically match.

As a result, Vizio has introduced a new entry into their product line, the S5451w-C2, which, although similar in many respects to the S4251w-B4, features a wider 54-inch soundbar, two surround speakers, a wireless subwoofer, and some connectivity and audio enhancements that can more easily complement 55-inch are larger screen TVs. To find what I thought about the system, keep on reading.

The Vizio S5451w-C2 System Package Contents

  • One Sound Bar.
  • One Wireless Subwoofer.
  • Two Surround Speakers (with RCA connection cables).
  • Detachable power cords for sound bar and subwoofer.
  • Wireless remote control and battery
  • Template and Hardware for optional wall-mounting.
  • Digital Optical/Coaxial and Analog Stereo audio connection cables.
  • One HDMI cable.

Product Overview - Sound Bar

  • Number of Channels: Three (Left/Center/Right)
  • Speakers: 3-inch full range (one each for Left, Center, and Right channels, supplemented by two 3x6-inch passive radiators (referred to as "deep bass modules").
  • Frequency Response: 45Hz - 20kHz
  • Sound Decoding and Processing: Dolby Digital, DTS, decoding as well as "Vizio Surround Matrix" and DTS TruVolume sound processing.
  • Wireless Bluetooth built-in for access of audio content from compatible portable devices.
  • Wireless transmitter: 2.4Ghz Band. Wireless Range - Up to 60 feet (line of sight).
  • Dimensions: 53.74 inches W x 4.18 inches H x 3.15 inches D
  • Weight: 9.3 lbs.

Product Overview - Surround Speakers

  • Speaker Drivers: Each speaker houses one 3-inch full range driver.
  • Frequency Response: Not provided.
  •  Dimensions: 3.63-inches W x 8.5-inches H x 3.1-inches D
  •  Weight (each): 1.5 lbs

Product Overview - Wireless Powered Subwoofer

  • Power output: Information not provided.
  • Frequency Response: 35Hz - 90Hz
  • Driver: 8-inch side firing driver, supported by a front mounted port.
  • Power On/Off: Two-way switch
  • Dimensions: 16.50 inches W x 12.25 inches H x 20 inches D
  • Weight: 16 lbs.
  • Connections: Wireless Receiver - 2.4 GHz Up to 60 feet - Clear Line of Sight. Inputs provided for wired connection (RCA cables) of Satellite surround speakers to the subwoofer.

NOTE: The amplifiers for the satellite surround speakers are also housed in the subwoofer.  Power output ratings for the S5451w-C2 sound bar or subwoofer were not provided by Vizio, but the sound output levels produced were more than adequate to fill my 15x20 test room at normal listening levels.

For a closer look at the sound bar, satellite speakers, subwoofer, including their connection and control options, check out my supplementary Vizio S5451w-C2 Photo Photo Profile.

Set Up and Installation of the S5451

Physically setting up the S5451w-C2 is easy. The provided Quick Start Guide is well-illustrated and easy to read Everything comes out the box ready to go. The Sound Bar unit comes with both feet and wall mounting hardware for installation preference. In addition, audio cables are provided to connect the surround speakers conveniently to the wireless subwoofer.

Once you unbox everything, it is best to place the sound bar either above or below your TV. Then place the surround speakers on either side of your main listening position, just slightly behind the plane, and slightly above ear level, where your seating position is located.

The surround speakers connect directly to the subwoofer via provided color RCA cables (color coded for left or right surround channels). This means, instead of being placed in one of the front corners or along one of the side walls, the subwoofer for S5451 needs to be placed somewhere to the side or behind the main listening position (Vizio recommends corner placement), so that it is close enough to the surround speakers so that the provided speaker cables can reach from the surround speakers to their connections on the subwoofer.

The RCA audio cables provided for connecting the satellite speakers to the subwoofer are several feet long - but if you find they aren't long enough for your setup, you can use any RCA audio cable of required length to complete the connection setup.

NOTE: The subwoofer houses the amplifiers for the surround speakers. The subwoofer, in turn, receives the needed bass and surround audio signals via wireless transmission from the sound bar unit.

After you have completed placing the sound bar, satellite speakers and subwoofer connect your desired sources (such as Blu-ray/DVD player) and your TV.

Connection Options For The S5451w-C2 and your TV

Option 1: If you have an HDMI source device (only one can be accommodated), you can connect it directly to the sound bar, and then connect the sound bar's HDMI output to your TV. If you have more can one HDMI source device, you may need to use an additional HDMI switcher between the multiple HDMI source devices and the sound bar.

With HDMI sources, the sound bar will pass the video signals through (no additional processing or upscaling is provided) to the TV, while the audio signals are decoded and/or processed by the sound bar. In addition, if your TV is Audio Return Channel-enabled, no additional audio connected need be made as audio originating from the TV can be passed back through the HDMI input of the TV back to the sound bar for decoding or processing.

Option 2: If you have source devices that are not HDMI-equipped, then connect the video outputs of those source devices to your TV directly, and then connect the audio outputs of those devices (digital optical/coaxial or analog stereo) to the S5451w-C2's soundbar separately. This will allow the video to be displayed on the TV and the audio to be decoded or processed by the S5451w-C2.

The last step is to turn on the subwoofer and sound bar and follow the instructions for synching the two together (in most cases this should be automatic - in my case, I just turned the subwoofer and sound bar on and everything worked). Before playing your sources, use the built-in Pink Noise test tone generator. This will confirm that all your speakers and subwoofer are working properly and that that the left and right surround channel placement is correct. If all checks out that point you're ready to go.

Audio Performance

The Sound Bar

In my time using the Vizio S5451w-C2, I found that it delivered clear sound for both movies and music. The center channel movie dialog and music vocals were distinct and natural, although, like many sound bar systems I have reviewed, there is some drop-off at the higher frequencies.

Without any audio processing engaged, the stereo image of the sound bar is mostly contained with the 54-inch width of the sound bar unit. However, with its 54-inch width, the front stereo soundstage is sufficiently wide. In addition, once the sound decoding and processing options are engaged, the sound field widens more and blends in with the surround speakers to create a very good room-filling surround sound listening experience.

Surround Speakers

For movies and other video programming, the surround speakers performed well. The surround speakers projected directional sound or ambiance cues well into the room, thus really broadening both the front sound stage providing an immersive surround sound listening experience that can't be achieved by the soundbar alone. Also, the blend of sound from front to rear was very seamless - there were no obvious sound dips was sound moved from front to back or around the room.

When first listening to both music and movie material with surround processing on, I did find that the default surround balance setting emphasized the surrounds more that might be necessary in relation to the front channels, but that is user adjustable. In other words, you can set the system to emphasize or de-emphasize the amount of the surround effect as desired.

One the other hand, one observable "weakness" of S5451w-C2 is that when I performed an around-the-room channel test, as well as listening to real world surround content, I noticed that the sound field was not as bright in the high-frequency region as I would have preferred.

The utilization of full-range speakers in the sound bar, as well as each surround speaker, rather than a two-way tweeter/midrange-woofer combination would be a factor in this result. In other words, incorporation of tweeters into both the sound bar and surround speaker design could result in an improvement in high-frequency clarity that Vizio should consider.

Powered Subwoofer

I found the subwoofer to be a good match for the rest of the speakers, both physically and audibly. With an 8-inch driver, front-mounted port, and good amplifier support, it was definitely not there to just provide a modest thump or overly boomy effect, as on some sound bar/subwoofer systems I have heard.

On soundtracks with deep LFE effects, the subwoofer was actually pretty impressive, with strong bass output down below the 60Hz range. Although subwoofer drop-off begins around the 50Hz range, I was still able to hear an audible output as low as 35Hz, making it a very good complement for demanding movie soundtracks.

For music, the subwoofer also provided a strong bass output, although in the lowest frequencies subwoofer texture, particularly with acoustic bass, was somewhat muddled.

System Performance

Overall, the combination of the sound bar, surround speakers, and wireless subwoofer provided a very good listing experience for both movies and music.

With Dolby and DTS-related movie soundtracks, the system did a great job reproducing both main front channels and surround effects, as well as providing good overall bass.

Also, using an HTC One M8 Harman Kardon Edition Smartphone, I was able to take advantage of the S5451w-C2's Bluetooth capability and stream music tracks to the system with acceptable sound quality.

When I used the combination of the subwoofer phase and frequency sweep tests Digital Video Essentials Test Disc, I was able to hear a low-frequency output starting at 35Hz increasing to normal listening levels between 50 to 60Hz from the subwoofer then migrating to the sound bar between 70 and 80Hz, and the satellite speakers kicked in at between 80 to 90Hz, all of which are good results for this type of system.

What I Liked

  • Very good sound delivery - better than expected mid-range presence which made for great sound vocals and distinct dialog. Surround speakers project sound into the room well, enabling a seamless surround sound listening experience.
  • Easy to set up - well illustrated Quick Start Guide.
  • Shelf, table, or wall mount option. Wall mounting hardware provided.
  • Wireless Subwoofer eliminates the requirement for a long and unsightly cable needed to connect the subwoofer to the sound bar.
  • The system provides access to audio content stored on Bluetooth-enabled portable sources devices, as well as a USB port for accessing compatible music files stored on flash drives.
  • Built-in Pink Noise Test Tone.
  • Very affordable $499.99 price tag.

What I Didn't Like

  • High frequencies and transient sounds are a little subdued, compared to the mid-range and bass.
  • Surround speakers are not wireless - require connection to the subwoofer.
  • The subwoofer provides good low-frequency bass response but did exhibit some slight boominess in its mid-bass range and muddled texture on the lower end.
  • The LCD display on the remote is a nice touch, but it is too small and difficult to see, making setting adjustments difficult at times.
  • The Volume control function adjusts in steps, rather than being continuous.
  • Only one HDMI Input provided.

Final Take

I found that the Vizio S5451w-C2 5.1 Channel Home Theater System delivered a very good surround sound listening experience, with a prominent center channel and good left/right channel image.

The center channel sounded better that I expected. In many systems of this type, the center channel vocals can be overwhelmed by rest of the channels, and I normally have to boost the center channel output by one or two dB to obtain a more pleasing vocal presence. However, this was not the case with S5451w-C2.

The surround speakers also performed their job well, projecting sound into the room and adding a clear surround sound listening experience that was both immersive and directional, and provided a good match for the sound bar speakers.

I also found the powered subwoofer to be a good match for the rest of the speakers, providing very good deep bass response for a subwoofer that is part of a sound bar package.

Taking all into consideration, if you are looking for a home theater audio solution for a large screen TV that delivers more than a typical sound bar or most sound bar/subwoofer systems, definitely give the Vizio S5451w-C2 serious consideration - it is a very good value for its $499.99 suggested price.

Additional Components Used In This Review

Blu-ray Disc Players: OPPO BDP-103 and 103D.

Home Theater Audio System used for comparison: Harman Kardon AVR147, Klipsch Quintet III 5-Channel Speaker System, and Polk PSW-10 Subwoofer.