Best Sound Bar for Gaming? The VIZIO 42" 5.1 System Sets the Bar

I recently set out on a mission: to find the best sound bar for gaming, and settled on the Vizio 42″ 5.1 sound bar.

Narrowing audio systems down proved to be a monumental task. I knew I needed a well-built 5.1 system, preferably without the messy wires or long setup times, as I did not have the luxury of a grand living area, or that of half a day to set up an intricate sound system. I knew I  wanted added bonuses such as Bluetooth and multiple inputs, and of course a sleek design never hurt anyone.

Video game audio is a tricky beast already, and then combining it with the aesthetic features that many of us look for, audio systems could be a hit or a miss. As a gamer, you want that full, earth-shaking 5.1 surround sound experience when you play your games, and Vizio did an amazing job of giving us that experience with a sound bar. A freaking sound bar. I was so eager to put the Vizio 42″ 5.1 sound bar through its paces, because after all we’re all looking for the best sound bar for gaming.

Vizio Soundbar Subwoofer

It takes more than words to explain, and experience the technology behind Vizio’s 5.1 sound bar setup. In prior years, achieving a full 5.1 audio setup was a task that took countless hours of setup, and equipment that easily cost triple and quadruple what the Vizio 42″ 5.1 sound bar costs. By adding a rear sub-woofer and two speakers, you get an amazing 5.1 surround setup.

Here’s why the Vizio 42″ 5.1 sound bar fit the bill.

Setup/Installation

Setting up was a breeze, granted I only mounted the rear speakers. Within minutes I had setup the rear speakers and sub-woofer, as well as the sound bar. The rear speakers connect to the sub-woofer, which connects via Bluetooth and can be placed up to 60 feet away from the sound bar. The sub-woofer’s Bluetooth has been pre-set up, and with color-coded wires, setting up was a pretty brainless experience.

The included remote is a great feature, allowing you to control the sound bar in its entirety with it. As an added bonus, the sound bar can also be controlled with most TV remotes, and not just Vizio TV’s either, as my LG TV remote worked perfectly with it. My biggest gripe with the remote is that it’s not back-lit, making it difficult to see at an angle, and impossible in low or dim light.

Design

Vizio Soundbar Speaker

Right out of the box I couldn’t help but admire the sleek form factor of the VIZIO 42″ sound bar. The brushed metal accents were a nice touch, coupled with the tiny circular LED indicators, this sound bar is a work of art. The minimalist buttons on the unit are subtle and easy on the eyes, perhaps a bit too subtle. The button indicators display different settings and options, based on how many dots are being shown. At first it’s a bit cryptic, and it takes a bit of getting used to. The Vizio 42″ 5.1 sound bar was clearly made with superior craftsmanship.

TV/Digital Connection

I know this review is focusing on the best sound bar for gaming, and how the Vizio 42″ sound bar stacks up, but I would be remiss to not cover the incredible sound difference between my TV speakers and the sound bar speakers. I watched a game of football as well as Iron Man 3 on Blu-ray, the sound bar was booming, all the while maintaining almost perfect audio fidelity. Watching the Texans (yes, Texans) game, the field noises and nat-sound came in through all five speakers, giving a pretty surreal illusion of being on the field. Hits and tackles stood out like never before, as did things you’d never pay attention to such as the thump a football makes when dropped, or the sound of players thudding on the grass after taking a big hit. I also tested out the sound bar’s chops with Boardwalk Empire (HBO Go) and Parks and Rec (Netflix via Chromecast). Scenes with crowds sounded immersive as the background chatter really came from behind and the sub-woofer kicked in with a boom here and there.

Gaming/Optical Connection

The VIZIO 42″ 5.1 sound bar is one of the best gaming sound bars on the market. Putting it through its paces with Grand Theft Auto V, NBA 2K14, The Last of Us, and Battlefield 3, I was taken aback at just how rich, and detailed the sounds it produced were. The multidirectional sound came in hand in Battlefield and The Last of Us, while it added some cinematic sweetening in GTA and 2K14 as crowd and street noises made the overall game sound richer.

Music/Bluetooth Connection

Have you seen my Spotify? I’m an unashamed and unabashed music fiend, so one of the first things I did was connect my phone and laptop to the sound bar via Bluetooth to stream my music. Now, I know what you’re thinking, the Bluetooth compression plus Spotify’s compression settings will make the sound less than desirable, right? Wrong. Crisp sound and deep, booming bass makes everything from FLAC files to streamed, compressed mp3s sound amazing.

s4251w-b45Overall

Overall, the Vizio 42″ 5.1 sound bar is a great one, and at around $300, it’s too good of a price to pass up. It’s an aesthetically-pleasing device that fits with any living room decor. The rear speakers are thin and light, yet produce surprisingly rich and deep sounds. It’s a bit magical hearing what comes out of those thin enclosures. With multiple inputs, as well as Bluetooth, the versatility of the Vizio 42″ 5.1 sound bar is unmatched. Check it out at the Vizio store.

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