Believe it or not, the most popular sound bar in America is made by Vizio. At $150 it's incredibly cheap, but I have to admit, it sounds surprisingly good. Does it make a good computer speaker system? Let's find out.
I was introduced to Vizio sound bars at a friend's house. I heard beautiful rich sound but couldn't find any large speakers. Apparently, all of the sound was coming from a small 36-inch sound bar and a hidden wireless subwoofer behind the couch. I was impressed by the sound but I was blown away when he told me it only cost $150 and that it was made by Vizio.
I decided to pick one up and see how it compared to my Polk system. Shockingly it held its own.
What Is It?
The Vizio SB3621n is a small, self-powered sound bar with an impressive range of inputs. I was also happy to see that Vizio threw a headphone cable, RCA cable, digital cable, and optical cable in the box as most stereo systems don't include them. If you want to use it wirelessly the sound bar also has Bluetooth. The bar comes with a remote but the buttons on the top of the unit make it simple to use without a remote if it's on your desk.
In the box you'll also get a wireless subwoofer that automatically connects to the soundbar when you plug it into an outlet.
How Does It Sound?
I don't think I've ever heard sound this good from any speaker system under $300. You will miss a bit of the mid tones you'll get in larger speakers, but for spoken words, you may actually prefer Vizio's brighter sound. I listened to a lot of music on this sound bar and I didn't feel like the sound range was extremely lacking.
Using It With a Computer
If you have a single monitor, you may be able to place the sound bar on the back of your desk behind the monitor stand. Because I have dual monitors, I noticed the bar sounded much better in front. If you use a laptop, using a sound bar probably won't work unless you can mount it above your monitor. Obviously, the soundbar is longer than your average computer speakers, but, because it's so thin, it feels much smaller on your desk compared to two separate speakers. Because the subwoofer is wireless, I could easily place it in the optimal position.
I ended up really enjoying having the sound bar close to me with the power, Bluetooth, and volume buttons within reach. Throughout the day I would switch between computer sound and the Bluetooth music from my phone.
How Did It Compare My Polk System?
My current setup is a pair of Polk TSi100 speakers, a Polk PSW10 10-inch subwoofer, and a Sony 2-Channel Receiver which cost around $350 total. When I first plugged the sound bar into my computer, it sounded a little thin, especially the human voice. But after a few days of exclusive listening, I began to prefer the brightness of the human voice because it was easier to understand. When I moved back to my Polk system, the human voice sounded more boomy and muffled. Overall, I still think the Polk system is higher quality, has richer sound, and the separate speakers also produce a wider soundstage but the Vizio sound bar was surprisingly comparable and less than half the price.
The biggest issue I had with the sound bar was that when audio should have been coming out of only one channel, some audio would still come out of the other side. This made editing single channel audio in Premiere annoying at times.
Where Can I Buy This?
The newest version of this sound bar is currently on sale for $179 on Amazon. This is $30 more than the one I reviewed and I can't find any information on current improvements. If you're looking for a deal, I'd suggest buying a refurbished version of the one I reviewed for just $99. For $99 this is one of the best deals I've ever seen on any speaker system. At this price, you might as well buy a few of them. Even if you don't want to use them for your TV or computer, the Vizio sound bar is an incredible Bluetooth speaker system, and it's so cheap and convenient, I may just put one in my bathroom.