Vizio M-Series M512a-H6 review: This mid-range soundbar delivers big, dynamic sound


What Vizio’s mid-range M512a-H6 lacks in Wi-Fi connectivity, it makes up for in big, exciting, room-filling sound. Slated to ship in July for a list price of $450, this 5.1.2-channel M-series soundbar from Vizio is easy to set up, offers plenty of discrete audio adjustments, and delivers immersive Dolby Atmos and DTS:X sound courtesy of upfiring drivers.

Now, a sub-$500 soundbar like the M512a-H6 (which Vizio calls an “M-series” soundbar, sitting between its high-end P-series and budget-priced V-series models) will necessarily mean settling for some compromises—in this case, no Wi-Fi support, which means you’ll have to do without AirPlay 2 and Chromecast functionality, as well as support for native audio streaming. The good news is that you can add a voice assistant by connecting a smart speaker via a 3.5mm jack or Bluetooth, a nifty feature that’s new to Vizio’s 2021 soundbars. If you really want a Vizio soundbar with Wi-Fi abilities, check out the $999 Elevate, which connects to Wi-Fi and supports Chromecast streaming.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars. Click that link to read reviews of competing products, along with a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

Specifications

The Vizio M-Series M512a-H6 is a 5.1.2-channel soundbar, meaning it has physical drivers for the left, center, right, left surround, and right surround channels (the “5” in the “5.1.2” designation), as well as a wireless subwoofer for low-frequency effects (the “.1”) and two upfiring drivers for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height cues (the final “2”).

The main soundbar unit houses a total of eight drivers, including a 2.19-inch full-range driver and a 0.79-inch tweeter for each of the left, center, and right channels, while the left and right height channels each get their own three-inch upfiring drivers.

Those two upfiring drivers bounce sound off your ceiling to produce Dolby Atmos and DTS:X height effects, an easier and more affordable alternative to installing height speakers in your ceiling. A ceiling that’s too high, too low, or vaulted could blunt the effectiveness of the upfiring drivers; in that case, you could turn on DTS Virtual:X, a virtualized 3D audio mode that doesn’t rely on upfiring or in-ceiling speakers. We’ll discuss Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, and DTS Virtual:X more in the performance section.

Moving along, the wireless subwoofer gets a 6-inch driver, while the two surround speakers each get a 1.61-by-2.22-inch full-range driver. In all, that’s 11 drivers for the entire system.

Vizio didn’t supply detailed dimensions for the main M512a-H6 soundbar housing, but measuring it with my tape measure, it came out to roughly 40 x 4 x 2.6 inches (WxDxH). That’s relatively wide for a soundbar, stretching almost the entire length of my 55-inch LG C9 OLED. And when it’s sitting in front of the TV, it’s tall enough to block a sliver of the screen. In comparison, the 9.92 x 8.3 x 11.69-inch (HxWxD) subwoofer (Vizio did give us the measurement specs for that component) is fairly compact as far as wireless subwoofers go.

Besides simply plunking the soundbar in front of your TV, you can also mount it under the TV, and Vizio has helpfully included mounting screws and brackets for both the main soundbar unit and the surround speakers, along with a mounting template. You also get a generous cable kit, including an HDMI cable (which not all soundbar manufacturers bother to put in the box), along with an optical cable, a 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable, a stereo RCA-to-3.5mm cable, and four cable ties.



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