I remember the first flat screen TV my family got. It was in the late 2000s, when “nice TVs”—aka TVs with fancy remotes, on-screen guides, and slimmer profiles—were becoming ubiquitous. At the time, I was obsessed with the Sony Bravia bouncy-ball commercial soundtracked by Jose Gonzalez’s “Heartbeats”—it had basically become part of my personality (thank god Tinder didn’t exist then). I started to believe that in order to have real ~beauty~ in my life, I needed superior electronics.
When the Great TV Wave™ finally hit my family, I went to Walmart with my dad and we ended up picking up a nascent, modestly sized Vizio flat screen . At the time, I thought it was the sickest TV ever; but as more and more of my friends picked up better tubes from Samsung, Sony, Hisense, and Phillips, I started to feel the Vizio was a cheap, sub-par alternative to brands that represented “The Good Stuff.” Stainless Steel Pipe 201
This is all to say that I’ve had an emotional bias against Vizio for a long time. I know I’m not alone; I’m now a Vizio apologist/defender, as I’ll get into below, and almost every time I tout the brand to people, they’re shocked. If we were playing a word association game a year ago and you said “Vizio,” I would have said “garbage.” But I no longer believe any of this. The new Vizio M-Series 2.1 sound bar has changed my perception of the entire brand.
Recently, I had a week off work and made it my goal to do two things: rewatch all three Lord of the Rings movies and finally start playing Elden Ring on my Playstation 5 (I dubbed it “Ring Week”). It had long been on my apartment to-do list to pick up a sound bar for my TV (a TCL 5-Series that I really like), which has a great picture, but sub-par speakers, as most factory TVs do. I knew that to reach multimedia paradise, it was time for an upgrade. I set out first to find an all-in-one sound bar, since my living room isn’t humongous and surround sound wasn’t a priority of mine. After surveying the single-piece sound bars, I found that some of Vizio’s models are actually quite beloved, like this top-rated Vizio M-Series with over 2,000 reviews. Ultimately, however, I decided that I deserved a subwoofer, and that I didn’t care if my downstairs neighbor had to listen to a deafening run-through of The Two Towers’ iconic Battle of Helm’s Deep.
I knew I wanted 2.1 channels, Dolby Atmos, a wireless subwoofer, and something that would pair well with 4K HDR, since I’ve been waiting for the right time to watch my Criterion Collection 4K UHD copies of Lost Highway and Raging Bull . I’d already watched a 4K UHD transfer of The Last Waltz , which looked absolutely unreal—like, otherworldly— but I unfortunately experienced it through my TCL’s mediocre speakers [crying face emoji]. After scouring the internet for opinions and reviews, and taking into account a lot of user comments on Amazon, I came to accept that Vizio is actually one of the most respected sound bar brands for under ~$400. (The internet seems pretty confident that if you’re shopping over that price range, the Sonos Arc and Sonos Beam reign supreme.) So, for 300 smackers, The Vizio M-Series 2.1 sound bar seemed like the best option to me. And since that’s the price of seeing the new Avatar movie in IMAX about 10 times, it felt justified.
The equipment couldn’t have been easier to put together—I just connected the main sound bar to the HDMI to the TV and hooked up the power. For the subwoofer, I figured it would be pretty complicated to set up, since it was wireless; instead, I literally turned it on and it paired immediately, and I’ve never had to think about it since. I wondered if syncing the sound bar to my TV would be a pain in the ass, but it quickly recognized it and paired, and now I barely even have to use the remote that came with the sound bar (except to switch between “Movie” and “Game” modes).
The experience of watching TV and playing games with the sound bar is amazing, especially if you’ve never owned a good sound bar. Within minutes of starting The Fellowship of the Ring, I was floored by the depth of bass and general fullness of sound the speaker and subwoofer brought into my apartment. I felt like I was at the movies, watching Sauron hammer people mercilessly and literally sensing the vibrations in my body. Later on, while screening Return of the King, as Sam and Frodo scaled Mount Doom, it felt like lava flowed around me as I, too, struggled to ward off the grip of evil. Watching a Fast and Furious movie as I give this piece a final read, I briefly questioned whether I’ll ever even go to the movies again. (Spoiler alert: I definitely will.)
But this bad boy isn’t only good for action. I’m also rewatching Friday Night Lights for the sixth or eighth time (don’t hate), and the Vizio makes even the quiet moments feel immersive. Case in point: In one scene, characters are eating at a diner, having a conversation as music plays in the background. Not yet used to the sound bar, I literally paused the show, thinking someone was playing music outside my apartment, in the street; of course, I realized that the bar and subwoofer just made it sound like music was coming from a different part of the room. Amazing moment.
TL;DR: The Vizio M-Series 2.1 sound bar isn’t just proof that an affordable sound bar can be mind-blowingly good—it’s proof that people can change. While I went into 2022 thinking that Vizio was a wack brand that should be avoided at all costs, I exited the year feeling like scoring one of its sound bars was among the best things I’d ever done for myself. Literally everything sounds better on this thing, even talk show clips on YouTube.
If you do one nice thing for yourself in 2023 (and you don’t already have a sound bar, or have a bad one), pick up the Vizio M-Series 2.1 . On my end, I reckon it’s time to revisit The Hobbit, so if you need me, I won’t be available for the next nine hours [MGM Lion roar].
The Vizio M-Series 2.1 sound bar is available on Amazon .
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