Not all speakers have to get your attention with fancy styling. Sometimes they’re just big black boxes with grilles, that make sound—and that’s okay. The Vizio S5430W-C2 falls into that category, as a soundbar that isn’t exactly eye-catching, but offers solid performance and useful features at an affordable $299.99 (direct) price. Since it lacks a separate subwoofer, it’s a bit weak in the sub-bass end of the sound spectrum, but it gets big and booming enough where it counts while staying clear and reasonably accurate.
The S5430W looks very plain, with a simple, flat black cloth grille covering the entire front save for a small silver Vizio logo in the lower-right corner. It measures 4.2 by 54 by 3.2 inches (HWD) and weighs 9.3 pounds, and is suitable for HDTVs 55 inches or larger. A row of buttons sits just behind the left edge of the speaker, offering Power, Source, Bluetooth, and Volume Up/Down controls. The back of the soundbar holds two sets of ports in two recessed spaces. The left space holds the HDMI input and output and a USB port facing right. The right space holds stereo RCA, 3.5mm, coaxial, and optical audio inputs facing right and a subwoofer output facing left.
Behind the grille, the S5430W holds three 3-inch drivers—one each for left, right, and center channels. It also has two 6-by-3-inch, so-called bass modules (presumably woofers), giving the soundbar a claimed range of 60Hz to 20kHz. It supports Dolby Digital and DTS 3.0, and incorporates DTS TruVolume and DTS TruSurround audio processing features for regulating volume levels and producing a simulated surround sound effect.
The included remote is a simple silver plastic wand with a large, square navigation pad that holds playback controls flanked by Mute and Volume Up/Down buttons below and Input, Menu, and Power buttons above. At the top of the remote, a monochrome LCD display shows menu settings if you want to adjust the soundbar; the S5430W has an HDMI passthrough, but it doesn’t offer any on-screen interface.
Considering it has no subwoofer, the S5430W sounds surprisingly booming and pleasantly clear when playing audio from films. In The Amazing Spider-Man, the punchy sounds of sneaking and fighting when Spider-Man menaces the car thief came through with plenty of depth, and both dialogue and the high-pitched “thwip” of Spider-Man’s web shooters were crisp. The 25th anniversary performance of The Phantom of the Opera sounded rich and full, with the booming French horns of the “Entr’acte” piece and the masquerade in Act 2 shaking the walls without distorting. Flutes and trumpets sounded a bit bright, and obscured some of the dialog, but the general effect of the strong bass and the simulated surround produced an overall satisfying and full listening experience.
For music, the S5430W sounds solid, though a dedicated music speaker like the Bose SoundLink II will offer more clarity and depth than the louder, but more midrange-focused soundbar. The S5430W gets satisfyingly loud, pumping out bass-heavy tracks like The Knife’s “Silent Shout” and Primus’ “Mr. Krinkle” loud enough to vibrate the walls, which is always nice to see with a soundbar that lacks a separate subwoofer. It distorted slightly at maximum volumes in “Silent Shout” when the kick drums came in, but it otherwise performed very well. “Mr. Krinkle” suffered a bit more in the mids and highs, with the standing bass getting plenty of rumble but little string texture, and Les Claypool’s high-pitched vocals fading slightly against the deeper sounds.
The Vizio S5430W-C2 soundbar is an affordable way to add plenty of power to your HDTV’s sound without setting up a separate subwoofer. While it isn’t super-strong in the low end, its solid, loud performance and Bluetooth convenience make it a good choice for a speaker system. If you want a bit more style and clarity, the Polk N1 Surroundbar has an eye-catching design, solid faux-surround processing, and Bluetooth for the same price, but it’s not as large or powerful. For big screens, the Sony HT-CT260 offers a wireless subwoofer, Bluetooth connectivity, and excellent performance, all of which still make it one of the best bets in this price range.
|Connections||Optical, Stereo RCA, Coaxial Digital, HDMI|
|Wireless Remote Control||Yes|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc