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.
Barely a year ago, only a handful of high-end soundbars could handle eARC, an "enhanced" version of the ARC (or "audio return channel") standard that allows for lossless audio. But this year, eARC support for soundbars is becoming decidedly mainstream, with Vizio announcing that more of its mid-range models will support the feature. Vizio took the wraps off its 2022 line of soundbars on Wednesday, and no, you won't have to wait a year before they appear in stores, with several of the new models going on sale today. Included in the lineup is the M512a-H6, a 5.1.2-channel Slated to go on sale next month for $450, the M512a-H6 comes with surround speakers that connect to a wireless soundbar, while a pair of upfiring drivers deliver height cues for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks.
Vizio's Home Theater Sound System with Dolby Atmos, model number SB36512-F6, is a high-value, high-tech soundbar that delivers a taste of immersive audio magic. Vizio's approach leans towards the pragmatic, not the aesthetic. The left and right surround speakers deliver a genuine surround-sound experience that no virtual speakers can match. Measuring around 5.75-inches high, 2.75-inches wide, and 2.5-inches deep, they're small enough to blend into any room's décor or even sit on a window sill. These are passive drivers, so they aren't wireless.
The highlight of the new Elevate is the feature that brings the bar its uncharacteristically simple name: rotating speakers that "elevate" from their front-facing position to bounce sound off the ceiling and back down to the listening position when fed a Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio signal. While the vast majority of Dolby Atmos-ready soundbars use the ceiling-bounce effect with permanently mounted speakers, this is the first bar to cleverly utilize these upfiring height speakers when the still-rare Atmos or DTS:X content isn't available. The Elevate delivers more than just spinning speakers, of course. Like the rest of Vizio's Atmos lineup, the Elevate comes with surround sound speakers that plug into the subwoofer, in this case allowing for a fully immersive, 5.1.4-channel And while the Elevate has its drawbacks, including the need to fine-tune it manually for best results, you'll have a hard time getting this much home theater performance for under $1,000 anywhere else.
I watch so many movies and shows when testing TVs, soundbars, and various other home theater toys that I begin to get jealous of the perfectly sculpted universes in them. Sci-fi doors slide open with puffy whisps; stereos are perfectly recessed into custom-made walls; and showers are each the size of a single car garage, with steam nozzles to match. The Vizio Elevate is one of the few soundbars around to give me this tingly James Bond feeling. One moment, the rounded speakers on each side of the bar are pointing toward you, and the next--precisely when you select a movie or show that supports Dolby Atmos--they rotate skyward, transforming into the front height channels of the 5.1.4 It's very polished and sounds great; it's absolutely worth considering as a replacement for a traditional sub-$1,000 surround sound system.