Vizio S5451W-C2 Sound Bar Review

Earlier this year I reviewed the Vizio S5430W-C2. An extra-wide sound bar designed for larger TVs it sounds good with movies and music. With a dedicated center channel and bass-reflex ports for extra bass it upgrades the audio in any TV. Now Vizio has introduced an upgraded model, the S5451W-C2.


Specs
Manufacturer: Vizio
Model: S5451W-C2
Outputs: HDMI w/ ARC
Inputs: HDMI, Optical, Coaxial, 3.5mm, Stereo RCA, USB
Subwoofer: Yes
Bluetooth: Yes
Airplay: No
Review Date: June 10, 2014
Price: Out of stock
Company Website

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Like the Vizio S4251, the S5451W-C2 adds a wireless subwoofer and surround sound speakers to the front three channels. For $500 you get a true 5.1 channel system without having to run wires all across your room. The S5451W-C2 sounds wonderful for the money, even pairing up to my 122” projection screen and filling the room. If you want an easy, full-featured 5.1 channel system without running a lot of wires, the Vizio S5451W-C2 is your choice.

Full Featured

There is little missing from the Vizio S5451W-C2 sound bar. Since this is a true 5.1 channel bar you need to have a way to get 5.1 channels of audio to it. With an HDMI input, an Optical input and a Coaxial input there are many ways to do this. There is an HDMI output that supports Audio Return Channel. With this you can also get 5.1 channel audio back from TVs that support it, though many only do stereo audio over ARC.

Stereo sources have a 3.5mm input and a pair of stereo RCA jacks. Bluetooth with AptX support makes streaming music from your smartphone, tablet, or laptop easy. There is also a USB port, but the only file format supported is WAV you likely won’t use it. Unless you have a large number of sources and don’t plan to use your TV to switch between them the S5451W-C2 should have you covered.

The center sound bar is the same as the S5430W-C2 with three 3” full range drivers for the left, center and right channels. A pair of 3”x6” passive radiators for the left and right channels provide bass response down to 80Hz. The surrounds feature the same 3” driver utilized for the front channels. Using matching drivers should result in a cohesive soundstage. The surround speakers connect to the wireless subwoofer with standard RCA cables to make them easy to place. The 8” ported subwoofer rated down to 35Hz and is wireless. Because it also runs the surrounds you’ll probably want to place the subwoofer in the rear of the room.

Vizio continues to supply a remote that is much more useful that competing sound bars. With a small LCD screen you can make adjustments and change inputs. Teaching the S5451W-C2 to respond to your TV remote is done with it as well. Vizio could improve the remote by either adding a backlight to the LCD or making it a small OLED, but it is still good. It includes all the cables to connect the S5451W-C2 to your system and the necessary wall mounting hardware. Unlike other products you will not open the box only to realize you need another cable to hook it up.

Room Filling Sound

The two channel music performance of the S5451W-C2 is like the Vizio S5430W-C2. The subwoofer provides extra low-end impact, but otherwise it is the same. On “Carnival” from Natalie Merchant and “So What” from Miles Davis the extra oomph from the subwoofer helps out. The subs adds a physical impact that is missing without it while still blending in well with the left and right drivers. The low crossover point of the soundbar, 80 Hz, is ideal for use with a subwoofer.

It provides a good music experience but cannot keep up with sound bars that offer separate tweeters for the left and right speakers. Music can sound congested during busy and complex passages. It sounds good with music, but the VIzio S4221 sounds better because of its tweeters.

With movies and surround sound audio the Vizio stands out. The dedicated center channel helps with dialogue while the surrounds create a true immersive experience. Even the best faux-surround sound bar, the Yamaha YSP-4300, cannot compete with discrete surround channels.

Pacific Rim is not a classic film but it is classic demo material. Watching it on a 122” screen while playing the audio through the Vizio I am sucked into the experience. The subwoofer is big and boomy, but lets you feel the impact of how large the Jaeger robots are. During the Jaeger-Kaiju battles the surround sound effects kick up and pull you straight into the film. Dialogue and vocals always remain clear thanks to the center channel driver.

Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds: Live at Radio City has a 5.1 channel mix that benefits from the Vizio. The soundstage is good and feels wide for my screen. Anyone pairing the S5451W-C2 with an LCD or Plasma instead of a projection screen will not need to worry. The sound is good but the guitars lack the sharp attack that they do from great individual speakers. There is some fine detail that just is not there. Talking between tracks are well anchored in the middle of the stage and his vocals are always clear.

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon is even worse than Pacific Rim but might have an even better soundtrack. Once you get past feeling bad for Buzz Aldrin for appearing in this, you can enjoy the auditory splendor that awaits. Being a Michael Bay film, things blow up a lot and the Vizio does a good job filling the room with those explosions. A large soundstage that keeps matching up to my screen continues to surprise me. I won’t be replacing my home theater system with the Vizio S5451W-C2, but for friends that want a projector and a surround sound solution it will fit the bill.

Tweaks Needed

There are still a few things I would like to see changed on the Vizio. A higher-end version with separate tweeters for the left and right channels would make it an ideal music and movie sound bar. Right now you can get bars that are better for music because of their multiple-driver speakers, but they usually don’t do movies as well. The Vizio S4221 has these discrete tweeters and so it has more clarity on some music. It would be more expensive but I’d like to see it.

The subwoofer could be better than it is. It adds the low end, but it has that one-note sound that cheaper subs do. It draws a lot of attention to itself but lacks the fine detail of more expensive subs. If you want to know the bass is there, you will, but you may find yourself turning it down so it blends in better.

I also want the remote to improve the LCD and add RF or Wi-Fi to it. Trying to look at the LCD and point it at the bar can be troublesome and it is impossible to read in a dark room. An LED readout of the current input on the front would be nice as well. The current flashing-LEDs method is harder to understand. The USB port also needs to support something beyond WAV if it is ever going to be used.

Measurements

I measured the Vizio S5451W-C2 sound bar using a UMIK-1 calibrated microphone and RoomEQ Wizard software. Measurements are performed outside with gating applied to eliminate reflections. For the sound bar frequency response, 80Hz – 20,000Hz is tested with the subwoofer turned off. The subwoofer itself is measured using the CEA-2010 method.

vizio s5451w-c2 frequency response

Most frequency response measurements use the 1kHz test tone as a referece, but here that is in a dip. The response is up to +13dB from 1kHz, but only -2dB below it. Measuring from 1m or 2m produces the same result. With a single driver providing the full range we don’t see any crossover points or anything else here.

I made CEA-2010 measurements with both RoomEQ Wizard and Igor Pro. Neither one is able to produce passing values for 20 Hz, 25 Hz, or 31.5 Hz. The 2nd and 3rd order harmonics are often larger than the fundamental frequency. I would consider 35Hz – 40Hz the lowest frequency the subwoofer can adequately reproduce. The 25Hz test result is below.

vizio cea-2010 25 hz

Under Igor Pro, the Vizio subwoofer produces 102.5 dB from 2m at 63 Hz and 97.5 dB at 40Hz. 50Hz is unable to pass for me.

Instant Theater Sound

If you are picking a sound bar over a receiver and speakers, you probably care a lot about convenience. You don’t want to deal with a lot of complexity and wires but you still want good sound. Few sound bars include surround sound for this reason, because once you add wires you lose the simplicity.

With their innovative approach of running the surrounds off a wireless subwoofer Vizio has made a true surround system with soundbar simplicity. With that simplicity it delivery a big, powerful sound that will complement any large TV or projection system. I know many people who don’t hesitate to spend $2,000 on a huge TV but never want to spend more than $500 on an audio system to match. Before I’ve never known what to recommend to them. Now I’ll just send them after the Vizio S5451W-C2 and know it will satisfy them.

Review Summary
Product: Vizio S5451W-C2
Reviewer:
Pros: True 5.1 surround, good sound, easy setup
Cons: Could use a better subwoofer and discrete tweeters
Summary: If you want a true 5.1 surround sound system to match with your larger TV, or even a projector, the Vizio S5451W-C2 is a fantastic option.
Value: 5/5
Performance: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

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  • Jakewwa

    I have a Panasonic P60ST60 on the pedestal.
    Will the soundbar block the TV’s remote?
    Will the soundbar block some of the TV’s screen?

    • I don’t know how tall the ST60 pedestal is, but measuring the S5451W-C2 just now, it is slightly over 4″ tall. I’d use 4.25″ to be safe. If the IR sensor for the ST60 is higher than that you’ll be safe.

  • Brian Lee

    Are you the same Chris on Anandtech? If so I know I can trust your review. Do you happen to know if the 5430 and the 5451 use the same 3.0 bar? Or are they different? I only ask because I have a powered sub and surrounds already and could save money just buying the 5430. Thanks

    • Yes, I write for AnandTech as well. While the bars have the same drivers, the 5430 doesn’t have the wireless transmitter for the subwoofer, and there are no pre-outs for surrounds on it. If you want to run surrounds you’ll need to get the 5451 and use the included ones.

      • Brian Lee

        I see, so there’s no way I could get 5.1 with the 5430, thanks.

  • John

    Can you use the Dish Network remote to control this?

    • Since the Dish remote usually uses volume controls that mimic a TV remote, yes, you should be able to. I’ve programmed it to use Panasonic and Sony remote codes easily, so it should be easy to do with a Dish remote as well.

  • I don’t know if Vizio uses a different frequency or not on their wireless subwoofers, but I would be surprised if you were able to update them to work together.

    • Mike M

      So the frequency transmitters are preset ?
      There’s no way to change the frequency or swap the
      transmitter out with one that matches ? I’m groping here but I don’t
      really need another sub, I would like to take advantage of the satellites that connect to the sub.

      • Yeah, the frequency or something else is likely different. Pretty much the subs are designed to be used on the sound bar they came with and nothing else. Also, if you went with the 3-channel Vizio sound bar over the 5.1 channel version it doesn’t even include the wireless transmitter inside I don’t believe.

        • Mike M

          I do have the 5.1 so I think I’ll open it up and see what’s inside.
          If I have any success I’ll let you know.
          Thanks much for your response Chris.

  • Komrad

    What frequency is the wireless subwoofer at? The reason I ask is the 2.4GHz is saturated where I live, so only 5GHz audio and WiFi works for me. Anything at 2.4GHz ( bluetooth, WiFi ) has spotty reception. Thanks!

    • I don’t know for certain, but I’d guess it uses the 2.4GHz band. I checked the FCC database but since it uses an off-the-shelf part Vizio doesn’t have to submit the sound bar or subwoofer for testing. Beyond that there is no info in the manual or on the FCC disclosure, so I’d assume it’s 2.4GHz as most things are now.

  • Jon

    Chris how would you compare this S5451 Vizio sound bar with the S4051?
    What will Vizio launch in 2016. Thinking of buying the S5451 but should I wait till 2016?

    Jon

    • I have no insight into what Vizio is planning to launch in the future, and I haven’t heard the S4051 so I can’t compare it to that. Sorry I can’t help more.