How I Chose My Soundbar

How I Chose My Soundbar

At the beginning of this summer, or rather the start of my time coming back home from having to leaving my dorm early, I had an immediate desire to accomplish something: to watch as many movies I’ve wanted to watch as I can. I suddenly had a significant amount of free time, so I figured that I’d grind through some that I had laying around that I’ve wanted to watch for so long.

I already had an acceptable TV for most of my content, the TCL 43S515, a 43 inch 4K HDR TV I bought back in March 2019. After weeks of determining what was the best TV for the space I had and for my budget, it ended up being my first “big” purchase (at about $250) after I got my first job earlier that year. The only problem was the sound.

The sound coming out of the TV was tinny, and it didn’t have much bass outputting. The picture quality, for the price, was great, but something had to be done to the sound. I didn’t think I needed a proper soundbar, so I bought a $30 Bluetooth speaker and plugged it in directly through the TV’s AUX port, and was fine with that for several months. I knew that eventually, however, that I’d want more.

In late March 2020, I researched everywhere on Best Buy, Amazon, and other places on what’s the best value soundbar you could get. I had one requirement: I want real 5.1 Surround Sound audio coming out of it, and that it would be through the TV’s HDMI-ARC port (so that I’d receive the best possible audio quality). I determined what was the best value, best features, and what would be the best for me personally. After straight days of researching, I came to a conclusion: The VIZIO SB3651-E6.

April 1st wasn’t a joke this year.

For the price of $199.99, this set up came with the soundbar, a subwoofer, and two mini speakers meant to be used behind you while watching TV. The end result is that this was one of the cheapest available setups that had full-fledged 5.1 surround sound, at around a price point that others were selling a regular stereo soundbar by itself. It’s unfortunately discontinued now, but I feel like it’s still a great deal.

The only thing about it that I regret is the built-in HDMI port. When the soundbar is connected to the TV, it can only output “lossy” surround sound such as Dolby Digital Plus and DTS audio, but the way to get uncompressed 5.1 audio is to use the built-in HDMI output. Unfortunately, it’s an HDMI 1.4 port, so it can only output at up to 1080p, which isn’t acceptable for my gaming consoles, outside of my Nintendo Switch, which it seems to have some trouble with. Beyond that, though, the 70+ movies I’d end up watching over the summer sounded a lot better than if it was without a soundbar, and I’m so glad I made this decision early on, let alone at all.

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