EletiofeVizio's Rotating Soundbar Fills the Room With Great Surround

Vizio’s Rotating Soundbar Fills the Room With Great Surround


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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 wisps; 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 system.

It’s very polished and sounds great; it’s absolutely worth considering as a replacement for a traditional sub-$1,000 surround sound system. But if I’m being honest, I’d buy the Elevate because of the rotating speakers. They’re a shining example of innovative design in a sea of black rectangles. Every time I see them move, I feel happy. Isn’t that what big purchases like this are for?

Surround Soundbar

Photograph: Vizio

Even home theater nerds have aesthetic living rooms, it turns out, and that’s one place where Atmos soundbars like this one shine. They allow you to experience quality surround sound in spaces that otherwise aren’t suited for running wired speakers, or for super-large setups like you’d find in a local McMansion.

The Elevate is sleek and looks great. The system consists of a soundbar, an 8-inch subwoofer, and two wireless surround speakers that are small enough to place anywhere in most rooms. I highly recommend rear speaker stands so that the height channel of your Atmos is coming from equal distances left and right.

One typical problem with speaker sets like this is getting them close enough to outlets. If you make the surround speakers wireless, they still need a power outlet, which often defeats the purpose. The wireless speakers of the Elevate come with very long proprietary cables from Vizio that connect to the subwoofer—I prefer this to extension cords, though you might still need one to power the subwoofer if it isn’t near an outlet.

Once you get the Elevate all set up and plugged in, the speakers automatically pair, and you can adjust the settings to your liking on the included remote. This year, Vizio has fixed one of my biggest pet peeves: The remote now has a backlight! Changing settings in dark rooms is now a breeze.

Most of us will be using the included HDMI ARC port, which sends signals back and forth from your TV digitally. I plugged it straight into the Vizio OLED I was testing, and it worked right away. The Elevate also has optical, RCA, and 3.5-mm connections, plus Bluetooth and Google’s Chromecast built-in. It will also pass through Dolby Vision and HDR10+ video signals, as needed.

In addition to acting as a 5.1 or 2.1 system for older movies, TV shows, and music, the Elevate is ready to tackle both DTS:X and Dolby Atmos object-based surround formats. The soundbar recognizes whether it’s receiving that signal and mechanically rotates the front left and right drivers skyward so they can join the drivers on top of the rear wireless speakers to give you four full-height channels. These channels enable the soundbar to bounce sounds off your ceiling so they sound like they’re above you.

It’s a very clever gimmick that gives you a best-of-both-worlds scenario for surround listening. In 5.1 mode you get extra drivers, and in Atmos mode, you get those height channels.

The Sound

Photograph: Vizio

Speaking of drivers, this system has a whopping total of 18, including dedicated tweeters for high-end shimmer (often sacrificed to save room in smaller soundbars).

All those drivers contribute to a lot of detail in even the densest mixes, with Marvel and Star Wars films surrounding you with very crisp recreations of their audio universes. The separation between the bass and the highs, and between the center and side channels, is impressive given that most of the drivers are in a single tube together. It’s easily the best-sounding Atmos bar system I’ve tested so far.

That said, I can guarantee you’ll need to adjust the volumes of each channel to balance the sound in your space. My TV setup is on one side of my room, so I had to adjust the left and right balance, and I almost always have to boost the volume of the center channels. Pro tip: On nearly all the systems I test, the subwoofer is turned up too high for my space, so there’s a good chance you should turn it down. All of this is easily fixed with the remote.

Vizio claims the Elevate gets up to 107 decibels without distortion—you’ll never use it at such a loud volume without some nefarious reason. In practice, I had to push it to about 60 percent volume to get what I’d describe as “room-filling” sound in my 15- by 20-foot room. Push it above 70 and you’re really entering butt-rumbling territory.

It sounds good—really good for its size and cost. Especially when compared to the likes of the Sonos Arc, which costs $800 but doesn’t come with separate speakers or a sub. Watching the season finale of The Mandalorian with the Elevate and the aforementioned 65-inch Vizio OLED was almost a religious experience.

I’ll be the first to admit that you can spend thousands of dollars on speakers, a dedicated receiver, and cables to tie it all together, and it will sound better than the Elevate. But for $1,000? I don’t think you can beat the cost and convenience of this system, not to mention the design. I also do have to mention that if you just want to improve the sound coming out of your TV, you absolutely do not need to spend anywhere near this much. Our Best Soundbars guide has plenty of other, cheaper picks, even ones from Vizio.

High-quality object-based surround sound is still relatively hard to come by, and this has some of the best I’ve heard outside of wired home theater systems. Add the fact that the sides of the soundbar can rotate toward the heavens as if to acknowledge the Movie Gods, and Vizio has a real winner on its hands. Just remind the home bartender that you take your martinis shaken, not stirred.

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