Sound & Vision
Vizio V21D-J8 Soundbar
Whoever complained that you get what you pay for never listened to Vizio’s V21D-J8. The company’s latest 2.1-channel soundbar is a $100 entrylevel model offering strikingly clear sound. Although the V21D-J8 lacks a dedicated subwoofer, it delivers a fair amount of upper-bass impact. For the price, it can’t be beat.
This budget bar is an all-in-one 2.1 system that uses two full-range drivers and two 3-inch woofers. Vizio calls these “subwoofers,” but with a specified range reaching down to 60Hz, I’m more comfortable calling them woofers.
The fabric-wrapped V21D-J8 has a pleasant, rounded shape and can sit on a flat surface or be wallmounted using slats located on the bottom. Its full-range drivers are front-firing when the soundbar is placed on a flat surface with the woofers facing up; when positioned in wall-mount orientation, high-end clarity gets lost, so setup will have a sound-quality impact. A line of LED indicators is used to signal the soundbar’s functions—you’ll want to keep the manual nearby to help decipher them.
There are basic controls on the bar’s right side for power, input, Bluetooth connection, and volume. All these are duplicated on the included remote, which adds EQ, bass, and treble controls. EQ modes include Music, Movie, Game and Dialogue.
Inputs are located on V21d-j8’s bottom
3.5mm analog stereo, optical, and HDMI-ARC. The V21D-J8 also has a dedicated voice assistant input for speakers with an AUX output (you can also connect via Bluetooth), which lets the soundbar function as a Google or Alexa voice-assistant.
The V21D-J8 offers some sound modes that I didn’t expect at this price point. DTS Virtual:x processing creates a pseudosurround feel with overhead imaging, while DTS Truvolume compresses dynamic range to enhance dialogue and, even better, reduce loud audio from TV commercials. The Night
Mode feature reduces bass and is disabled when the bar gets powered off and on again.
Any Bruce Willis movie is a fun test for a soundbar. I cued up the low-budget Breach to see how the V21D-J8 would handle the action. The deep bass rumble of the Herc spaceship proved too much for the small woofers, but the V21D-J8 gave dialogue a pleasant, very naturalsounding boost. Turning on DTS Virtual:x created
a more open sound and widened the soundstage, but also slightly reduced dialogue intelligibility. It’s often hard to hear the voices on low-budget movie soundtracks, but the V21D-J8 performed consistently well with movie and TV dialogue.
For music, I settled down to listen to my friend Sailor Jane, featured on Lovd Ones x Benjah’s “Warrior Poet.” The bass on this reggae track sounded punchy, although as more percussion joined it, low end impact was lacking. Benjah’s vocals sounded clean and accurate, and the subtle background voices in the chorus were crisp and detailed. Sailor Jane’s sultry vocals were warm and natural, again with excellent high-end detail. When I pushed the volume, the bass quickly got overblown, with audible distortion and cabinet resonance. With the audio processing modes disabled, the stereo soundstage was narrow, but imaging was accurate.
DTS Virtual:x also created a more spacious sound with music. “It’s
Not Supposed to be That Way” with Nathaniel Ratcliff and Willie Nelson sounded clean and open, with no treble coloration and both singers hauntingly present. Turning up the beat with “Mirror” by Norway’s Sigrid once again revealed this soundbar’s only shortcoming: a lack of deep bass, with Sigrid’s overly processed voice also sounding a little harsh when the volume was pushed too high.
I’ve reviewed many soundbars, including some expensive models. The V21D-J8 stood its ground compared with these, offering impressive dialogue clarity, but limited bass. If money's no object. I'd upgrade to a bar with a dedicated sub and bigger drivers. But if your budget maxes out at $100, I would choose Vizio's V21D-J8.