Vizio made its name with value consciousnessbut he strengthened this reputation with a remarkable campaign . When it comes to value for money, nothing beats models like this and — each is the best at its respective price points in my book. In recent years, Vizio has evolved from the original to more luxurious soundbars . Pursuing, matching M-Series is the Elevate soundbar.
- Open, natural sound quality
- Lots of bass from a small bottom
- Better than a single soundbar with movies
- Disappointing height channels
- Changing inputs is tediously slow
- Sounds very similar to the cheaper M512a
- It is relatively expensive
The ‘M’ in Vizio’s naming scheme usually suggests a mid-range product, but this bar still comes with an $800 price tag. It performs well with both music and movies and will fill a modest living space with sound. The main “issue” for the M-Elevate is that it’s very similar to the $500 M512a-H6 in both functionality and sound quality. The main connection to the Premium Elevate is the rotating end pieces for Atmos height effects, but that doesn’t justify the extra $300.
Let’s get that out of the way first — that distinctive audio bling is probably why you’re reading this review. Like the parent Elevate, the M-Elevate has a rotating driver on each end designed for Dolby Atmos. It works a bit differently than the original version, as this model could physically toggle between stereo and Atmos mode. While the final parts of the M-Elevate (including the waveguide) rotate, the elevation drive itself doesn’t — it’s still inside the chassis that points up your ceiling. The main upgrade function is to notify you when there is Dolby Atmos content.
The Vizio M512a-H6 is a surround system consisting of a main soundbar, a 6-inch subwoofer and two wired rear speakers. Like the M512a-H6, the M-Elevate is competitiveformat as well as the latest connection.
Despite being an Elevate model, the M-Elevate has more in common with the M512a-H6 in terms of both capabilities and size. While the styling is different, the soundbar itself is similar to the cheaper model at 41.38 inches wide, 2.6 inches tall, and 41.38 inches deep. The main grille, which hides the three sets of midrange drivers and tweeters, is made of fabric, while the final section, which hides the two amplifier drivers, is made of plastic and aluminum.
Likewise, the two systems’ subwoofers each have 6-inch drivers, although the M-Elevate is housed in a slightly more elegantly curved box. The surrounds, which are physically wired to the sub via long cables, are straight backs — there’s no elevation here.
The M-Elevate has a range of inputs, including HDMI in/out (with eARC), optical, USB (for WAV playback, which is a bit odd) and two 3.5mm (headphone size) analogue input jacks. One of those 3.5mm jacks is meant to connect to awhom , and if you command it, the soundbar will be muted. Considering the soundbar doesn’t have multi-room music like Elevate, it’s a relatively easy way to add it.
You see, like the M512a, the system’s wireless connectivity is limited to Bluetooth. It’s fine for many uses, but it’s a shame the M512 loses Vizio Elevate’s ability.and integrate with Google Assistant. The $999 Elevate is still the only Vizio soundbar to offer Wi-Fi connectivity with built-in Chromecast and Spotify Connect.
The system offers a number of sound modes, including Movie, Music, Game and Live, but one thing it doesn’t have is a dedicated sound mode..
The top of the bar contains a limited number of controls such as power, volume, input and Bluetooth. The control is a stick rather than a plastic credit card, and the LCD display is used for initial setup and changing advanced settings. Adjusting the height of the speakers is a bit of a chore, as you need to feed it a Dolby Atmos signal (perhaps via a Netflix show) first, or the remote will give you an “Not Available” message.
Another issue I have with the remote is that changing inputs can be very slow — if you spend less than two seconds changing an input, the readout on the remote and the soundbar are out of sync. This would require me to put my hand on the remote and return it to the input that corresponds to the stick.
How does it sound?
If you’re paying over $200 for a soundbar, you’ll want to make sure it can actually replace an AV receiver, and that means it’s capable of not only streaming, but playing music as well. I started my review with a couple of folk-centric Australian bands – Dead Can Dance and Grand Salvo – and then started to build up the tension. When I heard the first notes of Dead Can Dance’s Yulunga, I was struck by how natural the music sounded coming out of the soundbar. There was no shrillness or nasality, and I couldn’t tell if the sound was coming from a plastic tube in front of the TV. Lisa Gerrard’s voice sounded appropriately huge, and the room was transformed into a concert hall, rendered realistic by the deep bass of the percussion.
Then the story of Grand Salvo and his lifelong friendship was cut short in “Field of Flowers.” The song begins with gentle guitar playing and Paddy Mann’s tired vocals, and Vizio lets the story play out. However, it was only during the chorus that the sound was pushed a bit by the group vocals. By contrast, the comparably priced Sonos Arc was able to handle the same dynamic changes but render the chorus more agreeably.
After listening to various tracks, I moved from The Matrix to surround sound and the lobby scene. I compared the M-Elevate to its labelmate M512a and found the two share a very similar sound — not surprising given the soundtrack’s reliance on deep bass and the similarity of the two subs.
After switching to the Sonos Arc, I felt that Vizio’s competitor offered a better level of detail. For example, when the soldiers gather in the lobby to fight Neo and Trinity, one of them shouts “freeze”. Sound lingered on the Arc, and when the bullets started flying, Sonos also offered the Arc’s wraparound effect, which the M-Elevate didn’t match. During this scene, the Vizio was more subtle in playback, but the Arc was more fun, but where the Arc couldn’t match the M-Elevate was for deep bass due to the dedicated sub.
The big test with a soundbar like this is “How does it sound with Dolby Atmos” and I found the answers a little disappointing for an $800 surround setup. While the M-Elevate was again able to provide realistic surrounds with the 1917 war epic, and therefore had an edge over the Arc, the Vizio’s ability to provide elevation effects was limited.
Unfortunately, I never got enough sound out of the M-Elevate’s height drivers — even at max, it couldn’t match either the M512a or the Arc for convincing overhead. CNET’s test room has a 15-foot ceiling, and the M-Elevate wasn’t strong enough to reproduce sounds, though it was a bit more successful at 10 feet. This is not a problem for the less fancy M512a.
To show the differences between the three soundbars, I listened to the opening scene of Mad Max: Fury Road and found that both the Sonos Arc and the Vizio M512a were able to project high and provide a real sound bubble. Although it helped with environmental immersion, the M-Elevate was only able to reproduce ethereal sounds as they came from the screen.
Should you buy it?
Vizio’s main issue is that it didn’t need to bridge the gap between the M512a and the Elevate. The M-Elevate doesn’t add much to the extra $300, though it performs well in almost every way except Dolby Atmos playback. As a result, the M-Elevate’s main competitors are the two soundbars that bookend it: the M512a offers better sound and a better price, while the Elevate offers a larger package with more useful features for $200.
If you don’t mind filling your room with boxes, the M-Elevate offers an attractive alternative to the similarly priced Sonos Arc, and it sounds better with movies, too. However, you should probably save some money and buy the M512a instead.