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Vizio’s tiny SB2021n-G6 soundtrack is a champion when it comes to winning expectations. This $ 130-inch 20-inch soundtrack (available for $ 98 at ) doesn’t look like much, but it manages to deliver impressively rich, detailed sound for its size, while DTS Virtual: X processing helps deliver 3D effects that they sound amazing considering the paired specifications of the SB2021n-G6.

Of course, serious angles have been set to achieve the budget price of the SB2021n-G6, and the soundtrack lacks basic features such as HDMI inputs (forget lossless or even Dolby Digital Plus audio) and Wi-Fi connectivity (meaning you won’t be in ability to control the soundtrack using the application). For these reasons, I would not recommend the SB2021n-G6 for a large or even medium home theater setup. Despite this, the SB2021n-G6 provides an outstanding, inexpensive way to upgrade sound in the bedroom or in a cramped bedroom.

This review is part of TechHive’s best soundtrack coverage, where you’ll find reviews of competing products, as well as a customer guide on features you should consider when shopping.

With a $ 130 2.1-channel soundtrack, the Vizio SB2021n-G6 comes equipped with just three drivers: a 1.61 x 2.24-inch driver pair in the main unit for the left and right channels, plus a 5.25- inch driver for wireless subwoofer. Save for a small rear opening that helps you amplify the bass beep, that’s all you can get in terms of drivers and other acoustic features.

Between just 20, 2.19, 4.45 inches, the soundtrack itself is surprisingly compact and weighs just 3.69 pounds. Indeed, you could easily place the SB2021n-G6 on a shallow dresser in front of the TV in the bedroom. In addition, the soundtrack does not have any brackets or mounting holes, so if you do not come up with your own wall mounting solution, you will need to place the soundtrack on a flat surface in front of your TV.

Ben Patterson / IDG
A small opening in the rear of the Vizio SB2021n-G6 helps increase bass speed.

The 7.68 x 7.68 x 8.46 inch wireless subwoofer is also quite small in terms of the soundtrack subwoofer, although it still manages to pack the punch. The removable support makes it easy to fit in a cramped room, although watch out for exposed drivers when shooting at the bottom of the case.

Like many of its current audio input tapes, the Vizio SB2021n-G6 does not have any HDMI ports. (Starting in 2020, all Vizio audio tapes, including budget models, will have HDMI inputs.) Instead, you get an optical (Toslink) input, a digital coaxial input, a 3.5mm audio jack that comes with a 3.5mm to -stereo RCA cable) and USB port for thumb drives. The good news is that Vizio delivers all the necessary cables in the box.

Although both optical and coaxial digital audio inputs can support compressed Dolby Digital and DTS sound, they lack the range for lossless Dolby Digital Plus or lossless Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Needless to say (but we’ll say anyway), the SB2021n-G6 doesn’t have 4K passes or any kind of video pass; instead, you simply send the sound to the audio tape on Toslink, your TV’s digital coaxial or analog RCA connector.

Ben Patterson / IDG
The Vizio SB2021n-G6 offers optical and coaxial digital inputs, along with a 3.5mm plug for a 3.5mm cable to stereo RCA. However, there are no HDMI ports.

Due to the limited collection of inputs, the SB2021n-G6 is a piece of cake. Simply slide the soundtrack in front of the TV, connect it to the TV with one of the supplied audio cables, and then connect the power cord power cord.

A wireless subwoofer (which is not completely wireless because it needs a network cable) that comes with the SB2021n-G6 and comes pre-paired with audio tape. In my case, the subwoofer simply connected to the soundtrack, but if you encounter any hiccups on the wireless connection, you can manually pair the subwoofer by pressing and holding the button on the back of the device, then pressing and holding the power button on the soundtrack.

Because it lacks a Wi-Fi connection, you can’t use an app (such as Vizio’s SmartCast app) to control the SB2021n-G6’s features or settings, and support from Alec and Google Assistant is out of the question. However, looking on the bright side, the lack of support for the application means that you don’t have to struggle with connecting the soundtrack to the Wi-Fi network, which is often a tedious and frustrating process.

Sitting on top of the fabric-covered SB2021n-G6 case are the power buttons, input selection, Bluetooth and volume up / down. The front of the audio bar contains one LED indicator that is slightly higher than the dot, and lights up in different colors depending on which audio input is active. Unfortunately, this means that there is no visual indicator of the volume level, so you might be surprised if you leave the sound amplified beforehand.

The SB2021n-G6 inconspicuous, slightly chintzi remote has only a few buttons, but is also relatively easy to use. The input button at the top is pressed with the power and Bluetooth buttons, while the five-part control panel just below allows you to adjust the volume, skip tracks, and play or pause music. Below the five-way panel is the mute button, with the TruVolume volume button and the DTS Virtual button: the X button on the left, while the movie and music mode buttons are on the right. The three-button end row allows you to adjust the bass, bass and treble settings. Night mode settings and dialog boosters are missing in the action.

Ben Patterson / IDG
The Vizio SB2021n-G6 backlit remote control looks a bit hot and has no screen, but is relatively easy to use.

Although neither the remote nor the audio bar have actual displays, the SB2021n-G6 does not emit audio signals telling you whether to turn a specific setting on or off. For example, if you press the DTS Virtual: X button, the ascending pattern of beeps means that you turn on the setting, while a series of beeps means that you turn it off.

Pairing the soundtrack with my iPhone KSS was short; I just pressed the Bluetooth key to switch the soundtrack to pairing mode and connected my iPhone using its Bluetooth settings screen.

Now, let’s be completely clear on a few points: the $ 130 soundtrack and subwoofer combination with just three drivers can’t compete with the $ 1,000 soundtrack with multiple drivers to move forward, up, and sideways. In the same way, DTS Virtual: Ks cannot replicate the precise sounds of physical surround and pitch speakers. If you want to hear vivid, discreet sound effects coming from behind you or above, or you want to enjoy the finer details of a high-definition music track, you’ll have to pick up for a much cheaper package of soundtracks.

It was said that I was very impressed with the sound that this relatively cunning sound system was able to compress, complemented by a wide sound band crashing into the narrow 20-inch housing SB2021n-G6, not to mention the palpable presence of the environment, noticeable signs of height , aggressive (but not too gourmet) bass and a decent dose of superb detail.

Of course, DTS Virtual: X works with a big boot compared to the SB2021n-G6 surround performance, and I was especially glad that Vizio’s application of virtual 3D technology didn’t sound as sharp as I heard on competing soundtracks. Indeed, during most of the testing, I kept DTS Virtual: X enabled and turned it off only for music.

I started testing with an exciting series of opening titles from 1978, Superman , which was reworked into 4K and Dolby Atmos. Of course, for the needs of the 2.1-channel SB2021n-G6, Superman’s Dolby Atmos soundtrack is first reduced to stereo before receiving DTS Virtual: X treatment.

However, the results are impressive for only 20-inch soundtracks. The Oscar-nominated result by John Williams sounded sharp and stabbing (albeit with a hint of rudeness from the brass section), and I could detect signs of height as Marlon Brando’s credit hovered above the screen, while Richard Donner’s credit directed the credit an impressive shot from the compact subwoofer. I even liked how the SB2021n-G6 wore ticklish environmental effects when the Phantom Zone caught General Zod and his minions, and the sound of an interstellar prison fell convincingly over my right shoulder as it exited the frame. (Just to be clear, when I went back to my usual 5.1-channel system with Dolby Atmos height virtualization, the surrounding effects of the Phantom Zone were much more pronounced and detailed, especially from the back.)

Then I tried a scene from Men’s X: Apocalypse that we often use as a handy Dolby Atmos demo: specifically, a scene in which Scott Summers, with medium tones of energy, destroys the bathroom with him. As with the Superman soundtrack , the Apocalypse Atmos soundtrack was reduced to the SB2021n-G6 ported to 2.0 Dolby Digital before being processed by DTS virtually: X. Even with those warnings, the scene sounded pretty damn good, with particles of plaster from the collapsed ceiling of the bathroom effectively flickering from the sides, and even blunt from above. For $ 98 (if you buy from ), that’s not a bad thing at all.

I ended my movie scenes with a launch scene from Apollo 13 , which features the DTS: X object soundtrack on a 4K Blu-ray version. Again, the SB2021n-G6 only gives us its DTS Virtual: X interpretation of the DTS: X audio disc, but I was still quite amazed at how this $ 130 narrow soundtrack managed to shake my living room as the Saturn V rocket roared to life , with the sound scene expanding impressively as the fuel pumps peeked out and the spaceship slowly rose from the launch pad.

To make sense of how the SB2021n-G6 handles spoken dialogue, I dived into the Suits episode . Although I’ve never had a problem listening to quips and quotes about movies from chatty, dapper lawyers, the dialogue sounded dull and sharp, which is pretty typical when it comes to 2.0-channel audio tapes that lack dedicated central channels.

By switching to music (and for these tests I turned off DTS Virtual: X also turned off the Music EC sound mode), I separated the title track from Bruce Springsteen’s Tom Joad’s Ghost and once again the tiny SB2021n-G6 broke well above its weight. Released via Bluetooth via my iPhone, Boss’s raw, backup vocals sounded impressively clear and crisp, with a pleasant rising heat as the synthesizers were inserted. The blacker soundtracks I tested, of course, did a better job of playing the highs – the ultimate details of Springsteen’s work on acoustic guitar and of course the SB2021n-G6 narrow (with DTS Virtual: X off) sound scene is pretty cramped compared to soundtracks ranging from 30 and 40 inches. Despite that, this 20-inch soundtrack still managed to become a surprisingly full, dynamic performance.

I then put my turn on Vlado Perlemuter’s reproduction of Ravel’s solo piano works on the Nimbus Records label, and left with the same general impressions as from Ghost of Tom Joad: pleasant warmth and atmosphere with a decent amount of detail, although something is missing at the top. I also noticed a hint of distortion at higher volume levels, which is not too surprising considering how solid piano pieces can be on the speakers. (By the way, I didn’t detect any distortion problems during film testing, even when I dropped the volume.)

Finally, it’s time for Ciara’s “Level Up”, and again, the same overall story: a pleasantly warm, sharp and shaky sound, although a bit like high quality details.

You can’t expect much from the budget 20-inch soundtrack, but the 2.1-channel Vizio SB2021n-G6 and its built-in DTS Virtual: X audio processing have consistently exceeded my expectations. Although it lacks HDMI ports and Wi-Fi connection, the SB2021n-G6’s relatively rich, detailed and expansive sound is perfectly suited to amplify the sound of another TV or for viewers who don’t think about the budget in cramped living spaces.

Updated February 4, 2020: In the original version of this review we incorrectly saw the price for the Vizio SB2021n-G6; that’s 130, not $ 150. We apologize for the mistake.

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