While similar to the VIZIO SB36512 that I recently reviewed, the SB46514 not only offers a much larger main sound bar and subwoofer, it also dramatically improves the speaker drivers inside each cabinet. And in addition to two upward-firing Atmos speakers in the main sound bar, VIZIO has included an additional up-firing Atmos driver into each of the dedicated surround speakers, making this a bona-fide 5.1.4 system. As I’ve experienced with other VIZIO products, setup and operation are easy and there are tons of features packed into the product. With significantly upgraded performance compared to VIZIO’s other models, the SB46514-F6 is quite possibly the best overall value in the VIZIO sound bar lineup.
VIZIO SB46514-F6 Sound Bar
- Front and rear Atmos speakers! Yup, 4 of ‘em
- Much higher quality drivers than VIZIO’s other models
- More neutral frequency response for music sources
- Setup is fast and easy
- Very simple to operate
- Enough digital inputs for most systems
- Google Chromecast, Bluetooth, and VIZIO Smartcast are built right in
- Dedicated surround speakers
- Can play very loud
- Three preset EQ curves to adjust the sound to one’s liking
- DTS-MA, Dolby TrueHD, and Dolby Atmos decoding built-in
After reviewing VIZIO’s first Dolby Atmos capable sound bar, the SB36512-F6, and finding it to offer solid performance for its price point, I was eager to sample their flagship Atmos-capable model, the SB46514-F6. The SB46514 is noticeably larger than the SB36512, jumping up to a 46” sound bar with eight active drivers and two passive radiators and a much more powerful 10” wireless powered subwoofer. The surround speakers also sport two additional Atmos up-firing speakers, making this a 5.1.4 system. All of this comes at a cost as the SB46514 lists for $999.99, roughly double the price of the SB36512. Is the SB46514 worth the extra chunk of change? Read on to find out.
Sound bar – 3x .75” tweeters, 3x 1.75” x 4.25” front-firing mid-bass drivers, 2x 1.65” x 5.375” passive radiators (Left and Right Channels), 2x 2.32” x 2.95” up-firing Atmos drivers
1x 2.1” front-firing plus 1x 1.96” up-firing Atmos per channel
25Hz-20kHz (system), Sound bar – 100Hz-20kHz (Left, Right, Center), Subwoofer – 25-160Hz, Surround speakers – 100Hz-20kHz, Height speakers – 100Hz-20kHz
1x HDMI, 1x Digital Optical, 1x Digital Coaxial, 1x USB, 1x 3.5mm analog mini-jack, 1x Ethernet
Bass, Treble, subwoofer level, center level, surround level, 3 preset EQs
1x HDMI (ARC)
Formats Supported via digital inputs:
Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital+, DTS Digital Surround, Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Atmos, DTS-HD Master Audio
Google Chromecast, VIZIO Smartcast, Bluetooth, Google Home-compatible, 802.11n
VIZIO Smartcast for iOS or Android
Sound bar: 46W x 2.52H x 3.34D”
Subwoofer: 14W x 15H x 14D”
Surround speaker: 3W x 6.52H x 2.67D”
1 year parts and labor
Vizio, SoundBar, Vizio Sound Bar, Sound System, Soundbar Review 2019
Like the SB36512 I recently reviewed, the SB46514-F6 consists of three separate speakers. The main sound bar is 46” wide and contains the front left, front right, center channel, and left and right up-firing speaker arrays. As opposed to the black mesh fabric covering the sound bar, subwoofer and satellite speakers on the SB36512, the SB46514’s drivers are covered by the same black metal mesh that was on the SB4051 I reviewed last year. Personally, I think the metal mesh looks nicer and feels far more expensive, befitting a model of this price. The metal mesh should also hold up better if you’ve got children or pets. The end caps are actual aluminum, not the brushed silver plastic that is on some of VIZIO’s other models. On the top of the sound bar are buttons for power, input selection, Bluetooth pairing, and volume up/down. There are also white indicator lights on the left front edge of the sound bar that light up in different combinations to denote different settings or the volume level. A small blue light indicates Wi-Fi connectivity. Fortunately, the lights turn off a few seconds after you’ve made a change. Around the back of the sound bar are the input terminals. There are two HDMI inputs, or technically one input and one output/HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) input. I was glad to see that VIZIO included some inputs other than HDMI, including a USB port, TOSLink, S/PDIF, and a 3.5mm analog mini-jack for old-school sources. With these options, pretty much any audio source can be connected. There is also an Ethernet port for wired network connectivity in addition to the built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth (version 4.0 but not AptXHD). A standard detachable IEC power cord rounds out the back-panel options. Just like the other VIZIO sound bars I’ve reviewed, my only wish on the connectivity side would be for an additional HDMI input or two.
Where things start to get different from the SB36512 are the actual drivers used within the sound bar. The SB46514 uses eight different drivers for the front left, right, and center channels. Those speakers consist of a 1.75” x 4.25” mid-bass driver plus a separate .75” tweeter. The left and right channels also have a separate passive radiator to flesh out the mid-range and upper bass. The center channel swaps the passive radiator for a port to increase bass response. Each driver uses neodymium magnets for increased output in a compact size. There are also two additional 2.32” x 2.95” full-range drivers for the front Atmos channels. VIZIO is marketing the SB46514 as more of an “audiophile” sound bar and this driver complement certainly supports that. The surround speakers contain not only a 2.1” diameter front firing speaker for the left and right surround channels, but also a 1.96” diameter up-firing Atmos height speaker. The other big difference with the SB46514 is the subwoofer. Instead of the 6” driver included with the SB36512, you get a beefier 10” driver.
The subwoofer has its own detachable IEC power cord and four RCA outputs for the surround speakers along with a power switch and a pairing button. The four RCA outputs accommodate separate wiring for the surround and rear Atmos channels. To keep things simple, VIZIO combined the two separate wires for the surround and rear Atmos channels into a single cable, which keeps installation easy. Each cable is 20 feet long which should be adequate for just about any installation. The subwoofer is paired to the sound bar when you take the unit out of the box, which speeds up the initial setup time. As I was swapping the SB36512 out for the SB46514, setup was incredibly easy. The 46” sound bar went on my corner TV cabinet in front of my 50” Fujitsu plasma and the surround speakers sat on top of two end tables flanking my primary listening position. I made sure that the up-firing speakers in the surrounds had an unobstructed bounce path to my ceiling by moving my two lamps further back on the tables. While I was certain that I would enjoy the added bass of the larger subwoofer, it was a bit more problematic to fit into my room. I had to move one of my end tables and a loveseat out of their usual positions to fit the much larger subwoofer cabinet in the corner. With the smaller subs on the SB4051 and SB36514 no furniture rearranging was necessary. VIZIO also includes mounting templates and all the necessary hardware to wall-mount the sound bar and surround speakers, which is a nice bonus. They also include a cable to match each of its inputs (HDMI 2.0, optical coaxial, digital coaxial, RCA) so you don’t have to worry about buying your own. To learn some other setup tips on a VIZIO sound bar, check my review of the SB36512 here.
Having learned during my SB4051 and SB36512 reviews that Bluetooth and streaming sources don’t offer the best audio quality, I only spent enough time sending audio over my iPhone 7 via Bluetooth and using Amazon music via VIZIO’s SmartCast app to verify that they worked just as well as they did during my SB36512 review. The combination of compressed sources over TCP/IP or the additional compression of Bluetooth just isn’t a fair representation of a what a speaker can do, though if all you care about is some background music, they are serviceable enough (IP-based steaming in particular, especially if you use something like SpotifyHD). So, I jumped right to lossless playback via CD and Blu-ray discs with a Sony Blu-ray player connected to the sound bar’s HDMI port.
I started up with a CD copy of Melody Gardot’s “My One And Only Thrill” (CD: Universal B003DZ0JI2) and put on my favorite track from the album, “Your Heart Is As Black As Night.” I played this track back a few times, testing out the three different EQ options via the SmartCast app to find the most accurate one.
The Movie EQ didn’t sound great, so I quickly switched over to the Music EQ setting. This was dramatically more faithful to the source. I also turned off simulated surround sound to limit playback to the left and right sound bar channels plus the subwoofer. A slight drop in the subwoofer output level (two notches below default) and a single click down in the treble EQ control made the sound pretty darn good. However, I still thought I heard a little haziness in the midrange, so I gave the Direct EQ mode a try. It afforded just a tad more clarity and seemed to remove that last bit of glaze in the midrange. These changes had things sounding just about perfect to my ears, so I restarted the song from the beginning. With everything tweaked to my liking, I was really surprised at just how much better the SB46514 sounded than the other VIZIO sound bars I’ve reviewed. The natural bass sounded very good; nicely controlled but still with appropriate weight and definition. Midrange quality was a huge step up, with Gardot’s stunning voice having much of the tone and body of my far more expensive full-sized speakers. Most importantly, I didn’t notice the excessive drop in midrange output that made the sound a bit hollow. Treble was also much better, with excellent clarity and detail, and without any harshness or grain. While this is a well-recorded CD, it sounded so much better through the SB46514 than I was expecting. Despite the front channels being only about 36 inches apart, there was a real sense of stereo imaging along with a solid sense of soundstage depth and height.
With the SB46514 proving its worth on jazz, I moved over to some high-resolution classical and put a Blu-ray copy of Trondheim Solistene’s “Divertimenti” (Blu-ray: 2L B0025ZIU82) into my Sony Blu-ray player and selected the PCM 24bit/192kHz output option (there is also a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and a 5.1 Dolby TrueHD mix included as well if you feel like comparing).
Track 2, Benjamin Britten’s “Playful Pizzicato” is one of my favorites on this disc. It is an upbeat little number with lots of strong plucking of the stringed instruments. While this disc is very well recorded and sounds good on pretty much any system, the SB46514 really did it justice. The strings sounded beautiful, with each pizzicato having the appropriate weight and “woodiness.” The overall soundstage was huge, with the surrounds and center channel now contributing to the overall sound field. 2L uses the surrounds for added hall ambiance to great effect on this disc, making the listener feel like they are in the center of the concert hall. The surrounds on the SB46514 are well matched to the front three channels as far as tone is concerned despite using very different drivers. This really helps envelop the listener and avoids any disconnect when sounds move from the front to the surround channels. As with the Melody Gardot disc, bass was tight and forceful. I wound up listening to the majority of this disc as the SB46514 really got me involved in the experience. My wife wandered into the family room at one point and asked if I had switched back to the Paradigm Studio 20v3s that usually serve up the music. When I told her I had not, her response was “that doesn’t sound like a sound bar.” This is about the highest compliment the SB46514 could receive.
To give the SB46514 a real workout, I popped in the new Blu-ray mix of Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” (Blu-ray: Sony Legacy B07GGPT67F). Before I go into how it sounded on the SB46514, I just want to say that if you enjoy classic rock (and Jimi Hendrix in particular) you absolutely NEED to buy the 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition.
While the live CD discs and the Blu-ray’s 2.0 track (possibly from a different master) aren’t particularly great the new 5.1 master is a revelation. Surround sound fits this album particularly well, as you’ll hear right from the start of the intro track “…And the Gods Made Love.” The sound swirls around the speakers and the SB46514 made a very convincing sound field. The tonal similarity between the front channels and the surrounds was a real asset, making for a nearly seamless transition in sound from speaker to speaker. While there are a ton of great sounding songs on this disc, I really enjoyed “Voodoo Chile.” This long track runs the gamut, showing almost orchestral structure as the song transitions between its numerous segments. Dynamics were excellent, with strong bass and great clarity to Jimi’s guitar, particularly during the solo. Vocals sounded great through the front three channels and I found myself upping the volume until I was cresting the 90dB mark. The SB46514 held up well, without any distortion or graininess in the sound. I sat through a few other tracks on this disc, marveling at just how good this sub-$1,000 unit sounded.
With music sources out of the way and anxious to test out the four Atmos speakers, I pulled out the same Blu-ray discs I used for my SB36512 review. I used the exact same demo scenes from each disc to see just how much better the SB46514 really was. It should be noted that if you want to get the true lossless Atmos signal from a Blu-ray or UHD Blu-ray disc you will need to connect your player directly to the HDMI-in port on the SB46514. The HDMI-ARC port on the SB46514 is not of the newer “eARC” type so only lossy Atmos tracks (i.e. Dolby Digital+) are supported. If you are planning on connecting the SB46514 to the HDMI-ARC port on your TV and using the TV to switch between multiple HDMI sources, keep this in mind. The front of the sound bar will also show a little green light for the first few seconds it receives an Atmos track, but that won’t denote whether you are getting a lossy or lossless version of the Atmos track. To do that you need to open the VIZIO SmartCast app and go to: System>System Information>Sound bar Information>Audio Type.
I started off by cueing up the aerial bombardment scene from “The Hunger Games: The Mockingjay Part 1.” This scene sounded much better than it did on the SB36512. The difference in the bass alone was dramatic, with the 10” sub playing each bomb impact with much greater depth and punch. The bass was noticeably tighter and cleaner as well. As I noticed with music, the main speakers rendered the scene with richer overall sound and a greater sense of front dimension. I also noticed the discrete height effects more easily. While I must give some of that credit to the better drivers in the sound bar, I think the two additional rear up-firing Atmos drivers in the surrounds played an equal part. I actually heard some panning of sounds above me now, which I did not notice with the SB36512. The subtler vocals in this scene were easy to make out, though I did bump up the center channel by one notch. I also watched this scene twice, first in the Music EQ mode and the second time in Direct. While both modes sounded excellent, I think I ever-so-slightly preferred the Direct mode, just as I did with music sources. It was just a tad cleaner and more natural sounding to my ears. My advice – try them both and see what you prefer. Just remember that Direct will not simulate height effects for non-Atmos tracks.
I was expecting the Diva scene from “The Fifth Element” to sound pretty good and the SB46514 did not disappoint. While I enjoyed this scene on the SB36512, I really enjoyed it through the SB46514. The higher quality drivers showed their worth here, with the Diva’s amazing voice having so much more detail and tonal richness. The sense of space was great, sounding like I was sitting orchestra center in a great concert hall. After the Diva is shot, the Atmos speakers did a great job of creating the ethereal quality in her voice, with the sound seeming to emanate from all around me. The surround sound bubble here was noticeably larger than what I heard with the SB36512 and I think the rear Atmos speakers really added to this. I kept the volume pretty loud to see how the SB46514 would handle the fight with the Mangalores. It did great, with the bigger sub really taking its place in the spotlight. The explosions had far more impact due to the greater bass extension and punch. I was able to play this scene much louder without bottoming out the subwoofer as I did during my SB36512 review. However, at around 95dB or so, I did start to hear some congestion creeping into the front channels. It wasn’t distorting per se, but the sound gradually became muddier as I raised the volume. The sound never got harsh, but it was clear that I had hit the limits of the relatively small drivers. Considering the size of my family room (21’ x 15’ x 10’ and open to a large kitchen), this was very impressive output for what is still a relatively small speaker package.
I’d already decided that the SB46514 was great for movies, but I put in “Blade Runner 2049” as icing on the cake. The introductory scene sounded awesome. As good as the SB36512 was, the SB46514 was on a completely different level. The overall impact of the powerful score was so much greater, with everything feeling far more enveloping. The bubble of sound around me felt bigger than what I heard during my SB36512 review, with additional reinforcement of the surround field by the extra Atmos drivers. The added depth of the 10” sub was a huge boost on this soundtrack as there is a lot of low bass content throughout the film. As I heard with other music and movie sources, vocal reproduction was also much clearer and more accurate. The more neutral midrange really shined with this disc.
The VIZIO SB46514-F6 delivers incredible performance for just $999.99. It’s well-built, simple to set up and operate, and has a large feature set. What more could you ask for? Considering the massive step up in performance from VIZIO’s other models, I see this as the best value their entire sound bar lineup.
- Good mid-range performance
- Treble is nicely detailed without being bright
- Very good bass performance from the new 10” sub
- Good imaging and sound-staging for a sound bar
- Solid build quality
- More HDMI inputs would be nice
- Sound bar only supports 16-bit/44.1kHz sources for music (except for Blu-ray Audio via HDMI)
- A way to set speaker distances/delay for individual speakers
- DTS-X or Auro3D decoding
- Bluetooth AptX HD support
If you couldn’t tell from my listening notes, I was extremely impressed with the VIZIO SB46514-F6 Sound Bar System. While this is VIZIO’s most expensive sound bar system at $999.99, it really is the only one of their models that I would recommend if you care as much about music performance as you do about movie soundtracks. While VIZIO’s other models offer solid performance with movie sources, they fall a bit flat when it comes to playing back two-channel or surround music. The SB46514-F6, with its much higher quality drivers and improved design, completely changes that. Combined with VIZIO’s typically strong feature set, good build quality, and simple operation, the SB46514-F6 is a product that has no real negatives, particularly given its price point. While the SB46514-F6 is a few hundred dollars more than its fellow VIZIO brethren, the significant increase in overall performance with both music and film sources more than justifies the price hike. As far as I’m concerned, this is not only the best performing VIZIO sound bar system I’ve heard, it is also the best value in their product lineup. If you are looking for one of the best-sounding sound bar systems for under $1,000, I highly recommend you give the SB46514-F6 a listen.