Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Reviewed Feb 23, 2021 at 07:43 am
Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R Picture
6.6
Mixed Usage
7.5
Dialogue/TV Shows
6.7
Music
6.0
Movies
Channels
2.1

The Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R is a 2.1 soundbar with two subwoofers integrated into the bar. Its neutral, though slightly boomy sound profile makes it suitable for listening to lots of different types of audio content, and it even has a few EQ presets to help you customize its sound. Unfortunately, it can't really reproduce low-bass, so you don't feel the deep thumps and rumbles in action-packed movies or bass-heavy music. Also, while it gets loud, there's a lot of compression when you play it at max volume, which is disappointing if you like to crank up the volume at parties.

Our Verdict

6.6 Mixed Usage

The Vizio M Series 2.1 Soundbar is alright for mixed usage. It has a pretty neutral, though slightly boomy sound profile that makes it suitable for listening to a wide range of audio content. Unfortunately, it lacks low-bass, so you don't really feel the deep rumbles in action-packed movie scenes. It also has to downmix surround content into stereo, and it doesn't support Dolby Atmos content. However, there are a few sound enhancement features available, which is nice.

Pros
  • EQ presets.
  • Dialogue enhancement feature.
Cons
  • Downmixes surround content into stereo.
  • Lacks low-bass.
7.5 Dialogue/TV Shows

The Vizio M Series 2.1 Soundbar is good for dialogue and TV shows. Even though it lacks a dedicated center channel, its balanced mid-range can still reproduce vocals clearly and accurately. It even has a dialogue enhancement feature that can make dialogue sound more clear and crisp. Since it's Bluetooth-compatible, you can also wirelessly stream podcasts and audiobooks from your phone to the bar. While it gets pretty loud, unfortunately, there's a lot of compression when you play it at max volume.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • Dialogue enhancement feature.
  • Bluetooth-compatible.
Cons
  • A lot of compression at max volume.
6.7 Music

The Vizio Vizio M Series 2.1 Soundbar is adequate for music. It has a pretty neutral, though slightly boomy sound profile that's suitable for most music genres. However, it struggles to reproduce thumpy low-bass, which can be disappointing if you like to feel the deep rumble in bass-heavy music like EDM. There are a few EQ presets as well as bass and treble adjustment features to help you customize its sound, but it lacks a full graphic EQ. Also, while it gets loud, there's a lot of compression at max volume.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • EQ presets.
Cons
  • A lot of compression at max volume.
  • Lacks low-bass.
6.0 Movies

The Vizio M Series 2.1 Soundbar is mediocre for movies. Its balanced mid-range can reproduce clear and accurate dialogue, but it struggles to reproduce a thumpy low-bass for action-packed scenes. It gets loud, but there's a lot of compression when you play it at max volume. Also, it can play surround content, but it has to downmix it into stereo to play it. It also doesn't support Dolby Atmos content.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • EQ presets.
Cons
  • A lot of compression at max volume.
  • Downmixes surround content into stereo.
  • Lacks low-bass.
  • 6.6 Mixed Usage
  • 7.5 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 6.7 Music
  • 6.0 Movies

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R is a budget-level 2.1 soundbar released in 2020. It's an upgrade over the existing Vizio SB362An-F6, and it comes with an HDMI input and two integrated subwoofers. Also, as part of the company's M-Series line of soundbars, it's advertised to create a premium theater surround sound. Its main competitors are the Vizio V Series V21-H8, the Sonos Beam, and the Sony HT-X8500.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The Vizio M21d-H8R is a sleek soundbar with a unique, trapezoidal shape. It's mostly covered by a tight cloth material, and the sides and the bottom are made of plastic. The buttons are located on the right side of the bar.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

This setup doesn't come with a subwoofer. Instead, it has subwoofers integrated into the bar.

Design
Style - Satellites

This setup doesn't come with any satellite speakers.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Width 36.0" (91.5 cm)
Height 2.2" (5.7 cm)
Depth 5.3" (13.5 cm)

The Vizio M21d-H8R is a bit long, and it may not fit between the legs of a 55" TV. However, it isn't very tall, so it shouldn't block your TV screen unless your TV sits flush on the table.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Width N/A
Height N/A
Depth N/A
Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Width N/A
Height N/A
Depth N/A
Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting
Universal (holes on underside)

On the back of the bar, there's an opening for the power cable and the inputs. There are also universal holes underneath the bar so you can wall-mount it.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Integrated
Design
Back - Satellites
Mounting
No
7.5
Design
Build Quality

The Vizio M21d-H8R has a good build quality. The sides and the bottom are made of plastic, which feels solid. The tight fabric material covering the bar doesn't seem like it could rip easily, though it may collect some dust over time.

Design
In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
1.5 m (4.9 ft)
Digital Optical Cable Length
1.5 m (4.9 ft)

  • Manuals
  • Optical cable
  • HDMI cable
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable
  • Stereo RCA to 3.5mm cable
  • Remote with batteries (2xAAA)
  • 2x Wall-hang parts
  • Power cable
  • Mounting template

Sound
7.3
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
Tested Preset
Music
Slope
-0.44
Std. Err.
2.64 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
53.4 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
19.9 kHz

When set to its 'Music' preset, the Vizio M21d-H8R has a decent stereo frequency response. It has a pretty neutral sound profile suitable for listening to lots of different audio genres, and the extra boom in the bass range can please fans of bass-heavy music like EDM. However, it struggles to reproduce a thumpy low-bass, so you don't really feel the rumble in action-packed movie scenes. There are some EQ presets, as well as bass and treble adjustment features to help you customize its sound more to your liking.

7.3
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response With Preliminary Calibration
Suggested Preset
Music
Suggested Bass Setting
-2
Suggested Treble Setting
2
Slope
0.05
Std. Err.
2.56 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
54.2 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
19.9 kHz

With calibration, the Vizio M21d-H8R has a decent stereo frequency response. It still has a pretty neutral, though slightly boomy sound profile that adds a little extra warmth to your mixes. However, because it lacks a dedicated subwoofer, it still struggles to reproduce the deep thumps and rumbles from the low-bass.

6.5
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
3.37 dB

This soundbar has a fair stereo soundstage performance. While the soundstage is barely as wide as the bar itself, it has decent focus, so objects like voices and instruments generally seem to come from an accurate location instead of a general area.

4.8
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
94.9 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
14.69 dB

The Vizio M21d-H8R has poor stereo dynamics. While it can get pretty loud, there's a lot of compression when you play it at max volume, especially in the treble range. As a result, it may not be suitable for listening to music at parties or in large rooms.

7.9
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.36
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.61

This soundbar has a very good stereo THD performance. At normal listening volumes, the THD falls mostly within good limits, resulting in a mostly clean and pure sound reproduction. At max volume, there's a small jump in distortion, but it may not be audible with real-life content.

6.7
Sound
Center
Localization
Phantom
Slope
-0.72
Std. Err.
3.06 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
92.9 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.37
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.50

The Vizio M21d-H8R has an adequate central channel performance. This 2.1 setup uses its left and right speakers to simulate a sound in the center, which sounds more diffused and less clear than a dedicated center speaker. That said, it still reproduces a balanced mid-range, so dialogue in TV shows is still fairly clear and accurate.

4.4
Sound
Surround 5.1
Localization
Stereo (Downmix)
Slope
-0.66
Std. Err.
2.86 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
94.6 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.32
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.55
7.1 Rears
No

This soundbar has poor surrounds performance. It's a 2.1 setup, so it has to downmix surround content into stereo to play it. However, this doesn't produce the most accurate or clear representation of surround objects, and sound seems like it's coming from in front of you rather than from speakers placed all around you.

0
Sound
Height (Atmos)
Localization
Not Supported
Slope
N/A
Std. Err.
N/A
SPL @ Max Volume
N/A
Weighted THD @ 80dB
N/A
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
N/A

This soundbar doesn't support Dolby Atmos content.

4.6
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue Enhancement
Yes
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Yes
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
No
Bass Adjustment
Yes
Treble Adjustment
Yes
EQ
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
No
Rear Level Adjustment
No
Height Level Adjustment
No
Virtual Surround
Yes

The Vizio M21d-H8R has a poor selection of sound enhancement features. It comes with four EQ presets: 'Movie', 'Music', 'Dialogue', and 'Game'. There's also a TruVolume feature that provides a consistent volume level across different programs, such as commercials and TV shows. However, it lacks a full graphic EQ, and it doesn't have a room correction feature, so it may sound a bit different depending on the room you use it in.

Connectivity
Connectivity
Physical Inputs - Bar
Optical Audio In
1
HDMI ARC
1 (shared)
HDMI Out
1 (shared)
Full HDMI In
1
Analog Audio In 3.5mm (Aux)
1
RCA In
No
USB for Files
1
Ethernet
No

The Vizio M21d-H8R has several inputs. There's a 3.5mm AUX port, which lets you wire older devices to the bar to listen to audio. There's also a Full HDMI In port, which lets you use the bar as a hub between different devices.

7.1
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
No
Dolby Atmos
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
No
DTS
Yes
DTS:X (eARC only)
No
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
No
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
No
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
No

The Vizio M Series 2.1 soundbar supports some of the most common formats for streaming platforms and Blu-ray discs, including Dolby Digital and DTS. However, it doesn't support higher-end formats like Dolby Atmos.

6.4
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
No
DTS:X
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
No
DTS
No
Dolby TrueHD
No
DTS-HD MA
No
5.1 PCM
No

This soundbar supports Dolby Digital content over its Full HDMI In port, but it lacks support for other higher-end formats like Dolby Atmos.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Optical
Dolby Digital
Yes
DTS
Yes

The Vizio M21d-H8R supports both Dolby Digital and DTS content via its Optical Audio In. These formats are typically found on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms.

5.0
Connectivity
Latency
ARC
195 ms
Optical
179 ms
Full HDMI In
49 ms

The Vizio M Series 2.1 soundbar has a disappointing latency performance. Its latency via Full HDMI In is low enough to be suitable for watching videos, but there's a significant delay between the picture and the audio via ARC and Optical In. However, some apps and some TVs compensate for latency differently, so your real-world experience may vary.

6.0
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
No
Chromecast built-in
No
Apple AirPlay
No

The Vizio M21d-H8R only supports Bluetooth connectivity, so you can stream audio from your phone to the bar wirelessly. However, you can't connect your devices to the bar using Wi-Fi, Chromecast, or Apple AirPlay.

Connectivity
Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
No
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
No
HDR10 Passthrough
No

The Vizio M21d-H8R can pass a 4k signal between your device and the soundbar.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
No
Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
No
Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
No

In the middle of the bar, there are lights that flash depending on your settings. There's also audio feedback when you select one of the four EQ presets and when you change the input.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

On the right side of the bar, there are buttons that let you power the bar on/off, change the input, activate Bluetooth pairing, and adjust the volume.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The remote is quite simple, and it lets you control all of the bar's settings. Like the Vizio V Series V51-H6, it also has a display screen.

Additional Features
Voice Assistants Support
Amazon Alexa
No
Google Assistant
No
Apple Siri
No
Additional Features
App
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
Acts As A Remote
No
Controls Soundbar's Settings
No
Casts Device Files
No
Additional Features
Other Features
Power Saving
Auto-off
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
Yes

This soundbar has an eco-power mode that powers down the bar after a period of inactivity. It also supports HDMI CEC, so you can use your TV remote to control the bar's basic functions.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Vizio M21d-H8R comes in Black, and you can see the label for the model we tested here. You can also purchase another variant called the Vizio M21d-H8, which comes with a remote control but it lacks backlighting and a display screen.

If you come across another version of this soundbar, let us know in the discussions so we can update our review.

Compared To Other Soundbars

The Vizio M Series 2.1 soundbar comes with two subwoofers integrated into the bar. It's an upgrade over the Vizio SB362An-F6, and it comes with a Full HDMI In port that supports 4k passthrough. It has a pretty neutral, though slightly boomy sound profile out-of-the-box, but it struggles to reproduce a thumpy low-bass. While it gets loud, there's a lot of compression present at max volume, so it may not be ideal to use at a crowded party. See also our recommendations for the best soundbars under $200, the best Vizio soundbars, and the best soundbars for dialogue.

Vizio V Series V21-H8

The Vizio V Series V21-H8 is a better soundbar than the Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R. The V Series has a more neutral sound profile and a better soundstage performance. Also, it gets louder with much less compression at max volume. However, the M-Series is better-built, and it has a Full HDMI In port that supports 4k passthrough.

Vizio V Series V51-H6

The Vizio V Series V51-H6 is a better soundbar than the Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R. The V Series is a 5.1 setup that comes with a dedicated subwoofer and two surround speakers, and it has better center and surround channel performances. It also has a more neutral sound profile, and it gets louder with less compression at max volume. That said, the 2.1 M-Series is better-built, and it comes with a Full HDMI In port that supports 4k passthrough.

Sonos Beam

The Sonos Beam is a better soundbar than the Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R. The Sonos is better-built, and it has a more balanced sound profile. It also has a better soundstage performance, and it gets louder with less compression when you play it at max volume. However, the Vizio comes with some EQ presets, unlike the Sonos, and it has a Full HDMI In port that supports 4k passthrough.

Vizio SB36512-F6

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a better soundbar than the Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R. The 5.1.2 SB36512-F6 has a more neutral sound profile and a better soundstage performance. Also, thanks to its dedicated center channel and dedicated surround speakers, it offers better center and surround channel performances. It supports Atmos, too. However, the 2.1 M-Series comes with a dialogue enhancement feature, which is handy.

Sony HT-X8500

The Sony HT-X8500 and the Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R are very similarly-performing 2.1 soundbars, so depending on your listening habits, you may prefer one over the other. The Vizio is better-built, and it has a more neutral sound profile out-of-the-box. However, the Sony has a lot less compression when you play it at max volume, and it can also support Dolby Atmos content, though it has to downmix it to play it.

TCL Alto 8i

The Vizio M-Series M21d-H8R is a better soundbar than the TCL Alto 8i. The Vizio is better-built, and it has a more neutral, balanced sound profile as well as a dialogue enhancement feature. However, the TCL has a lot less compression when you play it at max volume, and it also supports Dolby Atmos content.

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