Vizio M Series M512a-H6 Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Reviewed Aug 04, 2021 at 09:21 am
Vizio M Series M512a-H6 Picture
8.2
Mixed Usage
8.4
Dialogue/TV Shows
8.1
Music
8.1
Movies
Channels
5.1.2

Note: The manufacturer contacted us since they suspected that some of our results were unique to our test unit and may not have been representative. We've bought and tested another unit in compliance with our out-of-spec policy and can confirm that it was the case. We've tested the new unit and have updated the review accordingly.

The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is a 5.1.2 setup released in 2021. This soundbar offers a pretty neutral sound profile, making it suitable for listening to many different types of audio content. It also comes with two discrete surround speakers, and it has two up-firing speakers built into the bar for watching Atmos content. There are some sound customization features available; unfortunately, it lacks more premium options like room correction.

Our Verdict

8.2 Mixed Usage

The Vizio M512a-H6 is great for mixed usage. On its 'Direct' preset, this soundbar has a pretty neutral sound profile suitable for many different types of audio content. Its dedicated sub can accurately reproduce the deep rumbling bass in bass-heavy music and action-packed movies. There are discrete surround speakers to enhance your listening experience, and it supports Dolby Atmos content. It also offers an excellent center channel performance, so voices and dialogue are clearly reproduced and are accurately localized within the sound image.

Pros
  • Bass and treble adjustments.
  • Gets loud.
  • Excellent center channel performance.
  • Good surrounds performance.
Cons
  • No graphic EQ.
8.4 Dialogue/TV Shows

The Vizio M512a-H6 is great for dialogue-centric content like TV shows. Its balanced mid-range can reproduce voices clearly and with detail, and its discrete center channel helps localize dialogue to an accurate location in the sound image. There's even a dialogue enhancement feature to make voices more crisp and an auto-volume mode to balance the volume across different programs. Also, it has an excellent center channel performance that ensures voices and dialogue are accurately localized within the sound image.

Pros
  • Excellent center channel performance.
  • Dialogue enhancement feature.
  • Bluetooth-enabled.
Cons
  • No graphic EQ.
8.1 Music

The Vizio M512a-H6 is very good for music. On its 'Direct' preset, it has a pretty neutral sound profile suitable for listening to many different genres. Thanks to its dedicated subwoofer, it can accurately reproduce the extended low-bass found in bass-heavy music like EDM and hip-hop. There are also some EQ presets and bass and treble adjustments so you can customize its sound. While it also gets loud, it lacks premium sound enhancement features like a full graphic EQ.

Pros
  • Bass and treble adjustments.
  • Gets loud.
Cons
  • No graphic EQ.
8.1 Movies

The Vizio M512a-H6 is very good for movies. It has a neutral sound profile that can accurately reproduce dialogue and the deep, thumpy bass in action-packed scenes. It also comes with discrete surround speakers, so surround objects are clearly and accurately localized within the sound image. It even has two up-firing speakers that support Dolby Atmos content. However, it has fairly high latency via its ARC, Full HDMI In, and Optical In ports, which might disappoint some users.

Pros
  • Gets loud.
  • Good surrounds performance.
Cons
  • Fairly high latency.
  • 8.2 Mixed Usage
  • 8.4 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 8.1 Music
  • 8.1 Movies
  1. Updated Sep 17, 2021: Updated sound and latency test results and texts after testing a new unit.
  2. Updated Aug 04, 2021: Review published.
  3. Updated Jul 30, 2021: Early access published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The Vizio M512a-H6 is a high-end model released in 2021. It supports Dolby Atmos content, and it offers a better soundstage performance than the Vizio M Series M51a-H6. Its main competitors include the Samsung HW-Q850A, the Vizio V Series V51x-J6, and the Sonos Arc.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The Vizio M512a-H6 has a simple design. It's mostly made of plastic that's draped with fabric. In the middle of the bar, there's a metal grille protecting the two up-firing speakers.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The sub is mostly made of melamine, and the top is made of plastic. It sits on four plastic pegs with rubber grips.

Design
Style - Satellites

The satellites are mostly made of plastic. There's fabric covering the front and the sides. They need to be wired to the sub to work.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Width 40.0" (101.7 cm)
Height 2.7" (6.9 cm)
Depth 4.1" (10.4 cm)

The Vizio M512a-H6 likely won't fit between the legs of a 55" TV stand. That said, 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 8.3" (21.2 cm)
Height 9.9" (25.2 cm)
Depth 11.7" (29.7 cm)

The sub is the same size as the sub for the Vizio M Series M51a-H6. It's a bit shorter than the average desktop PC.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Width 5.7" (14.6 cm)
Height 2.3" (5.8 cm)
Depth 3.5" (9.0 cm)

The satellites are fairly small. They need to be wired to the sub to get them to work, but they don't require a power cable, which is handy.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting
Universal (holes on underside)

The back of the bar has two openings for the inputs and the power cable. There are also universal holes on the underside of the bar so you can mount it to your wall. The wall-mounting brackets and screws are included with the bar, which is nice.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

The back of the sub has a port. There's also an input for the power cable and two jacks to connect the satellites.

Design
Back - Satellites
Mounting
Proprietary

The satellites have a fairly plain back. There's an input for the cable that connects them to the subwoofer. Also, there are proprietary mounting holes so you can mount them to your wall.

7.5
Design
Build Quality

The Vizio M512a-H6 has a good build quality. The bar is mostly made of plastic, which feels solid and durable, and there's a metal grille on the top middle of the bar to help protect the up-firing speakers. The sides of the bar are draped with a tight fabric, though this could collect dust easily. The sub is mostly made of melamine with a plastic top. The satellites are also mostly made of plastic, with fabric covering the front and the sides.

Design
In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
1.9 m (6.2 ft)
Digital Optical Cable Length
1.5 m (4.9 ft)

  • Manuals
  • Wall mounting template
  • 4x wall mount brackets
  • 4x wall mount screws
  • 4x cable ties
  • Remote with batteries (2xAAA)
  • Optical cable
  • HDMI cable
  • 2x audio cables for surround speakers
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm audio cable
  • Stereo RCA to 3.5mm audio cable
  • 2x power cables

Sound
8.3
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
Tested Preset
Direct
Slope
0.09
Std. Err.
3.14 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
28.3 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
19.9 kHz

Update 09/17/2021: The manufacturer contacted us since they suspected that some of our results were unique to our test unit. In compliance with our out-of-spec policy, we purchased and retested another unit and can confirm that that was the case. We've updated the results for all of our sound tests accordingly.

The Vizio M Series 5.1.2 has a great stereo frequency response. On its default 'Direct' preset, it has a pretty neutral sound profile suitable for listening to most types of audio content. Its dedicated subwoofer helps reproduce an extended low-bass, meaning that you feel the deep thump and rumble in bass-heavy music and action-packed movies. There are EQ presets and bass and treble adjustments so you can customize its sound more to your liking.

8.3
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response With Preliminary Calibration
Suggested Preset
Direct
Suggested Bass Setting
0
Suggested Treble Setting
0
Slope
0.09
Std. Err.
3.14 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
28.3 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
19.9 kHz

The Vizio M Series 5.1.2 comes with bass and treble adjustments so you can customize its sound profile. However, if you prefer a more neutral sound profile, its default settings already have a slope within the ideal range.

8.0
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
1.99 dB

The Vizio M Series 5.1.2 Soundbar has an impressive stereo soundstage performance. Its soundstage is perceived to be a bit wider than the bar itself, and its focus is very good. It's easy to pinpoint sound objects like voices and footsteps to an accurate location in the sound image.

8.2
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
SPL @ Max Volume
96.7 dB SPL
DRC @ Max Volume
1.54 dB

The Vizio M Series 5.1.2 has an impressive stereo dynamics performance. The bar gets pretty loud, and there isn't a lot of compression when you push it to max volume. As a result, it's suitable for listeners who like to crank up the volume to fill up large spaces and crowded parties, since your audio remains clean at loud volumes.

7.8
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.38
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.21

The Vizio M Series 5.1.2 Soundbar has a good stereo THD performance. At normal listening volumes, the amount of THD falls within good limits, resulting in clean and pure audio reproduction. There's a small jump in THD when the bar is pushed to max volume; however, this can be hard to hear with real-life content.

8.6
Sound
Center
Localization
Discrete
Slope
0.23
Std. Err.
2.34 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
93.2 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.37
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.47

Update 09/17/2021: We've updated our test results and the text after testing a new unit.

The Vizio M Series Soundbar has an excellent center channel performance. It comes with a discrete center channel which helps to more accurately localize voices within the sound image. It also has a neutral frequency response that's quite balanced in the mid-range, so vocal-heavy content like dialogue is reproduced clearly and accurately.

7.4
Sound
Surround 5.1
Localization
Discrete
Slope
-1.14
Std. Err.
4.30 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
91.7 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
0.31
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.32
7.1 Rears
No

The Vizio M Series 5.1.2 Soundbar has a good surrounds performance. It comes with discrete surround speakers, so surround objects like voices are clearly and accurately represented in the soundstage. Audio seems to be coming from all around you, rather than just from speakers placed in front of you. Its frequency response is also slightly bass-heavy, so your audio content packs a little extra thump and punch.

5.8
Sound
Height (Atmos)
Localization
Phantom (Up Firing, Bar)
Slope
1.15
Std. Err.
4.56 dB
SPL @ Max Volume
83.8 dB SPL
Weighted THD @ 80dB
1.44
Weighted THD @ Max Volume
0.33

Update 09/17/2021: We've updated our test results, as well as the text after testing a new unit.

The Vizio M Series Soundbar has a middling Atmos performance. It comes with two up-firing speakers that bounce sound off the ceiling and back down towards you to create the illusion of height. However, the localization of objects is diffused, especially compared to the discrete localization found with down-firing speakers in home theater setups. That said, the new unit we tested offered a slightly more immersive height performance when its height level was increased, though this isn't part of our testing process.

7.4
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue Enhancement
Yes
Auto-Volume/Night Mode
Yes
Subwoofer Level Adjustment
Yes
Bass Adjustment
Yes
Treble Adjustment
Yes
EQ
Presets
Surround Level Adjustment
Yes
Rear Level Adjustment
No
Height Level Adjustment
Yes
Virtual Surround
Yes

The Vizio M Series Soundbar has a decent selection of sound enhancement features. You can customize its sound using its EQ presets: 'Direct', 'Movie', 'Music', and 'Game'. There's a dialogue enhancement feature to make voices more clear and crisp, and a night mode feature that helps balance the volume level across different programs. Unfortunately, it lacks more premium sound enhancement features like room correction, so it may sound different depending on the room you're listening 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 M512a-H6 comes with several physical inputs. There's a Full HDMI In port, meaning you can use it as a hub between different devices. However, even though the bar comes with a 3.5mm to RCA cable, there isn't an RCA In port, which can be disappointing if you want to use that connection to link your bar to your TV.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
Yes
Dolby Atmos
Yes
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
Yes
DTS:X (eARC only)
Yes
Dolby TrueHD (eARC only)
Yes
DTS-HD MA (eARC only)
Yes
5.1 PCM (eARC only)
Yes

The Vizio M Series Sound Bar has incredible audio format support via ARC. It supports all of the formats we test for, including Dolby Digital, which is the most common surround sound format. It also supports lossless and object-based formats like DTS:X and Dolby Atmos.

10
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Yes
DTS:X
Yes
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
Yes
Dolby TrueHD
Yes
DTS-HD MA
Yes
5.1 PCM
Yes

The Vizio M512a-H6 also has fantastic audio format support via Full HDMI In. It supports Dolby Digital and DTS, which are commonly found on Blu-ray discs and streaming platforms. Also, it supports more premium object-based formats like DTS:X.

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

The Vizio M512a-H6 supports both Dolby Digital and DTS via Optical, handy for listeners who watch lots of Blu-ray discs and content from streaming platforms.

6.9
Connectivity
Latency
ARC
80 ms
Optical
97 ms
Full HDMI In
106 ms

Update 09/17/2021: We've updated our test results after testing a new unit.

The Vizio M512a-H6 has a fair latency performance. It has high latency, so the audio you hear may not sync with the video you see. As a result, it may not be suitable for watching videos and movies over these inputs. That said, some apps and 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 M Series Sound Bar lets you wirelessly stream audio from your mobile devices to the bar via Bluetooth. However, Apple and Google users may be disappointed that it doesn't support Apple AirPlay or Chromecast built-in.

Connectivity
Other Input Specifications
4k @ 60 Hz Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 10 bit Passthrough
Yes
4k @ 60 Hz @ 4:4:4 Passthrough
Yes
HDR10 Passthrough
Yes

The Vizio M Series Sound Bar can passthrough the highest bandwidth signals. When connected between your PC and your TV, text on the screen appears clear and crisp.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

The sub connects to the bar wirelessly. You only need to plug it into a power outlet to get it to work.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Satellites
Sat Wireless
Partial, wired to wireless sub

The satellites connect to the subwoofer using the included cables. They connect to the bar wirelessly, so you don't need to wire them to a power outlet, which is nice.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
No

This soundbar doesn't have an interface. Instead, there are a series of vertical lights on the left side of the bar that flash different patterns depending on the settings you control. There's also some voice audio feedback when you change between one of the preset modes or change the input.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

On top of the bar, there are physical controls 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 fairly simple and lets you control all of the bar's functions. It even comes with a display screen.

Additional Features
Voice Assistants Support
Amazon Alexa
No
Google Assistant
No
Apple Siri
No

The Vizio M Series Sound Bar has an AUX VA In port that lets you connect voice assistant-enabled devices like an Amazon Echo to the bar. However, this isn't considered built-in support, since it requires that you purchase a third-party device.

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

The Vizio M Series Sound Bar has an auto-off function that shuts off the bar after a period of inactivity. You can turn this feature on and off by pressing and holding the power and volume down buttons for five seconds.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Vizio M512a-H6 comes in Black, and you can see the label for the model we tested here.

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

Compared To Other Soundbars

The Vizio M512a-H6 is a 5.1.2 soundbar released in 2021. Unlike the Vizio M Series M51a-H6, it comes with two up-firing speakers to help create the illusion of height when watching Atmos content. Unfortunately, it lacks premium sound enhancement features like a full graphic EQ to customize its sound to your liking.

See our recommendations for the best 5.1 soundbars, the best Vizio soundbars, and the best Dolby Atmos soundbars.

Vizio M Series M51a-H6

The Vizio M Series M51a-H6 and the Vizio M Series M512a-H6 are similar. The M51a-H6 has lower latency via its ARC, Optical, and Full HDMI In ports, though some apps and TVs compensate for latency differently, and your experience may vary. That said, the M512a-H6 is better built, with a better soundstage performance. It also comes with two up-firing speakers.

Sonos Arc

The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is a better soundbar for mixed usage than the standalone Sonos Arc. The Vizio has a better surround performance, and unlike the Sonos, it has a Full HDMI In port and EQ presets. It also reproduces a more extended low-bass thanks to its dedicated sub. The Sonos is better built and comes with a room correction feature and built-in voice assistant support. You can also upgrade it as the Sonos Arc with Sub + One SL Speakers for better performance.

Vizio M Series M51ax-J6

The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is slightly better than the Vizio M Series M51ax-J6 overall. The M512a-H6 is better for music. It has a better soundstage, and it's also better built. It even comes with two up-firing speakers. While the M51ax-J6 can get slightly louder, the M512a-H6 has slightly less compression present at max volume, resulting in cleaner audio at louder volume levels.

Vizio V Series V51-H6

The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is better than the Vizio V Series V51-H6. The M Series is better-built, with better soundstage and surround performances. Unlike the V Series, it supports Atmos content and comes with a Full HDMI In port. That said, the V Series has lower latency via its ARC and Optical ports, making it suitable for watching videos and movies over these inputs. However, some apps and TVs compensate for latency differently, so your experience may vary.

Vizio Elevate

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the Vizio Elevate or the Vizio M Series M512a-H6. The Elevate is better built and has a better Atmos performance. It supports more wireless playback options. That said, the M Series has a better surround performance. It also has less compression at max volume, so your audio sounds cleaner during louder listening sessions.

Vizio SB36512-F6

The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is slightly better than the Vizio SB36512-F6. The M Series is better-built, with better soundstage and surround performances. It also comes with more sound enhancement features like dialogue enhancement. That said, the SB36512-F6 supports more wireless playback options.

Samsung HW-Q850A

Depending on your listening habits, you may prefer either the Vizio M Series M512a-H6 or the Samsung HW-Q850A. The Vizio is better built, with a more neutral sound profile out-of-the-box. It also has a better stereo soundstage and a better center channel performance. However, the Samsung has better surround and Atmos performances. It comes with a graphic EQ and built-in voice assistant support. It also supports more wireless playback options.

Samsung HW-Q600A

The Vizio M Series M512a-H6 is better than the Samsung HW-Q600A. The Vizio comes with discrete satellites and offers a better surround performance. It also reproduces a more extended low-bass, and it has a better soundstage. The Samsung is better built, with a lower latency via its ARC and Full HDMI In ports. However, some apps and TVs compensate for latency differently, so your experience may vary.

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