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Vizio SB36512-F6 Soundbar Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Updated Oct 07, 2019 at 10:22 am
Vizio SB36512-F6 Picture
Test Methodology v0.8
7.7
Mixed Usage
7.7
Dialogue/TV Shows
7.8
Music
7.7
Movies
Channels
5.1.2

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a good 5.1.2 soundbar setup. It offers an immersive listening experience thanks to up-firing speakers and Atmos support. Its sound quality is quite good, with a neutral sound profile but with a bit of extra bass. The bar can get loud enough for all types of content, but the height speakers aren’t as loud as the other speakers, meaning it can be hard to hear the height sound effects. On the upside, this soundbar has lots of connectivity options, but the surround speakers need to be wired to the wireless sub.

Our Verdict

7.7 Mixed Usage

Good for mixed usage. The overall performance of the Vizio SB36512-F6 is quite good and will be suitable for all types of content. Its accurate and neutral sound profile will be great for voice-oriented content like TV shows and podcasts, and will also be suitable for most music genres, with a bit of extra bass. For movies, this bar supports Atmos and provides an immersive listening experience thanks to dedicated surround speakers.

See our Mixed Usage recommendations
7.7 Dialogue/TV Shows

Good for dialog. The Vizio SB36512-F6 has a clear reproduction of voices and a neutral sound profile. It'll be good to listen to the news, podcasts or audiobooks with this setup. Unfortunately, it lacks a dialog enhancement feature that would make voices even clearer, but might not need it due to its great overall performance.

See our Dialogue/TV Shows recommendations
7.8 Music

Good for music. This soundbar system has a great stereo frequency response and is versatile for a wide variety of music. It also has a bit of extra bass, which bass fans will appreciate. It can also get pretty loud and will be suitable for parties or casual listening sessions. You can also listen to your music via your favorite streaming app thanks to the bar’s Bluetooth compatibility.

See our Music recommendations
7.7 Movies

Very good for movies. The Vizio SB36512-F6 has a great stereo frequency response but also supports higher-end audio signals. Thanks to its configuration, this 5.1.2 soundbar setup offers an immersive experience thanks to the dedicated surround speaker and Atmos compatibility.

  • 7.7 Mixed Usage
  • 7.7 Dialogue/TV Shows
  • 7.8 Music
  • 7.7 Movies
Pros
  • Great stereo performance.
  • Decent soundstage.
  • Atmos support.
  • Amazing connectivity options.
Cons
  • No Dialog Enhancement feature.
  • Surround speakers need to be wired to the wireless sub.
  • Slow, buggy, and laggy app.
  1. Update 10/16/2019: We've updated the Wireless Playback information to better reflect what you can use to cast content wirelessly.

Check Price

SB36512-F6
SEE PRICE
B&H

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Market Context
Market Context
Market Context

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a high-end 2018 model from Vizio. This 36-inch long soundbar supports Atmos and is advertised as a premium home theater option from Vizio. However, there's also a 5.1.4 46-inch model with up-firing surround speakers, which the SB36512-F6 doesn’t have. There’s also a newer 2019 G6 model now out, which we plan on reviewing. The main competitors of the SB36512-F6 are the Vizio SB46514-F6, the newer 2019 Vizio SB36512-G6, the LG SK9Y, and the Sony HT-Z9F.

Design
Design
Style - Bar

The bar of this setup is covered by fabric at the front and the top, which unfortunately can easily get dirty or damaged. The back and the underside are made of plastic and the two sides are covered by silver-colored plastic with the Vizio logo in the center.

Design
Style - Subwoofer

The sub has a very similar style to the bar. It also has its front and top faces covered by fabric. The port is found on the back and is made of plastic. The two sides have large silver-colored plates with the Vizio logo in the center.

Design
Style - Satellites

The satellites follow the same style. Fabric at the front and top, plastic at the back, and two silver-colored plates at the sides with the Vizio logo.

Design
Dimensions - Bar
Bar Width 36.0" (91.5 cm)
Bar Height 2.6" (6.6 cm)
Bar Depth 3.4" (8.7 cm)

The bar isn't too wide, but might not fit between the legs of a 55" TV, depending on its stand. It's also not too tall, so it's unlikely that it'll block the bottom part of your screen unless your TV sits flush on the table, like the Sony A9F.

Design
Dimensions - Subwoofer
Sub Width 7.0" (17.9 cm)
Sub Height 11.5" (29.2 cm)
Sub Depth 11.4" (29.0 cm)

The subwoofer is about the size of an average desktop PC and won't take up too much space.

Design
Dimensions - Satellites
Sat Width 2.6" (6.6 cm)
Sat Height 5.7" (14.5 cm)
Sat Depth 2.9" (7.3 cm)

The satellites aren't too big. Unfortunately, they don’t pair wirelessly and have to connect to the sub by a cable to get their signal. This places some limitations as to where you can place the sub, as the satellites are surround speakers and have to be placed on the side, slightly behind your couch for an optimal sound experience.

Design
Back - Bar
Bar Mounting Type
Universal (holes on back)

The back of the bar is plastic and has two openings where the input ports are. If you wall-mount it, it won't sit flush on the wall due to its design.

Design
Back - Subwoofer
Enclosure
Ported

The back of the sub has the port in the middle. The power cable connects at the bottom, so you can easily hide it. At the back, you'll also find the jacks for the two satellites and two buttons: one for power and one for pairing with the bar.

Design
Back - Satellites
Sat Mounting Type
Universal (holes on back)

The satellites have a plain back. They only have one connection for the signal cable that connects to the sub and a hole for wall-mounting them.

7.0
Design
Build Quality

The Vizio SB36512-F6 has decent build quality. All components of the setup have a very similar style, with a fabric covering the top and front faces and two silver-colored plates on the sides. Unfortunately, the fabric can easily collect dust and get ripped. The back and the sides are made of good quality plastic but don't feel premium.

Design
In The Box
HDMI Cable Length
6.0 ft (1.8 m)
Digital Optical Cable Length
5.0 ft (1.5 m)

  • Manual
  • HDMI Cable
  • Remote & Batteries
  • Power Cables (x2)
  • Satellite Speaker Audio Cables (x2)
  • Stereo RCA to 3.5mm Audio Cable
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm Audio Cable
  • Digital Optical Cable
  • Wall-mounting brackets
  • Wall-mounting screws

Sound
8.0
Sound
Stereo Frequency Response
ST Slope
-0.53
ST Std. Err.
2.69 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
34.6 Hz
High-Frequency Extension
17.2 kHz

The stereo frequency response of the Vizio SB36512-F6 is great. The low-frequency extension is quite low, which is good. This system will be able to reproduce the deep rumble, thump, and punch of bass. However, there was audible sub-bass port noise in our testing. The rest of the response is quite accurate and flat, resulting in a neutral sound profile with a bit of extra bass.

Sound
Stereo Raw Frequency Response
7.0
Sound
Stereo Soundstage
Crosstalk Error
2.21 dB

When listening to the Vizio SB36512-F6, the soundstage is decent. It seems the sound comes from the edges of the bar, just about the same width as the Samsung HW-Q60R. The bar doesn’t do any tricks to widen the soundstage even further and sounds quite focused, which is good. Objects in the soundstage come from an accurate pinpoint location rather than a general area.

8.4
Sound
Stereo Dynamics
ST SPL @ Max Volume
94.4 dB SPL
ST DRC @ Max Volume
0.72 dB

The Vizio SB36512-F6 can get pretty loud and will be suited for large rooms and crowded environments. There's no audible dynamic range compression in our testing, but we did notice some with real-life content.

7.5
Sound
Stereo Total Harmonic Distortion
ST Weighted THD @ 80
0.49
ST Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.51

The THD performance of the Vizio soundbar is good. At a normal listening volume, the amount of THD is within very good limits and the bar will reproduce pure and clean sound. However, when pushing the bar at its maximum volume, there's a noticeable jump in THD, especially in the bass range.

9.0
Sound
Center
C Localization
Discrete
C Slope
-0.13
C Std. Err.
2.21 dB
C SPL @ Max Volume
90.9 dB SPL
C Weighted THD @ 80
0.41
C Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.75

This Vizio is a 5.1.2 system setup that has excellent performance in the center channel. Due to its configuration, the Vizio SB36512-F6 has a dedicated center speaker, which results in a clearer and more accurate audio reproduction of the dialog in movies. The frequency response is great across the whole range and you’ll be able to get a decent loudness level.

6.0
Sound
Surrounds
Sr Localization
Discrete
Rears
No
Sr Slope
-1.98
Sr Std. Err.
5.48 dB
Sr SPL @ Max Volume
90.2 dB SPL
Sr Weighted THD @ 80
0.47
Sr Weighted THD @ Max Volume
2.26

The Vizio SB36512-F6 has dedicated side surround speakers, but has fairly mediocre performance. The sound profile is very bass-heavy and dark. On the upside, thanks to their localization, surround objects seem to be coming around you rather than in front, like a typical stereo system, which is good. For an even more immersive experience, check out the Vizio SB46514-F6 or the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch with its four dedicated surround sound satellite speakers.

6.9
Sound
Height (Atmos)
H Localization
Phantom (Up Firing, Bar)
H Slope
-0.04
H Std. Err.
4.46 dB
H SPL @ Max Volume
90.2 dB SPL
H Weighted THD @ 80
1.91
H Weighted THD @ Max Volume
1.02

The Atmos performance of this Vizio soundbar is decent. The bar has two up-firing speakers that ricochet the sounds off the ceiling, which creates the illusion of height. However, the localization of objects is diffused. It doesn't sound as real as a discrete localization provided by down-firing speakers. The Atmos sound is also much quieter than the other sounds coming from the other speakers, so it might be a bit hard to hear the height sound effects. On the upside, there's a height level adjustment setting inside the app, so you might need to set it to your preference.

5.4
Sound
Sound Enhancement Features
Room Correction
No
Dialogue Enhancement
No
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
No
Virtual Surround
Yes

Update 01/21/2020: We had incorrectly listed this soundbar to have Height Level Adjustment. You can only turn it on, off or use the virtual setting. The review has been updated.

The Vizio SB36512-F6 has sub-par sound enhancements. It doesn’t have a room correction feature, meaning it might sound differently depending on your room. It also lacks a dialog enhancement for making voices clearer. On the upside, it has both an auto-volume and a night-mode. You can also customize the sound profile a bit thanks to the EQ presets and the individual bass and treble adjustments. You can either turn the height speakers on/off, or use the Virtual setting, which creates a virtual height speaker effect using the front-firing speakers according to the manufacturer.

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
USB for Files
1
Ethernet
1

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is very versatile, as it has a pretty complete set of physical inputs. You should be able to connect any device using one of the available inputs.

8.4
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - ARC
eARC
No
Dolby Atmos
Yes
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
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 SB36512-F6 has great sound format support over ARC. It supports the common Dolby Digital and DTS surround sound formats found on streaming platforms and Blu-ray discs. It also offers a more immersive sound experience thanks to the support of Dolby Atmos, an object-based surround sound format. Unfortunately, there's no support for uncompressed sound formats like 5.1 PCM, over this port.

9.9
Connectivity
Audio Format Support - Full HDMI In
Dolby Atmos
Yes
DTS:X
No
Dolby Digital
Yes
Dolby Digital Plus
Yes
DTS
Yes
Dolby TrueHD
Yes
DTS-HD MA
Yes
5.1 PCM
Yes

Excellent sound format support through the Full HDMI In. You'll be able to playback the most advanced sound formats. You can playback surround sound and object-based formats like Dolby Atmos, or even lossless formats like PCM 5.1. These sound formats are common in Blu-rays and streaming platforms like Netflix.

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

The Optical Audio has excellent support for surround sound. Dolby Digital and DTS formats are usually found on streaming platforms like Netflix or Blu-ray discs. DTS is usually found as the fallback of the DTS-HD MA which is common on most recent Blu-rays.

9.0
Connectivity
Wireless Playback
Bluetooth
Yes
Wi-Fi
Yes
Chromecast built-in
Yes
Apple AirPlay
No

Update 10/16/2019: A user pointed out that this bar does support Wi-Fi and Chromecast built-in. The review and text have been updated.

The wireless playback on this bar is excellent. You can enjoy your music by connecting a phone or a tablet wirelessly using Bluetooth, use Wi-Fi and cast content using the 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 SB36512-F6 can passthrough the highest bandwidth signals. This means that when connected between your PC and the TV, text will look clear on your TV.

Connectivity
Connectivity - Subwoofer
Sub Wireless
Yes

The subwoofer connects wirelessly to the bar, but there's a wired connection to each of the two surround satellites and also the power cable.

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

The satellites connect to the sub using two very long cables. The sub connects to the bar wirelessly.

Additional Features
Additional Features
Interface
Display
No

The interface consists of a set of lights in the front face that flash according to your settings. Unfortunately, they aren't easy to tell apart and you'll have a hard time distinguishing which one is which.

Additional Features
Bar Controls

The Vizio SB36512-F6 has a set of physical buttons on the top face under the fabric. They serve basic functions like power on/off, input selection, volume control, and Bluetooth pairing.

Additional Features
Remote
Universal Remote
No

The remote is fairly simple and allows you to control playback and basic functions of the bar. It has a small screen on the top which is informing you of the inputs, etc. Unfortunately, it's very hard to read due to the lack of any backlight, which is either non-existent or did not work in our case.

Additional Features
App
App Name Vizio SmartCast
iOS Yes
Android Yes
Acts as the Remote
Yes
Controls Soundbar's Settings
All
Casts Device Files
No

The app serves as a complete remote replacement but also does more things like allowing you to update the soundbar. Unfortunately, it's very laggy and doesn't give you immediate feedback on the state of the soundbar. This can be annoying at times, like in our case where the soundbar updated itself and the app informed us that it wasn't connected.

Additional Features
Other Features
Power Saving
Auto-off
HDMI CEC (TV Remote Control)
Yes

The Vizio SB36512-F6 has an Auto-Off feature which will turn itself off after some time of inactivity. Also, thanks to HDMI CEC support you can have basic control of the bar using the TV's remote.

Compared to other soundbars

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a very good soundbar, especially for the price. It has very good performance regardless of what type of content you're listening to and its full setup with a sub and satellites gives you an immersive listening experience. However, the satellites are wired to the sub, which isn't ideal, and the app is one of the most difficult to navigate seamlessly and without bugs. See our recommendations for the best soundbars, the best small soundbars, and the best soundbars for music.

Vizio SB46514-F6
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Vizio 46-inch 5.1.4 F6 isn't that much better than the Vizio 36-inch 5.1.2 F6 soundbar. Their performances are quite similar, but the 5.1.4 soundbar setup has two additional up-firing speakers on the surround satellites. We also measured a bit more compression on the 46-inch model, although we don't expect most people to notice this. However, the 46-inch 5.1.4 F6 has a better overall surround performance. For most people, the 36-inch will offer better value.

LG SK9Y
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a better overall soundbar than the LG SK9Y, since we haven’t tested the SK9Y with the optional satellites. The Vizio can get louder and has a great stereo frequency response. Its dedicated center channels also perform quite significantly better for dialog, but the Vizio lacks a dialog enhancement feature, which the LG SK9Y does have. The LG soundbar is also better-built and should perform better with discrete surround speakers. It also has Wi-Fi compatibility and Chromecast built-in.

Samsung HW-Q90R
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Samsung HW-Q90R is a better soundbar system than the Vizio SB36512-F6. It’s a 7.1.4 setup that can get very loud and performs very well regardless of the content you send it. It's also noticeably better built and feels high-end. Its soundstage sounds wider and it also has a nice graphic EQ. On the other hand, the Vizio has an analog audio jack if you want to plug in your phone. The Vizio's satellites are considered surround speakers, while the Q90R’s are considered rear speakers. The surrounds of the Samsung are side-firing speakers situated on the bar itself.

Samsung HW-Q80R
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Samsung HW-Q80R is a slightly better 5.1.2 soundbar setup than the Vizio SB36512-F6. It can get louder and its stereo soundstage feels a bit wider too. However, we didn’t test the Q80R with satellites. The surround performance of the Vizio is slightly better due to the discrete localization of the surround speakers. On the other hand, the Samsung is Wi-Fi compatible and has an extra HDMI In port for you to use your bar as a hub for your different devices.

Samsung HW-Q70R
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a slightly better soundbar setup than the Samsung HW-Q70R without satellites. The sub of the Q70R performs better and both support Atmos. However, the Q70R completely cuts out surround content rather than downmixing, which is frustrating while the surround performance of the Vizio is decent thanks to the dedicated satellites.

Samsung HW-Q60R
SEE PRICE
Newegg.com

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is better than the Samsung HW-Q60R. The Vizio comes with rear satellite speakers that provide a much better surround sound experience. It also has a more balanced sound signature and a wider selection of inputs. It supports more audio formats as well, but the Samsung has a better build quality and more sound enhancement features.

Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a better soundbar system than the Nakamichi Shockwafe Ultra 9.2Ch for most people, especially for the price. It has great overall performance, with a very good, neutral sound profile. On the other hand, its surround sound listening experience isn't as immersive as the Nakamichi soundbar with its four dedicated surround speakers.

LG SL6Y
SEE PRICE
B&H

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a better soundbar than the LG SL6Y. The Vizio is an Atmos-enabled 5.1.2 soundbar while the LG is only 3.1. The Vizio sounds much better, does a much better job with surround content thanks to its dedicated satellite speakers, and has Wi-Fi for better wireless music playback. On the other hand, the LG feels better-built and has a screen on the bar to better see your input selections.

Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar
SEE PRICE
BestBuy.com

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a better performing soundbar than the Sennheiser AMBEO Soundbar. It has a better stereo frequency response performance and has a dedicated sub and surround speakers, while the AMBEO is just a bar that tries to do it all. On the other hand, the AMBEO does have a virtual surround mode that is quite impressive for a stand-alone bar. It's also better-built, although very large and heavy.

Vizio SB3220n-F6
Unavailable
B&H

The Vizio SB36512-F6 is a much better soundbar setup than the Vizio SB3220n-F6. The SB36512 has 5.1.2 channels and can support Dolby Atmos for a significantly superior surround sound experience. It also has much less compression and distortion issues at max volume. That said, the SB3220n is the better option if you're tight on space and want something easier to install and use.

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