After buying a new TV, the first thing you should do is grab a nice pair of speakers or a soundbar. As almost anything will sound better than the television’s built-in speakers, it’s not hard to find something that works. Fortunately, if you’re on a budget and still want quality sound, look no further than the Vizio V21d-J8 soundbar.
Unlike most soundbars, the V21d-J8 is an all-in-one unit with no external subwoofer. Depending on where you want to use the soundbar, this could be a good or bad thing. Looking for improved audio quality in a bedroom without making your home shake? This works perfectly. Want more bass? You might want to spend a little more on something like the Vizio V21x-J8, which comes with a wireless sub.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s everything you need to know about the Vizio V21d-J8 2.1 soundbar.
As with all soundbars, the Vizio V21d-J8 is a long bar with speakers embedded in a fabric covering. The soundbar’s two primary drivers face forward when sitting on a flat surface, while the two three-inch subwoofers shoot upward.
Vizio includes hardware to mount the soundbar to a wall, but doing so would point the speakers at the ceiling and away from anyone listening. Although I didn’t test this setup, I assume audio quality would worsen as the sound is shot upward instead of directly into an open room.
All of the soundbar’s built-in controls can be found on the right side of the device, with a row of LED indicator lights shining through the front. I never touched these physical buttons (which include power, input, Bluetooth, volume down, and volume up) and instead used the included remote control.
Unfortunately, adjusting audio and mode settings can be a pain on the Vizio V21d-J8. You’ll need to keep the device’s user manual nearby as the only visual indication that something has changed is the LED lights on the front of the soundbar. I have included several screenshots of the user manual below.
As you can see, depending on which setting you’re changing, you’ll need to keep an eye on the color or the number of LED lights on the V21d-J8. As a result, I cycled through the EQ modes until I found one I liked and never touched the remote or custom controls again.
When you flip over the Vizio V21d-J8, you’ll find every input you might need. This includes HDMI with eARC, optical, a USB port that can handle WAV file playback, and stereo AUX. There’s also a dedicated voice assistant AUX input that can be used with Google Assistant and Alexa smart speakers. If your device doesn’t have AUX out, you can use the soundbar’s persistent Bluetooth feature to ensure your voice assistant is always available through the V21d-J8.
As long as your TV was manufactured in the last five or so years, you should find an HDMI ARC port on the back of the set. Plug the included HDMI cable into both ARC ports on your television and soundbar, and the setup process should be complete. In most cases, you can now use your TV’s remote as usual and it’ll handle changing the volume and powering on the soundbar.
You might need to go into your TV’s settings and tell it to use ARC for audio out if things aren’t working correctly. It’s meant to be a plug-and-play design, so you hopefully shouldn’t run into any issues because I didn’t with a decently old television.
Although the V21d-J8 is a part of Vizio’s V-Series lineup of budget-friendly products, I was relatively surprised by the audio quality that this soundbar could produce. As I hinted to above, the bass is lacking, but everything else is surprisingly straightforward.
The V21d-J8 supports Dolby Audio (DTS TruVolume and DTS Virtual:X), but I didn’t find that the virtual sound features added much to the experience, so I kept them off. The default EQ settings were more than good enough to provide clear dialog in most scenes, but the bass boost modes couldn’t assist the tiny built-in woofers.
But the overall audio experience is everything I’d want from a soundbar that I don’t plan to use in my main entertainment space. Even at high volume levels, the dialog is easy to understand, and the background audio doesn’t get distorted. I wish there was more bass, but the built-in subs are fine for casual watching.
The theme of this review is that your TV’s speakers suck and almost anything will improve your listening experience. For a little over $100, you can vastly improve the audio with the Vizio V21d-J8. The bass is lacking and the controls for changing settings can be a pain, but those are sacrifices that come with a budget soundbar.
Whether you need better sound in a secondary room or just a budget soundbar to hold you over until you can buy something more premium, you can’t go wrong with the V21d-J8.
Here’s What We Like
- Better than any TV's built-in speakers
- Inexpensive and a great value
- Great for a bedroom
And What We Don't
- Bass is lacking
- Controls are complicated