Most People wish for one of the two things in a Soundbar: The cheapest option or the best sound. While it’s simple to find products that meet one of those requirements, Vizio’s M-Series Elevate tries to meet both. This $700 soundbar system sits between the company’s $500 M-Series and its $1,000 Elevate in terms of price, features, and quality. The new M-Series Elevate, like the original Elevate we reviewed in 2021, employs rotating, ceiling-firing drivers for the Dolby Atmos height channels. Moreover, the new bar opts for a wired setup as well as ditching extra features like Wi-Fi to cut costs.
Out of the box
The simple setup is one of the main reasons to choose a soundbar over a full speaker configuration, and the M-Series Elevate absolutely nails it. It employs a mostly wired setup (each speaker is physically wired to the subwoofer rather than just to a power outlet), which might also disappoint some users, but the process is surprisingly simple. The soundbar connects to your TV via an HDMI ARC/eARC port, and an additional HDMI input allows you to connect an external device such as a streaming box or video game console. You can also connect the soundbar to your TV or other devices using the included USB or digital optical audio cables.
The two surround speakers are connected to the subwoofer by 3.5-mm cables and a power cable that are included. The only wireless component in the core setup is the subwoofer, which automatically syncs to the soundbar when you turn it on; no pairing required, and no unsightly cable running through the middle of your room. Since the surrounds are connected to the subwoofer, it is best to place it in the centre or back of your room.
To enable voice controls, connect an Echo Dot speaker to the soundbar, and pair it with a smartphone or any other Bluetooth device to stream music to the M-Series Elevate. The Vizio M-Series Elevate is aesthetically pleasing and will blend in with most people’s decor. The soundbar is a little rounded and covered in a simple charcoal-grey fabric, as are the surround speakers and subwoofer. Little about the setup stands out though the surround speakers are oriented horizontally and will literally stick out a few inches from the wall if mounted. Nonetheless, they are small enough to fit on most shelves.
The physical setup is simple, but depending on your preferences, dialling in the M-Series Elevate’s settings can be time-consuming. To Vizio’s credit, the bar is high, and I appreciate the fine-grained control over every aspect of the listening experience. The issue is simply navigating all of these menus.
Some Vizio TVs incorporate the M-Series Elevate’s audio settings into the TV’s menu, which is easy to use and will be familiar to anyone who spends time tweaking their TV’s picture options, but everyone else must deal with a limited, remote-based interface.
The soundbar itself does not have a screen. Instead, the included remote’s tiny LCD display is used to navigate settings and options, while distinct LED lights on the front of the soundbar display additional information. The remote’s screen is adequate, but due to its small size, it cannot display much information, making navigation difficult. I also noticed some button-response lags. Overall, the initial setup required a little more effort than I anticipated. While you’re learning what each light configuration means, keep the user manual nearby.
All of my concerns about preferences disappeared once I began listening to the M-Elevate: The Vizio M-Series Elevate sounds great even without menu dicing. The sound is crisp and clear, and the overall mix is well-balanced. I like big bass but not at the expense of rattling hardware or overpowering dialogue, and I’m pleased to report that this bar hits the mark. The subwoofer packs a punch, but it never becomes overpowering, and sounds felt evenly distributed throughout the room rather than concentrated on the bar or the subwoofer.
I began my testing with a few episodes of Cobra Kai season 5 to see how the soundbar performed in casual, non-Atmos viewing. The quality was immediately apparent: Voices, music, and other elements of the mix are well separated enough that everything, whether it was an intense martial arts brawl or a quiet conversation, was audible. Since every room is different, you may need to spend more time tinkering with the settings, but the default mix is good enough that I didn’t need to change much.
Dolby Atmos, which employs a height channel to create 3D surround sound, improves the surround-sound experience on any Atmos-capable setup, including the M-Series Elevate. I found the Atmos performance to be decent overall. It achieves the all-around 3D effect, which makes scenes such as the factory battle in Andor episode 3 feel shockingly more immersive.
It’s also excellent for gaming. Normally, I play with a headset for the best-possible immersion, however the depth of the sound stage makes Returnal’s hostile alien planet feel absolutely enveloping. Even better, the surround-sound positioning was precise and clear enough to track enemies (and the projectiles they lob at you) during intense shootouts. To notice the up-firing speakers bouncing off the ceiling, you may need to turn up the height-channel setting. They’re definitely present in the mix, and I was completely satisfied with their performance once I found the right volume level, but it’s worth noting that they start a little quiet for an Atmos diehard looking for peak performance. On the other hand, I’m not sure this soundbar is for Atmos purists.
Other more expensive soundbars and speaker setups may do Atmos better, but blaster shots and speeder parts ricocheting around you sound surprisingly good on a streamlined soundbar like the Vizio M-Series Elevate. This system will provide more than enough entertainment with the lights turned off for the majority of normal people.