Vizio goes big with 54-inch 5.1 sound bar, adds HDMI connectivity

LAS VEGAS -- Last year, Vizio made a splash at CES 2013 with its 42-inch Vizio S4251w-B4 5.1 sound bar, offering up true surround sound in a sleek package via two rear speakers.

At CES 2014, Vizio unveiled the S5451w-C2, a larger 5.1 sound bar that's designed to fit jumbo TVs sized 55 inches and larger.

As is often the case with home audio, the bigger size offers potential performance benefits as well. Vizio claims the greater width of the sound bar allows for better separation between the left, right, and center channels, which is something we'… Read more

Who 'invented' the sound bar speaker?

The classic home theater setup -- with front left, center, and right, surround speakers, and a subwoofer -- was the de facto sound standard. High-end home theater buyers still use multichannel systems, but the multichannel home theater-in-a-box system is almost dead. Up until recently, I reviewed 12 or more home theater-in-a-box systems every year for CNET, but now sound bars are the most popular solution.

Altec-Lansing introduced the very first sound bar/subwoofer system -- the Voice of the Digital Theatre -- in 1998. Even today, it still looks like a fully contemporary design, but as far as I can … Read more

Watch sound waves levitate objects in three dimensions

Even without delving into the science behind it, a recently released video of small objects levitating and moving about in the air is mesmerizing. Scientists from the University of Tokyo and the Nagoya Institute of Technology are behind a series of experiments using sound to control the movement of tiny foam balls and even small screws. This is Harry Potter-worthy science.

The power of sound waves to lift lightweight objects into the air is well-known, but new work with aiming ultrasonic phased arrays at a focal point gives researchers the seemingly magical power to move things around in the air in three dimensions in space. Look, ma, no hands.… Read more

Samsung's party-friendly Giga system gets wheels

One of the quiet home audio trends from 2013 was the introduction of jumbo all-in-one audio systems from several companies, including Samsung's Giga sound system.

For 2014, Samsung is expanding its Giga Sound System line to three models, including the midrange MX-HS8500. Samsung rates the 2.2-channel audio system at 2,500 watts of power, including two 15-inch subwoofers. The MX-HS8500 also sports wheels on the bottom, making it easier to transport to where the party is. There's also built-in Bluetooth, plus the MX-HS8500 can wirelessly connect to a compatible Samsung TV if you'd like to use … Read more

Samsung intros new pedestal-style Sound Stand, along with new 2014 sound bars

Samsung has been making sound bars for years, but aside from the occasional glowing vacuum tube, they all have a similar long, thin look.

The new Samsung HW-H600 Sound Stand is the first pedestal-style sound bar from the company, designed to sit under your TV, rather than in front of it. It's not a new idea, but it's a good one. The pedestal design typically offers a sleeker look and avoids the issue of the sound bar blocking your TV's remote sensor, which is a common problem on traditional sound bars. Sitting under the TV also allows … Read more

Review: Kangas Sound Editor for Mac enables you to create custom sounds

Kangas Sound Editor for Mac allows the creation of completely custom sounds and waveforms. It's an advanced and complex software that has a considerable learning curve, but once you get used to it, you'll be impressed by its power. The downside is its complex and rather unusual installation process, which can be perplexing.

Kangas Sound Editor for Mac comes with a 12-step installation process, which installs several dependencies alongside the app. It's a sophisticated procedure that requires, among other things, the entry of a root password for a MySQL database. Once you're done with the install … Read more

Review: Kangas Sound Editor QI for Mac enables creation of custom sound waves

Kangas Sound Editor QI for Mac allows power users to delve deeply into the process of creating music and design their own sound waves, including custom melodies and musical instruments. This application holds a lot of power, but is also hard to pick up due to its steep learning curve. If sound waves aren't your thing, you won't find much in it.

Kangas Sound Editor QI for Mac installs via an 11-step process that is fairly straightforward; unlike its sibling, Kangas Sound Editor for Mac, this version of the app comes bundled with its own database engine and … Read more

An excellent budget sound bar, if it fits

Vizio's 5.1 sound bar is one of our favorite sound bars of the year, with one big caveat: you have to like its rear speakers. They get you true surround sound, but for some that's not worth the extra clutter.

The Vizio S4221w-C4 ($250 street) is a step down from the 5.1 sound bar, offering essentially everything that's great about the step-up model without the rear speakers. It has great sound quality, built-in Bluetooth, and one of the best remotes offered on a sound bar. It also has the same refined styling, although its 3.… Read more

The Cheapskate's Cyber Monday picks

Cyber Monday. The online yang to Black Friday's brick-and-mortar yin. Truth be told, I don't usually find this day terribly exciting, if only because the deals rarely exceed what I find all year 'round.

That said, there are deals to be had, oh yes. Here are five especially good ones.

1. Big TV, small price. Most bargain-basement TVs incorporate older technology, like traditional backlighting and slow refresh rates. Not this one: For a limited time, and while supplies last, Groupon has the Westinghouse UW46T7HW 46-inch HDTV for $299.99 shipped.

This model may qualify as entry-level, but it … Read more

Crave giveaway: LG wireless sound bar from Sam's Club

Congrats to Shea O. of Salt Lake City, Utah, for winning a Kanex Multi Sync Keyboard in last week's giveaway. You're not going to find a better Black Friday deal than this week's free prize, bargain hunters.

Sam's Club is offering up an 2.1-channel, 300-watt LG wireless sound bar that lets you squeeze bigger, richer sound from your home theater setup. In addition to a wireless subwoofer, the NB3532A has a Bluetooth feature so you can stream music from your smartphone and other enabled devices.

The audio system has a small footprint too, measuring just under 40 inches wide and weighing 17.7 lbs, so it will fit in just about any room where you like to blast your entertainment. … Read more