Most soundbars fake it 'cause they can't make it. With just two speakers (and sometimes a subwoofer), soundbars use tricks like bouncing sound off walls to emulate the surround sound that a real home theater system creates. It usually doesn't work.
Vizio doesn't play that game. It created a soundbar system that reproduces Dolby Digital as it is intended – and at a reasonable price, too.
Vizio's 5.1 Home Theater Sound Bar packs the center, right, and left channels into the single bar that goes with the HDTV and adds two surround channels and a wireless subwoofer (the ".1" in the system) to the mix. The surround speakers connect with wires to the subwoofer, which means you may need to place the bass module behind you – a bit unorthodox, but it works out.
The system provides a great improvement over the weak speakers in your HDTV. Voices have more resonance and you'll feel special effects more. It won't match a decent home theater system with separate receiver and speakers, but you choose a soundbar for convenience foremost.
Vizio's 5.1 soundbar includes four inputs to accommodate multiple devices: one optical digital audio, one coaxial digital audio input, an analog RCA (two-channel) input, and a 3.5 mm stereo mini jack. It also throws in a USB port for WAV audio files. Even better, it offers Bluetooth, so you can stream audio from your smartphone or tablet. At $330, you get more features and speakers than most similarly priced 2.0 soundbar systems offer. [$330; vizio.com]