I had long planned to do a VIZIO M51ax-J6 review to explore the features of this 5.1-channel home theater soundbar system, released in 2021. This model outperforms budget soundbars in many ways (including power), and its 9 speakers are quite a force to be reckoned with. Plus, wireless streaming capabilities and multiple HDMI inputs make the M51ax-J6 a truly versatile part of a modern home entertainment system.
Build and design
The first thing I’d like to note is its wireless design so that you can place the subwoofer anywhere in your room without the hassle of cables. M51ax-J6 sound bar’s compact 5.1 profile fits perfectly into living spaces where you want to avoid many cables stacked with AV gear taking up space. The soundbar itself is kind of big compared to many analogs (36.00″ x 2.24″ x 3.50″) but has a pretty low profile, weighing only 5.53 lbs.
I wish the remote offered a bit more information, either via the built-in display or the buttons themselves, as it can be difficult to figure out what audio settings are in use. I can only imagine if you lose the remote since there’s no physical button on the sound bar to select mode. At least there’s the physical button of Bluetooth, volume up and down. For fairness, I should say that the great feature of the M51ax-J6 I liked is a user-friendly LED display that removes any guesswork about the audio signal source currently activated.
Setup and connectivity
I have no doubts that even if it’s your first soundbar, the setup will be very easy. A major convenience factor of the VIZIO M51ax-J6 system is its wireless subwoofer connectivity. So I just plugged in the soundbar and subwoofer, and they automatically paired together. I connected it to my TV over HDMI eARC and it was recognized immediately. For those who might miss it, the package includes a soundbar, wireless subwoofer, and two rear satellite speakers.
M51ax-J6 soundbar features multiple input options, including HDMI ARC, optical, and analog (3.5mm stereo mini jack), making it compatible with a wide range of devices. It also includes USB for WAV audio playback. Additionally, the M51ax-J6 is equipped with HDMI inputs that maintain full 4K video signals.
Pairing my devices to the soundbar via the built-in Bluetooth 5.0 was smooth and hassle-free. A Wi-Fi streaming option would have been nice for more expansive spaces, but it is unavailable. Bluetooth connectivity was great, but I had a problem switching from Bluetooth back to the TV since the TV struggled to recognize the sound bar again until I restarted it. It may be an issue with my TV.
I’d also like to compliment the great CEC support. Rather than juggling multiple remotes when adjusting volume or switching inputs, the commands from a single remote get passed through from device to device automatically due to CEC communication between them.
Features and specs
The M51ax-J6 unit provides several distinct listening profiles that optimize the audio for different media types. Movies, music, and games each have tailored equalization presets that align surround effects, frequency ranges, and volume levels to the given content. Thanks to the Night mode, I prevented noise complaints and disturbances for my family trying to sleep while still enjoying a movie into the late hours. However, it turns off most of the bass, but not all, because my wife still complains about hearing it in the bedroom through the wall.
What I also like about this VIZIO model is the support of Voice Assistants. Most smart speakers from Google don’t offer aux connectivity, requiring wireless Bluetooth pairing instead. While Google Assistant voice commands successfully initiate music playback and other audio requests through the soundbar initially, I found the Bluetooth link between the Google device and soundbar to be prone to signal dropouts and interruptions. I also tried Alexa via dedicated 3.5mm wired input. When triggering Alexa, the soundbar automatically switched to that aux source to play the assistant’s responses or any requested audio. Once finished, it seamlessly returned to the previous HDMI or Bluetooth playback without intervention.
The manufacturer claims that it’s Dolby Atmos/DTS-X, but you should be aware that it’s not actually like that but a “virtual” Atmos version that supports the Atmos sound codex. With dual-stereo mode, you can enjoy all 9 included speakers simultaneously with the expanded stereo signal. Moreover, each speaker includes a separate woofer and a tweeter, so there’s quite an organic balance between bass and highs.
I thought for a long time about what to test this model on and finally chose Uncharted. While watching the movie, I noticed that the clear reproduction of the characters’ voices emphasizes the clarity of dialogue even against the background of dynamic soundscapes. The included subwoofer truly completes the audio spectrum with low-end during action sequences or dramatic effects. Mid-range effects pan smoothly across the front stage between treble details.
In my line of work, I often deal with modern AVRs, and I’m very good at discerning the subtleties of Dolby Atmos. Therefore, I’d say that the virtual mode, although producing more of a surround effect, does not sound as pure and full as the non-virtual mode. But again, the sound you can get is great, especially for the price.
I also checked the music playback, and the vocals came through with clarity and detail, separating lead singers from accompanying harmonies. The midrange presence ensured distinction between instruments like guitars and keyboards as well. So there was no compressed or muddy soundstage. Unlike bass-heavy budget systems that hype up low frequencies to mask their limitations, the M51ax-J6 subwoofer provides tight bass reproduction in harmony with the mids and highs.
- Built-in channels: 5.1.
- Amplification type: active.
- Output power, W: 205.
- Separate speaker connections: yes.
- Wi-Fi/Bluetooth: no/yes.
- Multichannel surround: no.