Did you come across this VMAI soundbar review in your quest to upgrade the unimpressive speakers on your impressively sleek TV? Well hi. You’re now three lines into a detailed review of the 36-inch VMAI soundbar and subwoofer.
The price of this VMAI soundbar is its own opening sales pitch, given that many shoppers are looking for an affordable boost to their existing audio setup. Product design is the second selling point of the VMAI 36-inch soundbar and its super-compact subwoofer.
Looking past the surface, this review goes even further; evaluating the actual performance of the soundbar. It’s for this reason that we start our VMAI soundbar review with a checklist of what you want in a TV soundbar.
VMAI soundbar review: What to look for in a soundbar
Before you start shopping for a soundbar that will keep you happy, you need to prepare. You need to identify the must-have qualities and deal breakers in your prospective soundbar. Here are some important qualities you should check for in a soundbar:
- Sound that’s loud and clear
- Deep bass levels
- Ease of installation and use
- Solid build
- An interface that’s easy to understand
- Support for audio formats like Dolby
- The presence of an equalizer and/or useful audio presets
- For the audiophile, surround sound preferably with height
- A soundbar that is large or compact enough for your entertainment nook
- The sound profile of a prospective soundbar should match the dimensions and shape of its intended room
Sometimes it pays to consider a soundbar from a reputable brand. Your favorite brands are surprisingly adept at doing more with less. On paper, two soundbars with identical specs should have similar performance. Yet hardware is only one half of sound quality. The build, the quality and execution of the hardware is the second half of the equation.
Not every feature on this list will be important to you. So make your own. One that includes qualities and features you can’t do without. Is your checklist ready? Then let’s jump right into the meat of this VMAI soundbar review.
The VMAI 2.1 channel soundbar ships with a subwoofer, two power cables, an optical cable and an auxiliary-to-3.5mm adapter. It also comes with a remote and a pair of batteries. If you’re looking to mount the soundbar, you’ll find a mounting bracket and all the accessories you’ll need to perform a wall mount. Lastly, you’ll find a user manual and sundry paperwork in the package.
VMAI soundbar review: First looks
The VMAI 2.1 channel soundbar has a grey-black color scheme with an angular design. The uneven, hexagonal side profile of the soundbar gives the impression of a gadget that blends perfectly into a futuristic space.
At only 2.5 inches high, this 36-inch VMAI soundbar sits low enough to avoid blocking the IR receiver on your TV. It is also compact enough to sit between the legs of most mid-sized television sets.
The sides of this VMAI soundbar are textured, charcoal-grey surfaces, with the right one holding a set of capacitive touch controls. The front and back surfaces are angled, hence the hexagonal side-profile of the soundbar. There’s a digital display at the center of the mesh-covered front surface. There’s also a set of inputs at the back.
The subwoofer matches the soundbar in terms of color, material and compact form factor. It takes the form of a foot-high cabinet that’s as narrow as it is deep. The dimensions of the subwoofer allow it to fit under furniture and other tight spaces.
You’ll notice that the bass port sits at the front of the subwoofer, which is an interesting design choice. In contrast, the single 5.25-inch driver sits on the right side of the subwoofer, which at 9.8 inches deep, is far wider than its front surface.
Inputs and connectivity
Being a budget soundbar, the VMAI 36-inch has just enough inputs to connect to your TV and a few devices. The ports are as follows:
- HDMI port
- Optical port
- 3.5mm audio port
- USB port
The soundbar also has Bluetooth connectivity that allows for a connection to the subwoofer and other mobile devices. This means that you can stream music wirelessly from your device, and through the VMAI soundbar.
Setup and ease of use
The VMAI 2.1 channel soundbar is a plug and play affair. All you need to do is connect the soundbar to a TV output and power it. The TV will automatically channel audio to the soundbar. When you power the subwoofer and turn on the Bluetooth, it will automatically pair with the soundbar. The subwoofer will start to receive bass audio frequencies from the main unit.
A digital interface makes the soundbar easy to operate. So does the remote, which has shortcut keys that control the bass and treble. The remote also has buttons that help you select one of four audio presets.
There are a couple of downsides to the soundbar. For one, it is difficult to switch it on or off through the TV or its remote. If you choose to use the optical cable, you might have to enable the PCM setting on your TV.
VMAI soundbar review: Hardware
Your VMAI soundbar will produce a total of 120W of sound. Let’s start with the subwoofer. It has a single, five-inch, side-firing speaker that’s responsible for nearly half of the 120-watt output. Some of the output from this speaker is channeled forward, via a bass port that terminates at the front of the cabinet. This configuration allows the subwoofer to send sound in multiple directions.
Then there’s the soundbar itself. It has a pair of 2.25”, front-firing speakers on each end. Each of the drivers has a unique role in producing a portion of bass or treble frequency. The inner speaker on the right connects to a bass port that redirects sound to the center of the soundbar. This goes a long way in creating a virtual driver at the center of the VMAI soundstage.
Sound quality: Frequency range
A good soundbar will have a fairly wide frequency range. The ideal is an audio device that goes as low as 40Hz. At 50Hz give or take, the bass levels of the VMAI soundbar are much higher than the ideal.
During an action scene, the bass will produce convincing explosions and crashes. That said, the different audio artifacts in the bass range sound effects will meld together and lose some detail. There’s also a limit to how accurately the soundbar can reproduce that subterranean rumble as the ground opens.
On the treble end, the soundbar does a good job of reproducing accurate audio at moderate volume.
Sound quality: Distortion at peak volume
The soundbar can reach peak volumes of up to 110dB. However, the louder the audio, the more muddled the sound becomes. You want to operate the VMAI 2.1 channel soundbar at a peak moderate volume of about 85 dB.
Sound quality: Equalizer and audio presets
This soundbar doesn’t have an equalizer, but the remote does allow you to adjust the bass and treble settings. The next best thing the soundbar offers is for audio presets.
The VMAI 36-inch soundbar comes with four audio presets. There’s the 3D mode which tries to simulate surround sound. The soundbar also offers a movie mode, which enhances sound effects and to a lesser extent, dialog. If you want clear dialog, you can switch to news mode. Lastly, the music mode allows you to enjoy crisp, blended music.
Sound quality: Audio format support
The manufacturer does not advertise support for basic formats like Dolby and DTS, which limits the quality of audio output.
- Nice design with a digital display and touch controls
- Wide soundstage with a special 3D mode that simulates surround sound
- Fairly good bass levels
- The soundbar gets pretty loud
- The soundbar allows you to adjust bass and treble levels
- Presence of useful audio presets like music, dialog and movie modes
- The user manual that ships with the soundbar is not particularly helpful in a pinch
- Wired connection to the subwoofer limits how you arrange your audio setup
- Don’t expect the soundbar to power itself automatically when you turn on the TV
- You’ll be unable to control the soundbar via the TV with HDMI CEC
- The VMAI soundbar is incompatible with most remotes, so get ready to juggle two of them
- Audio distorts and loses detail at high volume
VMAI soundbar review: Works better than your TV speakers
The VMAI 2.1 channel soundbar gets it done. It makes an effort to enhance dialog and deliver thumping bass, with mixed results. The soundbar can also get really loud, which is great except for some loss of detail at high volume.
You will appreciate the soundbar’s valiant attempts to bring dialog to the forefront. Still, conversations might be swallowed by lower-frequency elements in movie mode.
While the VMAI soundbar doesn’t quite stick the landing, it is a vast improvement to your average TV speakers. The final question that this VMAI soundbar review answers is: Can you find a more pleasing alternative at the same price point? You can, with some research. Click here to learn more about this soundbar.