Vizio Elevate review: This Dolby Atmos soundbar’s swiveling drivers are no gimmick

A soundbar with motorized, swiveling drivers that bounce the audio cues in Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks off your ceiling? Sounds like a gimmick, right? Well, the concept works splendidly in the Vizio Elevate, a 5.1.4-channel soundbar that delivers big, bold, and exciting sound that will thrill mainstream users, even if audiophiles might find its subwoofer be a bit over the top.

Because its four front height drivers (two additional height drivers are in the surround speakers) can swivel up for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X content or down for standard 5.1 or stereo audio, the Elevate always makes the most of its available drivers. Also on board is built-in Chromecast and DTS Virtual:X (for those who want or need it), as well as three HDMI ports and eARC support.

Configuration

The Elevate is a 5.1.4-channel soundbar, which means you’re getting left, right, center, and left/right surround channels (the “5” in the Elevate’s 5.1.4 audio configuration), two front and two surround height channels (the “4”), and low-frequency effects (the “1”). Those four height channels supply the height cues in Dolby Atmos and DTS:X soundtracks by bounding sound off your ceiling—an easier, less expensive alternative to height speakers that are actually in your ceiling.

What makes the Elevate unique is that it doesn’t need to be a 5.1.4-channel soundbar at all times. If you wish, you can set those upfiring drivers to swivel (manually or automatically) so they fire forward to bolster the left- and right-channel drivers. Those, in turn, switch roles from being woofers to mid-range drivers for a more robust—and traditional—5.1-channel configuration. We’ll go into more detail about the Elevate’s swiveling height drivers in a moment.

This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best soundbars. Click that link to read reviews of competing products, along with a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.

vizio elevate rotating drivers detail Ben Patterson/IDG

The Vizio Elevate’s height drivers can rotate into forward-firing position to boster the left and right channels.

In the main soundbar unit, the left, right, and center channels each get a pair of 43 x 60mm woofers, a 20mm tweeter, and a passive radiator. The rotating height drivers each get a single 44 x 99mm woofer and a 20mm tweeter. A pair of discrete surround speakers, which are connected to the wireless subwoofer by a pair of 25-foot cables, get a forward-firing 54mm driver and an upfiring 50mm driver, while the sub comes equipped with a down-firing 203mm cone. The Elevate’s various drivers are powered by a series of 13 Class D amplifiers, including 8 in the main soundbar and five in the subwoofer.

Design

With its anodized aluminum shell, swiveling drivers, and oval-shaped profile, the Elevate cuts a fine figure. The front soundbar drivers sit in a perforated tube that’s attached to the main soundbar housing, with the tube capped by the swiveling drivers.

When the soundbar goes into “Elevate” mode (either because it has detected Atmos or DTS:X audio, or because you’ve manually set the soundbar to “Up” mode), motors in the tube swivel the height drivers into their upfiring position, revealing the Atmos and DTS:X logos on either side of the soundbar. The sight and sound of the motorized drivers swiveling into position serves as a nifty cue that you’re about to hear immersive 3D audio.

Measuring 48 x 7 x 2.5 inches and weighing about 12 pounds, the main Elevate soundbar unit is a hefty piece of hardware, and it was tall enough to block a tiny sliver of my 55-inch LG C9 OLED TV. Luckily, the Elevate can be mounted on a wall (mounting brackets and a guide are included), or it can be docked underneath one of Vizio’s new OLED TVs. Meanwhile, the 6 x 4 x 2.75-inch surround speakers are compact enough to (for example) place them on shelves behind your sofa, and they’re also wall-mountable (here again, wall mounts are included).