(Pocket-lint) - The Wharfedale Vista 200S is an affordable 2.1-channel soundbar with an active wireless subwoofer included in the box. It's fairly basic in terms of features, with only an HDMI connection, Bluetooth, and EQ modes worth mentioning.
However, the Vista 200S's big sell is its price point - and you'll be hard-pushed to find a soundbar that includes a wireless active subwoofer for anything approaching the same price point.
Wharfedale's aim is simple: produce a decent-sounding and competitively-priced speaker that upgrades the uninspiring sound quality of modern tellies, without breaking the bank. Does it succeed?
Keeping a low profile
- Soundbar (2 x 30W): 900 x 62 x 92mm
- Sub (60W): 120 x 409 x 300mm
- Available in black only
The Wharfedale Vista 200S uses the same soundbar as the previously released Vista 200, making for an elegantly designed and well-made unit. There's a reassuring sense of quality with the metal front grille, a rounded cabinet and a glossy black top. It certainly doesn't look like a budget soundbar, although the glossy top has an annoying habit of reflecting what's on the TV screen.
In terms of installation, you have the choice of putting it on an equipment stand (either in front of or below your TV) or wall-mounting using the provided brackets and screws. At 900mm wide you can use this speaker with TVs up to 65 inches, while its low-profile cabinet means it won't block out a screen when placed in front.
Wharfedale's previous soundbar - the Vista 100 - had a proper display on the front, but the Vista 200S uses a series of coloured LEDs to indicate which source has been selected. The display was probably dropped to keep the cost down, but it does mean you'll need to remember which colour denotes which source.
The soundbar uses front left and right speakers composed of high-quality dynamic drivers augmented by reflex ports, with each speaker powered by 30W of built-in amplification. The included wireless active subwoofer is styled in black to match the soundbar, and uses a side-firing 165mm driver powered by 60W of amplification.
Connections and controls
- 1x HDMI input with ARC
- Bluetooth 4.2 (wireless)
- Optical and coaxial digital audio input; 3.5mm analogue audio input
The Wharfedale Vista 200S houses all its connections in a recess at the back, which comprises fairly typical selection for this price point: you get a single HDMI connection with ARC (Audio Return Channel), optical and coaxial digital inputs, and a 3.5mm analogue input. This mean you can have at least five devices attached to the Vista 200S and possibly more, depending on the number of HDMI inputs on your TV.
The inclusion of HDMI means you can send audio from devices connected to the TV back to the soundbar via ARC. However, ARC is notoriously flakey. But if everything is working correctly then should be able to pass audio from the TV's tuner and apps, along with any device connected to the TV, back to the soundbar via HDMI.
There are some basic controls on the soundbar itself, with buttons that have a rubber finish - but which feel a bit cheap when you press them. They allow you to change volume, mute the sound, choose the source, select the Bluetooth mode, and turn the soundbar on and off.
Many of the functions can only be accessed using the provided remote, however, so despite it being small and fiddly to use you'll want to make sure you don't lose it. The controller includes buttons for power, volume, and mute, along with separate ones for each of the sources. There are also controls for setting the subwoofer level, play/pause/skip in Bluetooth, and three different equaliser (EQ) modes (Movie, Music, News).
A great performer at an even better price
Whether you're watching TV shows and movies, or listening to music, the Wharfedale Vista 200S is an impressive performer for the money. It boasts a wide frequency range for a soundbar, rendering plenty of top-end detail while the included subwoofer delivers deep and punchy bass.
There's enough power to kick out a decent volume too, and certainly enough to fill out a modestly-sized living room. The dynamic range is also excellent, allowing the Vista 200S to make a difference even at lower volumes with dialogue, music and effects all delivered with clarity.
Wharfedale's experience at making speakers really shows with this soundbar, and the resulting audio performance has a smooth composure that's sure to please. The Vista 200S isn't easily rattled, so you can turn it up loud without the sound becoming harsh or distorted.
If you put on a Blu-ray like Avengers: Infinity War, the film's dynamic soundtrack is delivered with a lively enthusiasm. The comic book mayhem is reproduced with a pleasingly big front soundstage, while the subwoofer plays its part by providing a solid foundation of low frequency energy.
There's no surround presence, but selecting the Movie mode does give the audio a bit more spaciousness without making it sound echoey (unlike many other EQ settings we've heard). Music and effects are spread across the front of the room with precision, yet within all the sonic chaos the dialogue remains clear and focused on the screen.
If for any reason dialogue isn't clear, the News mode is good for boosting this. As the name suggests it's also handy for watching news programmes, along with documentaries and shows like Masterchef. In fact, the Vista 200S is a great performer with both TV shows and movies alike - handling dialogue, music, and effects with a depth and richness that will certainly best the built-in speakers of your TV.
The two-channel nature of the soundbar itself, coupled with the subwoofer means the Wharfedale is surprisingly good with music too. The Music mode delivers the audio in a clean and unprocessed fashion, resulting in a nuanced performance that lends itself to a multitude of musical styles. Whether it's the aggressive guitars of Placebo, the winsome vocals off Kate Bush, or the epic soundscapes of early Bruce Springsteen, the Vista 200S handles them all in a composed and assured manner.
The Wharfedale Vista 200S is an impressive soundbar and subwoofer combination. The iconic British speaker manufacturer has wisely eschewed unnecessary features to deliver a sensibly conceived and attractively designed system.
Despite its budget ambitions the Vista 200S reveals a touch of class, delivering a polished performance that sounds great with TV shows, movies, and music. The inclusion of HDMI and a wireless subwoofer is also something that should not be taken for granted at this price point.
In fact you'll struggle to find any soundbar and subwoofer combo that provides a similar level of performance in the sub-£250 bracket of the market. Which is this soundbar's greatest achievement: it offers exceptional value.
Polk Command Bar
The Polk is incredibly good value, offering a 2.1 system with subwoofer included for even less than the Wharfedale. It also comes with Amazon Alexa smart control built in, making it more versatile than just a soundbar.