One-box home theater solutions have earned themselves a bad rep, and rightfully so. Most of them use poor quality components and wrap them up in molded plastic which only serves to further degrade sound quality. Fortunately, the advent of the “sound bar” has taken the notion of a one-box sound solution, stepped the build quality up a few notches and dressed it up to integrate nicely with wall mounted, flat-panel televisions. Not everyone mounts their TV on a wall, though. Many opt to use the provided base with their TV and set it on an entertainment cabinet or some other piece of furniture. For those in the latter category, we suggest taking a look at the ZVOX sound bar which, aside from promising premium audio for your TV, adds the benefit of reduced power consumption.
Though billed as such, the ZVOX doesn’t look like what we’ve come to know as a sound bar. Rather than go with a wall mount approach, ZVOX appears to have taken advantage of the space that would be available under a stand-mounted TV in order to provide superior bass quality while still maintaining a low profile.
Two ZVOX sound bar models are available, one considerably larger than the other. The ZVOX555 sound bar measures 28″w x 14 1/2″d x 3 3/8″h and weighs about 20 lbs, the 580 model measures 36″w x 16.5″d x 5″h and 33 lbs. Most of theweight comes from each speaker’s cabinetry, which is made of real wood (MDF), just as a high quality consumer level speaker should be. The use of MDF not only facilitates good sound quality, but should mean that the cabinet is rigid enough to support even the heaviest plasma televisions. The ZVOX’s 555 uses one 5.25″ subwoofer and five 2″ main speakers while the 580 uses dual 6.5″ subwoofers and five 3.25 inch drivers.
In each model, the speakers are bi-amplified using class-D digital amplification which, according to ZVOX, draws less than 1/10th of a watt in stand-by mode. For connections, both sound bars offer a digital optical input, digital coax input and two analog stereo inputs (RCA) which would allow for the connection of an iPod or other portable audio player. A subwoofer output is also included for bass-heads that demand a stand-alone subwoofer, though it should be noted that ZVOX claims the 555 can get down to 45hz while the 580 will play down to 35hz.
As for features, the ZVOX hits all the popular points. Virtual surround sound processing is included, as is a compression technology that keeps volume from jumping up and down as channels are changed or commercials come blasting in. The sound bar’s display window, which provides just enough information to its user, turns itself completely off after a few seconds. The 555 retails for $399 and the 580 for $599.