Going One Up On the Sound Bar
Televisions are getting bigger. And they are getting sharper. But what about the audio quality? In order to get as much screen as possible, many manufactures either skimp on their speakers, putting in small front facing speakers, or putting speakers behind or under the screen. The net result is a great picture with mediocre sound. The best solution for creating great sound is a surround sound home theater system. But many of us don’t have either the room or the budget for a five or more speaker system. Well, then how about a sound bar? The sound bar was a pretty good invention. Not quite as good as a home theater system, it delivers much better sound than most television speakers. But it also has some inherent drawbacks. Sound bars sit right in front of the television. Depending on your TV’s design, that might not be a problem. But in some instances it can block access to controls, especially the infrared receiver that’s used by the remote control. With other sets that have very low stands, the bar can actually block the bottom of the screen. The Zvox Soundbase 670 from Zvox Audio resolves some of these problems and brings some great features for our aging ears.
It’s only 3.5” high, it contains five full range speakers (including three center speakers). But it virtually disappears when placed under your TV. Connection is simple – only one wire. As you’d expect from a dedicated audio system, the sound is a great improvement over what came with the television. But as an added benefit, the Zvox can deliver exceptionally clear dialogue. If, like myself, you have trouble hearing the voices on a show, you can push the AccuVoice® button on the remote and vocals become crisper and clearer automatically. If loud commercials annoy you, there’s an OL (Output Leveling) button on the remote which reduces the volume. Overall sound quality is terrific, and if you like a thumping bass, there are three built-in powered subwoofers. Want even more bass? There’s an additional sub-woofer output for that too.
We found the setup to be a real breeze. There’s an optical input that works with most newer televisions. There are also standard audio inputs, but there is no HDMI input. The unit comes with a virtual surround sound system called the ZVOX PhaseCue® virtual surround system. It’s good but still not the real deal. It has aptx Bluethooth wireless connectivity so you can listen to music from other sources such as your iPhone. Bluetooth pairing was almost instantaneous and absolutely painless. You can also program the ZVOX system so that it works with your current remote control. A large, easy-to-read display is hidden under the front grille, and disappears when you’re not using it.
The credit card sized remote control has all the functions you’re regularly use. And again you can program your current television remote to work with itin most cases.
This is a big unit, three feet across, 16″ deep, but only 3 1/2″ high. It’s large enough that you can put a 70″ set on it, and because of it’s black slab design, you hardly notice it’s there. Pricing is generally about $400, though we’ve seen it online for a few dollars less. That’s a pretty hefty chunk of change to lay out after you’ve already paid for the television, but it absolutely enhances the experience. And for those of us who find it tougher to hear a dialogue in normal tones the AccuVoice feature is a real blessing.