Sound Advice: Affordable sound system improves quality of TV audio

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 7, 2014 - 3:19 PM
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The ZVOX SoundBase can support TV sets up to 70 inches in size.

Q: I’m interested in your take on the ZVOX SoundBase 320, which you mentioned a few weeks ago.

A: The ZVOX SoundBase 320 has everything going for it. It’s easy to place, easy to set up, easy to use and, most important, it’s affordable and sounds fantastic. I love it.

When I first pulled it out of the box, I was impressed. A lot of products like this are plastic and smack of mass production to a price point. The ZVOX SoundBase feels like a real hi-fi component. I know the difference between enthusiast audio gear and equipment designed by committee at huge companies, and I could tell just holding and looking at it that it was the real deal.

Setup was easy. Just set the Blu-ray player and satellite box to “bitstream” or “Dolby Digital” and connect them to the TV by HDMI. Then connect the TV to the SoundBase with the included optical digital audio cable. A set of learning commands programs it to work with the TV or satellite/cable box remote.

Once it was set up, my TV remote was all I needed. When you turn the TV on or off, the SoundBase turns on and off to match.

My bedroom system is probably more elaborate than most people’s main system. It comprises a 60-inch Panasonic VT60 plasma, a high-end soundbar with a powered subwoofer and a separate receiver powering it. The sound system alone costs more than 10 times what the $199 SoundBase does.

For testing, I placed the SoundBase on the shelf that usually supports the soundbar.

Did the SoundBase sound as good as the expensive soundbar system? Given the difference in complexity and price, obviously the soundbar system has higher performance. But what was telling to me is that I didn’t miss my soundbar and subwoofer when I was testing the ZVOX.

The sound quality really is that good. It reminds me of the sound produced by other high-performing but moderately priced speakers designed in the United States by small audiophile-owned companies (which include ZVOX). Dialogue is clear, and the overall sound is crisp and detailed with a nice touch of warmth to make it all pleasant to the ear.

A thoughtful design touch is that max volume is not the actual maximum. There are times when I had the system turned all the way up so I could hear it across the room when my dogs were playing. The sound and dialogue were clear and undistorted, but when an explosion or another special effect came on, the system had power in reserve and reproduced it cleanly. This was another testament to the thoughtful design touches made by audiophile designers.

The bass is reproduced by a built-in subwoofer and is strong and clean, surprising given the small size of the unit.

The SoundBase 320 will support televisions from 27 to 42 inches in size. All the cables you might need are included.

The SoundBase 220 ($169) is for TVs from 19 to 37 inches. Other models are available up to the SoundBase 580 ($399), which means there is a SoundBase for any TV up to 70 inches in size.

You can see the various models at www.zvoxaudio.com.

Send questions to Don Lindich at donlindich@gmail.com. Get more recommendations and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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