ZVOX – new thinking and new technology combined with old-school simplicity.
Most audio and video products sold today put their focus on digital technology, flashy industrial design and a lot of molded plastic. ZVOX products use a unique combination of old-school techniques and proper, sensible use of modern technology. Our design’s focus is on audio accuracy, simplicity…and fitting into real-world living situations with grace and style.
Keep it simple.
Many TV sound systems feature numerous inputs and outputs – so you can make them the “control center” of your home entertainment system. But modern TVs already include lots of inputs and control capability – so we think you should use your TV as the control center. Plug your cable box or satellite receiver…your Blu-ray/DVD player….your game console….your camcorder…your computer or tablet….into your TV – the way you do now. Then connect one audio cable from the TV to your ZVOX system. It’s simple. It’s intuitive. And it lets us spend money where it really counts – on sound quality – rather than on redundant features.
Sound quality – our most important design goal.
We don’t make a sound system that we wouldn’t own ourselves or recommend to our best friends. All ZVOX systems (in our opinion) sound great – because we use high-quality speakers, high-quality amplifiers, wood cabinets and (most important of all) great speaker designers. But don’t take our word for it. Read the reviews. Critics and consumers love ZVOX products because they follow a 60-year-old tradition of “the New England sound.”
We like technology.
Our engineers are constantly looking for ways to improve our systems with new technology. Here are just a few examples:
- PhaseCue virtual surround technology. Our proprietary system creates big, deep, three-dimensional sound from a single speaker cabinet. While no virtual system – including ours – delivers the performance of a five-speaker surround sound system, ZVOX systems do deliver uncannily realistic, theater-like sound. Here’s what the web site bigpicturebigsound.com had to say about PhaseCue: “Many surround cues genuinely sounded like they were originating behind me, where no active speakers could be found. Voices seemed to call out from all over the place, lending a strong sense of off-camera action. Virtual phasing is credible too, as a character walks smoothly around the room behind us.”
- Dialogue Emphasis lets you hear every word. Our SoundBase systems use our exclusive Dialogue Emphasis feature to reproduce voices with remarkable clarity. We use hearing aid technology to decrease the volume of non-vocal signals and to sharpen vocal tracks. The result is remarkable – just press the Dialog Emphasis (DE) button on the remote -- it’s like the announcer is inside your head. No other home theater products offer this feature.
- Output Leveling (OL) tames loud commercials. We have never met anyone who likes extra-loud commercials. That’s why we include our Output Leveling feature in all our SoundBase systems. OL senses when a loud commercial (or loud passage in a movie) is coming on – and turns down the volume before you know what’s happening.
- We learn to work with your remote control. SoundBase systems can be programmed to respond to volume up, volume down and mute commands from virtually any remote control. So once you’ve set up your ZVOX system, you can put our remote control in a drawer and use the one that came with your TV or cable box.
- Green technology. Our SoundBase systems are designed to pass stringent efficiency and standby power usage regulations in Europe and California. Our 555 and 580 models are both Energy Star qualified.
- Electronic contouring. All ZVOX systems use a technique called electronic contouring – which allows the amplifier to compensate for irregularities in speaker frequency response. What this means is that we use the amplifier as an equalizer to create natural, accurate sound.
Let’s talk about wood, and about cabinet size.
Most of our competitors sell “soundbar” style speakers that try to look like flat-panel TVs. In other words, they’re thin and made of plastic. We prefer the “old school” approach to speakers, so we use wood (MDF) cabinets that are big enough to hold high quality speakers and generate solid, accurate bass response. Because wood (MDF) is acoustically neutral (it doesn’t vibrate or “sing along” with the music), wood cabinet speakers sound better. In fact many high end, very expensive speakers use the same cabinet material we use. By designing our systems to act as a base for your TV, we don’t have to make the cabinets skinny to “look right” with the TV. Instead of blending in with the TV panel, we blend in with the TV’s base – so our systems “look right” and still have the bulk necessary for good sound.
How does ZVOX compare with competing “sound bars” and other simple home theater systems?
Since we introduced our first single-cabinet surround sound system in January of 2004, a number of other companies have introduced simple home theater systems – often called “sound bars.” We frequently get emails and calls asking us to compare ZVOX products to those of our competitors.
For lots of reasons, we don’t like to make direct comparisons with specific competing products. But we do think it’s fair, and helpful, to point out some philosophical and physical differences between our stuff and their stuff. Please excuse us if we generalize a bit. It’s hard not to. And new products that may be exceptions to the rule could be introduced at any time. But here goes...
One, Two, Three, Four....boxes.
True single-cabinet surround sound systems are quite rare. The most popular simple home theater uses three or four boxes -- two small speakers, a big subwoofer and, usually, some sort of control box. Some competitors have gotten this down to two boxes -- usually a sound bar and a subwoofer. But all ZVOX systems are true single-cabinet surround sound systems. Speakers, amplifier, powered subwoofer and virtual surround circuit are all in one box. No external speakers or subwoofers.
No Speaker Wires. No “Umbilical Cord.”
Because everything’s in one box, there are no speaker wires to run anywhere. And there’s no garden-hose-sized umbilical cord running from one thing to another. Installation is clean and simple. One connecting cord to your TV. One AC plug.
We Still Use Wood. OK, we’re old school.
But MDF (medium density fiberboard) is still our preferred method of building speakers. All our systems are robustly constructed of MDF. No plastic cabinets.
Small Is Beautiful...Except When It’s Not.
We’re not sure why, but some of our competitors seem to think they’re in a contest -- to see who can make the smallest speakers. They do this for stylistic reasons and, in some cases, in the pursuit of virtual surround performance. But we have found that it is hard to reproduce a female vocalist, a rumbling motorcycle or a powerful explosion using drivers the size of a coin. The speakers used in ZVOX systems can reproduce music and movie soundtracks with the impact and accuracy they deserve.
ZVOX Costs Less.
Our systems don’t include expensive input switching systems and displays -- because your TV already has these circuits, and you don’t need two sets. We also don’t pay expensive royalties for virtual surround technology. And of course we don’t have the expense of all those extra cabinets, wires and connecting cords.
How does ZVOX compare with 5.1 surround sound systems?
For years, the standard of quality in TV audio has been a 5.1 surround sound system. Five speakers (center, left, right, left-rear, right-rear) and a powered subwoofer -- all connected to a receiver, or part of a “home theater in a box.” Then ZVOX changed the equation by offering simple, single-cabinet audio systems that provide virtual surround sound -- without all the speakers, and without all the wires.
We’d like to present our honest – though biased – opinions about who should buy what. But first, a couple of definitions:
Home Theater In A Box: HTIBs were invented because people complained about how complicated 5.1 systems were. HTIBs normally consist of a DVD console-amplifier (usually with AM/FM tuner), five speakers, and a subwoofer. While they are relatively easy to set up, they aren’t a lot easier to use than a conventional component home theater system. But the big problem with most HTIBs is sound quality. For reasons that baffle us, most manufacturers use really cheap, really mediocre sounding speakers. We know of several table radios that sound better than most HTIBs. There are exceptions, but all HTIBs we’ve heard that we’ve liked are over $500. And most are around $1,000.
Component 5.1 Systems: These systems are usually comprised of a surround sound receiver, five speakers (center, left, right, left-rear and right-rear) and a powered subwoofer. Although they vary in quality, many component 5.1 systems deliver very high sound quality – with exceptional surround sound effects and great bass. Good quality systems tend to start at $600-$700, and go up from there.
ZVOX Virtual Surround Systems: ZVOX systems use our PhaseCue virtual surround system, which creates a wide, three-dimensional sound field while using only one speaker cabinet. While the surround effects of any virtual system -- including ours – are limited when compared to component 5.1 systems, the sound quality is excellent. It fills the rooms with realistic audio, and creates a listening experience where sounds come from places where there are no speakers. With the right program material you will hear sounds coming from the front, to your left, to your right and, sometimes, from directly in back of you. But if dramatic surround sound effects are very important to you – if you really want to hear the airplane flying in circles around you – you’ll need to buy a five-speaker system.
|Home Theater In A Box||Relatively simple hookup|
Relatively low cost
|Mediocre sound quality|
Lots of wires and boxes
Moderately complex to use
|Component Home Theater||Excellent surround effects|
High quality sound
Lots of wires and boxes
Complex to use
|ZVOX Virtual Surround Systems||Simple hookup - one wire|
One small speaker cabinet - no clutter
No speaker wires - no expensive installation
Simple operation - one page owner's manual
High quality sound
Musically accurate bass
|Surround sound effects less dramatic than five-speaker systems|