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Imagine splurging on a huge 55″ LED Flat Screen which by today’s (2012) standards may not really be that big. However “standards” aside, a unit this size up on your wall can make a statement…at least until it starts to speak. The sound coming from the display probably won’t match its visual impact. So what do you if you want more sound but you’re out of money? You probably didn’t anticipate the need for complimentary audio equipment but the fact of the matter is, if you own a big display, you’ll want supporting sound or the theater experience is lost!

Creating theater sound in a room with already erected walls can be significant (partly because of the speaker wiring which if done right, should be hidden behind the walls). Combine the fact that the room may not be overly spacious, limiting the possibility of how much audio equipment you can have. And mix in a limited budget and no free time to devote to an involved setup and you end up with a predicament of “theater sound happening some time in the very very distant future”.

The facts. A decent set of speakers (by decent I mean mid-level and up) starts at about $600 – add in a receiver/amp to push the sound and you’re tallying close to $1000. Not to mention the time and/or cost for setup and installation (you’ll want the wiring behind the walls to ensure you have a neatly installed system). All of these details can have you second guessing the decision you made to purchase that big screen in the first place.

Enter ZVOX. The hope of acquiring big sound may be salvageable. ZVOX claims that you can have your theater experience:

  • without the hassle of cutting walls for wiring
  • minus the need to find space to fit in multiple pieces of audio equipment
  • bypassing the purchase of extra equipment (no amp/receiver required)
  • with a setup that takes less than 12 mins (including rc programming)
  • and all of this at a reasonable price (starts at under $200).

Manufacturer specifications. ZVOX features, a simple, sleek, modern and unobtrusive speaker box that offers room filling sound in one cabinet, one connecting wire and a 1 page owner’s manual. Specs include:

  • sound bar that can fit under your tv (it can support a screen on pedestal of up to 70 lbs)
  • perfect for most 32″ to 50″ screens (i.e. ZBASE420, other models support other sizes)
  • no external sub
  • super clear vocals
  • “Loud Commercial Control” Technology
  • Front-panel iPod/mobile device connection
  • works with your existing remote control
  • dimensions: 26.7″W x 14.5″D x 3.7″H and 17 lbs
  • internal amp: 45W
  • Frequency range: 45 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Bi-amplified with a specially designed amplifier that includes electronic contouring for amazing frequency response
  • the 5.25″ sub-woofer uses a high-mass long-throw design in a ported enclosure
  • five 2″ drivers also use a long-throw design allowing a wide range with accurate sound
  • unlike most systems in this category, the wood cabinet enclosure is made from MDF (medium density fiberboard) instead of molded plastic
  • backed by a one year limited parts and labour warranty

“Great sound can be made simple” according to ZVOX – I took a closer look at the ZBASE420 sound bar and put ZVOX’s tag line to the test. Can you really have it all for so little??

The Good. There’s a long list of pluses that come with the ZBASE420 like a sub 10-minute setup (it’s really that fast!). The back of the unit contains so few jacks that connections are a no-brainer – I’m willing to bet that any non-techie can connect this device stress-free. The packaging contains everything you need, including cables to connect your ZBASE to your tv. The design is sleek, modern and unobtrusive, it blends nicely with your furniture. The sound is great and the range is superb – I noticed sounds like foot steps and keys jingling while movie watching that I wasn’t hearing with the tv alone (gamers will enjoy the experience from this device too). The remote is intuitively easy to use and it took me just 2 minutes to reprogram the ZBASE to use it with my tv’s remote allowing me to retire ZVOX’s. ZVOX has really made a thoughtful effort to simplify the home theater setup experience; from the no-brainer connectivity process right down to the super tiny product manual (6 pages).

The Bad. There’s really isn’t much to complain about with the ZBASE420 unless I really want to get picky. The 3-dimensional sound produced through virtual sound processing is not the same as a good 5.1 system – not only ZVOX’s but no other type of virtual sound can compete (ZVOX even acknowledges this on their website…the sign of an honest and reputable company). One thing I did notice; there are 3 settings for surround sound – and the 3rd level helps to manage the very slight drop off in the “high-frequency” you may notice when sitting off to the side (anything greater than 45 degrees) versus directly in front of the ZBASE. Another nitpick, I would have liked to see a longer 3.5mm mini-jack connection cable, preferably 6 ft or more (box included a 3 footer).

Sidenote. I connected my iPhone to the ZVOX and was thoroughly impressed – the deep base and crisp highs carried over into my music. The self-contained amp really does a wonderful job of creating a healthy sound. The ZVOX is even light enough (19lbs) that you can take it along with your iPod to provide the music at a party.

Final thoughts. This is a great product – both for the money and the performance. You can achieve theater sound without deconstructing your room or your wallet. And what makes the ZBASE so special is that out of the box and running is so effortless…almost too good to be true. If I go back to just listening to audio via the tv it feels like something is broken on the set. Having experienced a product from ZVOX’s mid-tier, I can only imagine that there’s an even more memorable experience with their top of the line product. Overall, ZVOX gets a high-five on a job well done…just like they promised or maybe even a little better – super sound, made super simple.

For a closer look at the ZBASE420 visit ZVOX’s Website – www.zvoxaudio.com.

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