Study Reveals Link Between Hearing Impairment and Depression…We’ve Known That For Years!

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Tuesday, April 8, 2014
Medical News Today recently reported that people with hearing impairment are more likely to experience depression. Frankly, this is not news to many of us. Just sit in a room with an elderly relative watching TV and it won’t take long to observe the crankiness that comes with not being able to understand what people are saying.
The poor sound quality of modern ultra-thin TVs does nothing to help the equation. In fact we think TV speakers are truly depressing.
The good news is that the DE (Dialog Emphasis) feature in ZVOX systems really does help people with hearing impairment. DE – also known as AccuVoice™ – uses hearing aid technology to makes voices super-clear and understandable…and has been known to reduce crankiness.  
Read more about DE here:  ZVOX Dialog Emphasis Feature
Read the Medical News Today article here:  Article Linking Hearing Impairment to Depression

How a small, privately-financed company changed the way the world buys TV sound.

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Tuesday, February 25, 2014
In January of 2004 NBC’s Lester Holt did a feature on the Today Show highlighting the first commercially successful “sound bar” audio system, the ZVOX model 315. What Today Show viewers didn’t know was that at that time only four ZVOX 315s had been built, that none were available for sale, and that ZVOX “Worldwide Corporate Headquarters” resided in a spare bedroom of a suburban Massachusetts home.

The response to the Today Show feature was so strong that Tom Hannaher, ZVOX’s founder, immediately placed a follow-up order – four times the size of the original order. That turned out to be a good idea, because when the ZVOX web site started selling systems in early March 2004, they sold out almost immediately. ZVOX had been successfully launched with no venture capital, no bank loans, no offices, no warehouses…and one employee.

Initially the going was rough. Consumer electronics retailers were flourishing – selling thousands of expensive 5.1 surround sound systems to consumers’ flush with cash from refinanced mortgages. The idea of giving up all those lucrative $1,000-$3,000 systems sales, and instead selling simple, affordable sound bar systems, did not go over well. But by controlling costs and focusing on on-line marketing, ZVOX survived – while chipping away at the retail market, one retailer at a time.

Now, ten years later, the market for TV sound systems has changed dramatically. While not completely gone, 5.1 surround sound systems now sell in very small numbers. Instead of complicated, expensive home theater systems, most consumers opt for sound bars (introduced by ZVOX in late 2003) or SoundBase® systems – a concept ZVOX introduced in 2008, where the TV sits on top of a wide, low sound system cabinet.

While sound bars from Sony®, Bose®, Yamaha®, Boston Acoustics®, Polk Audio® and other companies had a significant impact on this massive change in consumer buying habits, ZVOX is arguably the company that started it all.

Further information:

® Sony is a registered trademark of Sony, Inc. Bose is a registered trademark of Bose, Inc. Yamaha is a registered trademark of Yamaha, Inc. Boston Acoustics is a registered trademark of D&M Holdings, Inc. Polk Audio is a registered trademark of DEI Holdings, Inc. ZVOX and SoundBase are registered trademarks of ZVOX Audio LLC.

What's Missing From Most Sound Bars? The Center Speaker!

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Thursday, November 14, 2013
Before there were sound systems designed to work with your TV (in other words, before "home theater"), people rarely used their "hi-fi" stereo speakers with a TV. When a left and right speaker system was used with a TV, the dialog always seemed to come from whatever speaker was closer to listener, and not from the TV. Movie theater designers have always known about this "two speaker" effect. No movie theater has ever employed speakers on the just the left and right sides. Theaters have a center speaker, or a center speaker with left, right and effects speakers. The center speaker insures that every listener hears the same high quality vocal sound--even if the listener is seated off to the left or right of the movie screen.
In the early days of home theater, it was popular to sell systems with a “phantom center speaker.” What that really meant was “the center speaker costs too much so we’re leaving it out.” Multi-speaker home theater system available today all have a center speaker. Yet designers of almost all soundbar-type sound systems persist in using just left and right speakers.
It is a lot cheaper to make a TV sound system with no center speaker, but there is a sacrifice in sound quality and realism. Voice clarity is not as good with only left and right speakers, especially for a listener not seated exactly between the two speakers. A center speaker provides the same consistent sound quality for all listeners in the room, It “anchors” the sound to the center of the TV.
Even the most affordable ZVOX system features at least one center speaker. Center speakers, combined with our unique Dialog Emphasis feature (which uses hearing aid technology), result in super-clear voice reproduction. Our customers frequently comment on how our systems make it easy it is to understand what people are saying. Some people even use ZVOX systems as a substitute for hearing aids when watching TV.
So if you’re shopping for a TV sound system, stay centered.

ZVOX Soundbar Systems Top-Rated by Consumers on Amazon.com, BestBuy.com and Crutchfield.com.

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Wednesday, October 16, 2013
We surveyed the three premier consumer electronics retail web sites this week – and found that we are top-ranked by customers on all three sites!

  • Amazon.com. In the category of “soundbars” the top 10 products all have the same 4.25-star customer review rating – and four out of the top 10 systems are ZVOX SoundBase systems.
  • BestBuy.com.  If you don’t count products that only have one or two reviews, the ZVOX 420 and ZVOX 220 are two of only three soundbars to achieve the best consumer rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars.
  • Crutchfield.com.  The ZVOX SoundBase 555 is the number one consumer-ranked soundbar on the site.

We like our products. Critics like our products.  But what’s really nice is that consumers like our products.  Thank you consumers, for making ZVOX the top-rate soundbars on these three high-profile sites.

Dialogue Emphasis: an unexpected benefit.

Posted by Doug Webber , Thursday, September 12, 2013

A few years ago we came out with a new feature called Dialogue Emphasis in response to many customer comments. Customers who were somewhat hard of hearing or had to wear permanent hearing aids would call and email us stating that they absolutely loved our systems, but there were still points in the TV show, movie or sporting event where the background music or special effects would overwhelm the spoken dialogue to such a degree, that it would make it unintelligible for them.

Since its inception, Dialogue Emphasis has helped many people hear the dialogue in their TV shows, movies and sporting events more clearly than ever before. Our hard of hearing customers would call and email us to express how happy they were now that vocal intelligibility was restored to their favorite programming.

Later we started getting people with perfectly normal hearing calling and writing to us stating that they too really enjoyed Dialogue Emphasis, except they were using it in a way which we had not intended.

Since Dialogue Emphasis greatly amplifies everything within the range of the human voice and also reduces the background soundtrack and effects, it makes the perfect ‘midnight mode’ listening level for people wanting to hear their TV audio, but not disturb anyone who may be sleeping nearby. Customers would turn down the volume on their ZVOX system, then turn on the Dialogue Emphasis feature, and this would allow them to clearly hear the dialogue at a low volume level without disturbing anyone else in the adjoining room.

We were happy to hear that people with normal hearing were also benefitting from the Dialogue Emphasis feature, even though we hadn’t planned on that. It was just one of those happy accidents where we initially wanted to address a specific customer problem and ended up solving another one that we did not even consider as well.  

How The Soundbar Evolved Into The SoundBase

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Tuesday, July 30, 2013
There was a lot of home theater innovation taking place in the late 1990s. Several companies introduced digital surround sound formats. And audio designers around the world were attempting to out-do one another -- creating more and more elaborate (and expensive) surround sound systems. 
In the middle of all this, a few of us looked around at what was happening and thought, well, this is getting a little nuts. Maybe there are people out there who would prefer a simpler alternative to a seven-speaker dual-subwoofer sound system priced at over $20,000.
So we created what was arguably the first “soundbar” TV sound system. It was called TVWorks and was manufactured by our previous employer, Cambridge SoundWorks. A few years later in 2003 we introduced the first ZVOX soundbar. To be honest, TVWorks was a resounding failure in terms of consumer acceptance. Pretty much nobody bought it. And selling the first ZVOX soundbars -- at least selling them to retailers -- was not easy either. We would go into a dealer's showroom, set up our system and play it. The dealer would then say, "sounds great...how much is it?" And when they found out it sold for $200 and required no installation labor, they politely showed us the door. 

But over time, things changed. The prices for good flat-panel TVs went from $5,000 to $800. And the idea of spending $2,000 on a home theater system for one's $800 TV just didn't make mathematical sense. So slowly but surely the rest of the audio industry followed our lead and introduced simple and affordable TV sound systems. Now pretty much every company in the business sells soundbars.
In 2008 we changed things again with the ZVOX 550 – the world’s first SoundBase® home theater system…a low-profile speaker cabinet that fits under your TV.  The SoundBase is a great idea because it’s so simple. No subwoofer on the floor (it’s built in). One short connecting wire. No concerns about the sound system blocking IR remote signals to the TV. And it looks “just right” – kind of like it’s the base for the TV.
 It took a while, but now, once again, companies seem to be lining up to copy our idea. Imitation SoundBases are beginning to pop up all over the place. 

Insert heavy-handed marketing pitch: Copying an idea is easier than copying a ZVOX. With real wood (MDF) cabinets, PhaseCue® surround sound, precisely contoured tonal balance, multiple inputs – and great features like Dialog Emphasis and remote control learning – ZVOX delivers a level of performance and value you just won’t find from other companies.  Read all our rave reviews. Then use our cool 30-day home trial and listen for yourself. Great sound doesn't have to be complicated or expensive. We can prove it.
Thanks for reading.

You can’t have your cake and Bluetooth, too…

Posted by Doug Webber , Monday, June 24, 2013
At least a couple times per week, we have customers ask why our current ZVOX systems do not have built-in Bluetooth compatibility. And some of those customers freely admit that they don’t even know what Bluetooth is or how it works; they just heard or read that they needed it.

Bluetooth isn’t really a new technology; it’s been around since 1994 and was created by Ericsson as a wireless alternative to those then bulky RS-232 data cables. In 1998, the original group of promoter companies—Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Toshiba and IBM—came together to form the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). No single company owns the technology; they all just work together to further the Bluetooth technology in our now connected world.

In case you don’t know how it works, Bluetooth allows two devices to be ‘paired’ to each other to exchange information wirelessly within a moderate distance. In the case of using Bluetooth for audio, you would turn on the Bluetooth on your iPod or smart phone, it would then search for other compatible Bluetooth devices nearby and then make it’s ‘digital handshake’ with the Bluetooth compatible speaker and then be paired. You could then play your MP3s or stream music from your Internet music applications from the iPod/smart phone right to the speaker without any wires.

I know. It sounds pretty cool, huh? It’s like a magic wand was waved and everyone who abhors wires of any kind finally got their wish! Unfortunately, that long-awaited wish comes at a price, or two…

The first price you pay is in the fidelity department. Bluetooth doesn’t sound great; it sounds OK or average to most people. Don’t believe me? I did a quick Google search simply typing in “Bluetooth sounds” into the search field just to see what Google would fill based on other user’s inquiries. Below is a screenshot of what was returned:

‘Muffled’, ‘static’, ‘tinny’ and ‘far away’ are not adjectives that describe high fidelity at all. Oddly enough, ‘good’, ‘decent’ or ‘not bad’ were not given as user search returns. Don’t get me wrong; Bluetooth doesn’t sound horrible. It sounds OK when it’s working properly and the actual quality you get is going to vary depending on the Bluetooth device. Some Bluetooth devices just have better sound quality than others.

A wired connection is always going to give you the highest fidelity and your ears can instantly tell which connection sounds better.

So if you are willing to sacrifice sound quality in favor of wireless convenience, then Bluetooth audio might be for you. But maybe not after you read the second price you must pay…

The second price you pay is that Bluetooth is not a perfect transfer medium for music or movie soundtracks. That sentence has nothing to do with the quality of audio you receive via Bluetooth; it has to do with the inherent quirks of Bluetooth technology.

The CEO of ZVOX Audio, Tom Hannaher, recently described how when a fire engine would drive by his house, he would lose his Bluetooth connection between his iPhone and the Bluetooth receiver he has connected to his ZVOX system. 30-45 seconds later, the connection was re-established and he could hear his music again.

Personally, I find that unacceptable for music or listening to movie soundtracks. Would you be happy if you were watching a movie and then a police car drove by and you suddenly lost audio for 30-seconds because your Bluetooth connection was lost due to some outside interference? Me neither. It would drive me up the wall. Unfortunately, that’s just how Bluetooth is currently for audio: imperfect.

I performed another Google search and typed in ”why does Bluetooth” to see what the previous user typed inquires would be and got back the following:

The fact that Bluetooth can disconnect by itself, for whatever reason, is the deal breaker for me concerning audio. As a customer, when I want to listen to music or watch a movie, I want to do so with no interruptions to the audio at all. If the Bluetooth connection were bulletproof between the devices, then I would fully endorse it as a convenient way to get OK sounding audio to your speaker wirelessly.

Most customers that aren’t aware of Bluetooth’s inherent quirks would just assume that the Bluetooth receiver in their speaker was broken and then return it thinking it was defective. I know I would do the same if no one had first informed me that these issues may occur with Bluetooth devices.

We at ZVOX Audio have been waiting for Bluetooth technology to get better. Will we ever have Bluetooth in future products? I don’t know. Maybe. I just hope the technology improves to the point where we don’t have customers asking us why they lose their Bluetooth connection to their ZVOX system when a fire engine drives by their house. 

Just remember: a wired connection would never give you that problem and would sound superior compared to Bluetooth.   

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