ZVOX Blog

Who Invented The Sound Bar?

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Around 1998, at the peak of the new "surround sound revolution," two companies introduced all-in-one TV sound solutions that were much simpler and less cluttered than a 5.1 system. Altec Lansing was one. Cambridge SoundWorks, where I was VP of Marketing at the time, was the other.
The Cambridge product, which we called TVWorks, was very innovative, very ahead of its time.  As it turns out both of those products were too ahead of their time, because they both failed. But deep in my heart, I knew this was a good idea -- home theater sound without a room full of speakers and wires. So in 2003 I left Cambridge and started ZVOX, where we introduced what CNET now calls the first commercially successful sound bar -- the ZVOX 315.CNET Story: Who Invented the Sound Bar
This was years before Yamaha, Sony, Samsung, Polk, Bose or Klipsch introduced sound bars.
Then, in 2008, we realized that a lot of people were not mounting their flat-screen TVs on the wall, and invented yet another category of home theater system, the SoundBase(R). 
And in 2014 we introduced AccuVoice(R) -- which uses hearing aid technology to create remarkably clear dialog reproduction.
The point I'm making is this -- ZVOX is the only small company involved in our product category. All our competitors are billion dollar companies. The reason we can compete with the big guys, is because we keep finding innovative ways to make sound systems better, more useful.
And we'd like to thank you, our customers, for being so supportive -- and so nice. We really have nice customers! Because of you we get to keep finding new ways to make sound systems better. It's a fun job, and we couldn't do it without you.

When Great Loudspeakers Finally Became Affordable: The Advent, Dynaco, EPI Stories

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Friday, June 5, 2015
I first started exploring high fidelity in 1966 when my older brother almost bought a KLH Model Eleven stereo system (he got a Sony instead, swayed by the power of their brand). From there I got an Ampex stereo with a open-reel tape deck as its only source. This in turn led me to a hobby of live recording and eventually into the audio business, where my first job was as a salesman at "The Sound of Music" in Minneapolis (it later became Best Buy).
At Sound of Music, like most hi fi stores of the time, music was a serious thing. We spent hours and hours every week comparing different speakers using different music.
These listening tests were a revelation to me, because they showed that expensive did not mean great. I argued with the other salesmen -- who I think were more motivated by sales commissions than I was -- that the Advent Loudspeaker, which sold for $104 per speaker -- sounded better than more expensive speakers from AR, Altec Lansing and McIntosh. I thought the same about the Dynaco A25 -- a bookshelf-sized speaker that sold for about 75 bucks each as I recall. Another product in this category that we didn't sell, but which friends of mine owned, was the EPI 100, another pretty darned great bookshelf speaker.
Using any one of these speakers it was possible to assemble a component stereo system for under $600 that sounded absolutely fabulous. You could probably do it for under $500. (Remember, at this time a new Volkwagen cost $1700, so think of it as "one fourth the price of a small German automobile.) Real people -- not rich guys -- could afford these systems. And we sold a lot of them. I believe it was this time period -- the late 1960s to the early 1970s -- was the "golden era" of high fidelity...because quality was finally affordable.
Sure, there are other speakers that played a role in this, but I was never a "West Coast Sound" guy.  East Coast all the way. We were very lucky that guys like Henry Kloss (KLH and Advent). Ed Laurent, M. Stauning (Dynaco) and Win Burhoe (EPI) did what they did when they did it. I'm very proud to have worked with two of those men. Henry, who I worked with at Advent and Cambridge SoundWorks, had more influence on my business career and product design philosophy than anyone else. And Win designed the very first ZVOX home theater system,..35 years after he designed the EPI 100.
Cheers to the guys that lead the way in designed great sounding audio products that real people could afford. You changed the world.
And a tip to the seven younger people who will eventually read this...a speaker system the size of a large candy bar, no matter how well designed, will never, ever be a high fidelity product. Grow up and buy something with a woofer in it!!!!!!!!!!!

The Downside of Headphones - Hearing Loss In Young People

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Friday, May 29, 2015
Hearing impairment is for old people, right? Well, yes and no. While virtually everyone over the age of 55 has some degree of hearing impairment, more and more young people are now starting to lose their hearing -- because of headphone abuse. Surveys say that over a billion teenagers worldwide now have hearing issues! WHO article on teenage hearing loss
Abuse may be too strong a word, maybe not. The formula is pretty simple: every hour you spend listening to loud music (or loud anything) contributes to the eventual decline of your hearing. And now that cool headphones are a status symbol among the young, they're listening a lot -- so it's hurting them a lot.
The World Health Organization recommends limiting use of headphones to one hour per day. If you, or your kids, are spending more time than that with your headphone listening, you are speeding the decline of your hearing.
Personally I like listening to music without headphones, through good speakers. I have two ZVOX home theater systems in my small (1400 sq ft) home -- and I can hear one or the other of them from any room in my house. We pay for the Pandora premium service which sounds pretty good, and constantly surprises us with great music selections.
And when I watch TV, because I'm over 60 and went to my first Who concert in 1966, I always use the ZVOX AccuVoice(R) feature because it makes TV vocals so clear and understandable.

Why You Should Have Fully Inflated Sound For The Big Game.

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Are you old enough to remember the tinny-sounding metal-cabinet speakers they used at drive-in movies?  Remember how horrible they sounded?
It was ironic that the biggest movie screens had the worst sound systems. Kind of like driving a Porsche 911 with bald, bargain-basement tires.
Even more ironic is that you’re about to watch the biggest football game of the year on a TV with a gorgeous big picture – and sound that is almost exactly as good as those drive-in movie speakers. Yes, lurking in that giant TV are two itsy bitsy tiny little speakers that are aimed at your floor. If you like your football games sounding deflated, those little speakers are great. But for fully inflated audio, you need to add a sound system.
Can’t afford a good sound system?  Hook up some old computer speakers to your TV.  Or that old stereo system that’s gathering dust in your basement. Heck, even a cheap boombox will sound 100% better than your TV speakers.

If you have a good budget and don’t mind complexity, you can buy a component 5.1 system. But if you’re careful with your money, and you hate wires and complication, order a ZVOX SoundBase home theater system. Great sound. One cabinet. One wire. One page owner’s manual. And we’ll give you 60 days to try it out in your own home.

How To Turn Your TV Sound System Into A Giant Hearing Aid.

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Monday, January 19, 2015
If you sometimes have trouble understanding dialog on TV shows, you are not alone. People over the age of 55 are now the largest population group in the country – and most of us have at least minor hearing disability. My first rock concert was seeing The Who at the Fargo Civic Auditorium in 1966. I think my ears are still ringing.
Plus TV makers insist of finding ways to make TV sound systems worse as the picture gets better.
But the good news is a remarkable feature that we have spent 10 years developing: AccuVoice.  When you push the AccuVoice button on the remote control (or “Dialog Emphasis” button on older models), you turn your ZVOX system into the world’s largest hearing aid.  AccuVoice uses technology very similar to hearing aids to boost voice audibility – without ruining the music, sound effects and other parts of the soundtrack.
It works well. Really, really well. Even if your hearing impairment is very slight, you’ll hear a big difference in voice clarity. But don’t believe me. We’ll let you try a ZVOX system in your own home for 60 days so you can hear for yourself. If you aren’t amazed by AccuVoice, return the system for a full refund.

But we think you will be amazed.

My Sound Bar Needs A Wireless Subwoofer, Right?

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Wednesday, January 14, 2015
Not necessarily.
Yes, good bass plays a very important role in TV sound. Without accurate bass, movies sound tinny and football games sound like nobody showed up.
But a well-designed sound bar or SoundBase® can produce remarkable bass without the use of an external subwoofer. It’s not easy, and requires quality long-excursion bass speakers, good amplifiers, fine-tuned equalization and, above all, an experienced speaker designer.
Jarl Salmela, ZVOX’s VP of Product Development and our chief engineer, has over 25 years of experience in designing amplified speaker systems. His latest designs, the ZVOX Platinum Series SoundBase systems, deliver startling amounts of clean bass from 3” thick cabinets – some of which hold up to three built-in powered subwoofers. (The Platinum 670 and 770 models both deliver clean bass down to a remarkable 34 Hz.)
What are the benefits of a home theater system without an external subwoofer?  Setup is simpler.  Your TV room is less cluttered. And it saves money – two cabinets, two power supplies, two power cords, bigger shipping cartons, higher shipping expenses…these all add up. All things being equal, you can get better sound for less money from a single-cabinet home theater system.

ZVOX isn’t the only company that has designed quality home theater systems that don’t rely on external subwoofers, but we’ve designed more of them than anyone else.  We created the category of the single-cabinet home theater system – whether it be a sound bar or a SoundBase. And so far, that’s all we make. That’s because we really like how they turn out.
 Click here to learn more about ZVOX speaker technology.

Movies So Loud, You Can't Hear Them!

Posted by Dave Pettibone , Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Ever since I was a kid, my family has bonded over watching, re-watching, quoting and re-quoting many of our favorite movies. We’ve seen Stand By Me, The Princess Bride, and Forrest Gump so many times that our nightly dinner conversations or summertime car trips rarely occured without me or my Dad temporarily becoming “Forrest, Forrest Gu-ump”, or perhaps Vizzini from The Princess Bride (“Inconceivable!”) for an interjection of a classic one-liner.  If your family is like mine, then this Holiday season will have you heading to the theater with the hopes of seeing a new flick that could join the ranks of your family’s favorite quotable movies.

Unfortunately, the prevailing trend in Hollywood films may render this tougher than ever as directors and sound mixers routinely relegate dialog clarity to the back seat in favor of giving center stage to thunderous special effects and hyper-realistic environmental ambience (Think: action dream scenes in Inception and a crowded cocktail party scene in The Social Network, respectively).  In either case, the sound mix makes it incredibly difficult to catch every word, and could force you and your family to continue to quote Forrest Gump for another two decades (ok, maybe that’s just my family…)

A quick Google search for the phrase “movies too loud” reveals that this problem is not imaginary and has been creeping steadily for at least a decade. A curious reader could easily find a dozen or so articles, all intending to expose bad Hollywood sound mixes that seem to favor a director’s artistic vision of power and emotion over the audience’s listening experience.  Reportedly, audiences for Christopher Nolan’s new space epic Interstellar were left buzzing from the sheer onslaught of sonic power while simultaneously whispering to their neighbor, “What did they just say??”  Jeff Baker from OregonLive.com reports that, according to Nolan, the sound is “mixed just the way he wants it.”  If that’s true, and we still can’t hear the movie’s dialog in the very environment for which the soundtrack was designed, is there any hope for clear dialog when Interstellar makes it to BluRay in our living room?

Luckily, there is hope! Our SoundBase systems are equipped with AccuVoice™ dialog clarity technology, a feature that quiets the background noise and boosts the vocals and dialog so you can actually hear what is being said. It does wonders for people who suffer from hearing loss, but also comes in handy when you are watching movies with poorly-mixed audio soundtracks.

If you find yourself on the couch with family this holiday season complaining that Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean fame sounds like he’s truly three sheets to the wind, maybe there should be a ZVOX system under the family Christmas tree this year.​
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