ZVOX Blog

How Do You Make a Better Sound Bar? Make It Aluminum.

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Wednesday, March 30, 2016
Virtually all sound bars are made out of plastic – because plastic is affordable, and it’s easy to make it into cool, curvy shapes.
But plastic is not the best material for a speaker cabinet. Virtually all “high end” speakers use cabinets made of wood (MDF) or aluminum. Both materials cost a lot more than plastic, but pay dividends in sound quality.
Our new aluminum sound bars are a case in point. The strong, low-resonance cabinets use very thin walls – which allows for a large interior volume (required for good bass response), without resulting in a big, bulky, railroad-tie-size cabinet. Slightly under 3” thick (3.3” when you add wall-mount attachments and endcaps), the SB500 and SB400 look slim and stylish. They look “just right” when mounted under a modern, super-thin TV.
Yet the sound they produce is amazing…big, open, natural sound with seemingly impossible bass. (More than once, we’ve seen people looking around for a “hidden” subwoofer that doesn’t exist.)

Yes, most sound bars sell for less. But this is one of those situations where you get what you pay for. Before you buy anything else, listen to a ZVOX sound bar (when you buy direct from us we give you a 60 day home trial). And remember, good sound never goes out of style. 15 years and four TVs from now, your ZVOX sound bar will still sound great, and look great. Which is why it’s a great investment. Your ears deserve it.

Chromecast Audio Multi-Room Functionality Is Here...And It Rocks!

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Friday, December 11, 2015
We just tested the new multi-room capability of the Chromecast Audio system, and it is good. Really good. Perfect synch with three rooms. Easy setup. High quality sound. Party time at ZVOX headquarters! (Now all we have to do is get Stacy to stop playing Journey!) You no longer need to spend hundreds of dollars per music system to create a high fidelity multi-room network. $35 does it. Just download the new Chromecast app that became available yesterday. Besides adding multi-room capability, the new software also enables very high bit-rate transfer -- 96 kHz/24 bit lossless audio playback for better-than-CD-quality sound. 

How Does A $250 ZVOX Win A Shootout A Big-Name Sound Bar? The Answer Is…Sound Quality.

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Monday, October 12, 2015
A while back Ecoustics.com, a major web site dedicated to high quality sound, published a shootout comparing a top-selling Vizio sound bar with our SoundBase® 350. They said, “The ZVOX is unbelievably detailed, and it has the unique ability to sound bigger than it is.. it can make sound appear from different places in your room. It’s quite amazing…The VIZIO has none of this. Both are an incredible value, and a worthy upgrade to any TV. I’d take the ZVOX 350 in this head-to-head test, mainly because it sounds more detailed for both music and TV.”
So why do ZVOX systems sound better than cool looking systems from big brands? It’s simple. We are a HIFi company, staffed by HIFI people. We’ve been designing and making high fidelity speaker systems for decades, training under the genius-pioneers of our industry – including Henry Koss (AR, KLH, Advent, Cambridge
SoundWorks), Winslow Burhoe (AR, EPI) and Godehard Guenther (ADS, Jawbone). That’s why we use real wood (MDF) cabinets and real woofers. That’s why we fuss and fiddle and fine-tune till the cows come home – to make sure the final product sounds great…on TV shows, movies or music.
And while it’s true that you can buy a sound bar from one of the “big names” for $200…or $150…or even $100, we don’t think you should. Because they are not HIFI companies. They are not staffed by HIFI people. And they don’t fuss and fiddle and fine-tune till the cows come home. Mostly they’re TV companies who jumped on the “sound bar bandwagon” because they already had big distribution networks in place.
So remember. Your TV sound system should last you 10-20 years. Spend a little extra and get a good one. Get a ZVOX.

New Google Chromecast Audio Device May Change The Audio Landscape

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Friday, October 2, 2015
We took delivery yesterday of one of the very first Chromecast Audio units sold, and we've been testing it for the last 24 hours. It allows us to play Pandora, Spotify or a variety of streaming audio services -- or access our entire library of downloaded music via Google Play Music -- with excellent fidelity (much better than Bluetooth). We can't wait for the software upgrade that will allow multi-room simultaneous streaming. Only 2" in diameter, it disappears. And the price tag of $34.95 is exactly 90% less than its well-known competitor!
We've struggled with the options for networked audio -- and we've resisted adding any of them to our systems because a) the development costs are high and b) it's likely that a year after you build something in to thousands of systems, it becomes obsolete.
So the appearance of an affordable, tiny,
external, smart (re-programmable via the internet for constant updates) is an ideal solution -- for ZVOX owners, or anyone who's already invested in a good audio system they like. Now you can wave a magic wand over that system and, voila, it's a smart networked audio system. Ain't life grand?

Bad TV Sound. A Problem That Hearing Aids Can’t Fix.

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Monday, September 21, 2015
Thin TVs have thin sound. So thin, that many people can’t understand TV dialog, even when wearing hearing aids.

The dark secret of TV manufacturers is that they don’t care about sound quality. An even darker secret is that consumers don’t seem to mind. They buy what looks good, without ever listening to the sound. One industry expert points out, “Nobody ever walked into Best Buy and said ‘I’m not going to buy that TV. It doesn’t sound good enough.”

For years TV designers have been in a market-share war, trying to outdo the competition with thinner, sleeker TVs…which simply aren’t big enough to hold good sound systems. The sound systems in most ultra high definition TVs – with tiny, downward-facing speakers – do not sound as good as the sound system in a 1952 Philco black and white TV.

The result? People can’t understand dialog. Forget surround sound. Forget powerful subwoofers. Viewers can’t understand what people are saying on TV shows – especially viewers who are over 50 and may have some degree of hearing impairment. And there are lots of them.

Over 95 million U.S. citizens are over 50…and many of them have some hearing loss. But people are often reluctant to buy hearing aids because they are perceived to be both expensive and inconvenient – and because wearing hearing aids is not fashionable.


The result is that huge numbers of people are finding it increasingly difficult to understand dialog on television broadcasts. Most flat-screen TVs use very tiny speaker systems aimed downwards, which only adds to the challenge. In fact TV sound is so bad, even people with hearing aids (or perfect hearing) often have difficulty understanding dialog. (One audiologist’s customer said “My new TV sounded fine until I got hearing aids…now it sounds like crap.”)

The solution? A high quality TV sound system, preferably one that puts a focus on vocal clarity. For most people a five-speaker surround sound system is not the answer. Too complicated. Too much clutter. Too expensive.
A good “sound bar” style home theater system can be a good solution – but most of those lack a center speaker, which is crucial for accurate dialog reproduction.

At ZVOX we have developed a remarkable new innovation called AccuVoice®. Based on hearing aid technology, AccuVoice uses a combination of dynamic compression and equalization to bring vocals forward, while minimizing the interference of other sounds. Our proprietary technology (patent applied for) senses when dialog is present in a soundtrack and instantly activates the AccuVoice feature, then instantly turns it off when dialog disappears – so interference with non-dialog aspects of a soundtrack is minimized.


The result is sound that allows most hearing impaired people to understand dialog, but does not have a negative effect on the overall sound. So the hearing-impaired and the non-hearing-impaired can listen to the same sound system.

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!!!!!!!!!!!
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