Why a ZVOX Home Theater Doesn't Have Lots of Digital Inputs

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Saturday, February 7, 2009

A number of our customers - and product reviewers - ask us why ZVOX products don't include more than two inputs, and why none of those inputs are digital. Here's why:

Multiple inputs. Most of our customers use ZVOX systems with TVs. Audio systems that have multiple inputs become the switching center for the TV/Home Theater system. But unless the audio system ALSO includes video inputs and switching (which can be quite expensive and complicated), we think this is a bad idea. Instead, the TV should be the switching center of the system. Your TV already has inputs for a DVD player, VCR, cable box or satellite receiver. And it probably has inputs for a game console and a camcorder. Your TV also has a remote control and a very large display (the TV screen) that is very helpful in communicating to you when you are switching between sources. So if you connect everything to the TV, then connect the audio output of the TV to the ZVOX system, you can use your TV the way you normally do, switching easily between cable box, DVD, game console, etc.

If, on the other hand, you switched audio through the ZVOX system and video through the TV, YOU HAVE TO SWITCH TWO THINGS EVERYTIME YOU WANT TO GO FROM TV TO DVD! For example, you're watching a TV show and decide to switch to a movie on DVD. You'd need to use your TV remote to switch from cable to DVD....then pick up the ZVOX remote to switch between Input 1 and Input 2. If you forget to do that, you'll be watching the DVD but listening to your cable box. Way too complicated. Keep it simple. Let the TV be your switchbox - then connect TV audio output to Input 1 on the ZVOX.

Digital inputs. For some reason people think a product is inferior because it doesn't have digital inputs. But trust us. We have compared ZVOX systems with digital inputs to those with analog inputs - and we are convinced that no one could hear the difference. Why? All sound has to be converted to analog before an amplifier can amplify it and send it to the speaker. This is done with a digital-to-analog converter (or D/A converter). Virtually all modern TVs have D/A converters built in - so they can do the conversion and send the analog signal out of the TV into the ZVOX system. If we were to add D/A converters to ZVOX systems, we would also have to add Dolby® decoders to the systems and pay royalties to Dolby, even though we don't use Dolby functionality other than to be able to "read" the incoming signal. So we would add significant cost to your systems simply to have the digital decoding take place inside our cabinet, instead of inside the TV, which is normally about 6-12 inches away from the ZVOX. We choose not do so because we don't believe it improves performance.

What does the future hold? There are some commercial TVs, and a small number of consumer TVs, that no longer include analog audio output jacks. So the only way one can get sound out is via a digital audio output. This situation, if it progresses, may force us to include digital inputs in future products.
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