Component Audio Systems vs. Sound Bars

Posted by Tom Hannaher , Friday, December 7, 2012
The following is a post from a ZVOX customer talking about "the old days of audio" versus his new desire for simplicity...combined with sound quality....

When I was younger, I didn't mind owning a sound system that dominated my living room. Components -- amp, pre-amp, tuner, turntable, reel-to-reel tape player -- along with speakers (with removable grills, naturally), plus super-tweeter add-ons were the center of my entertainment existence. Later on, other devices, such as Compact Disc (CD) players, were added to the mix.

But, as I grew older, I grew tired of the mass of equipment and mess of wires seemingly necessary to produce good sound. I was delighted, therefore, when "big sound in a small box" devices arrived on the scene, which solved those problems.

But then another emerged: the flat-screen television. It came in all manner of quality and sizes, and the best high-definition ones among them were great to watch. And their slim design made for myriad placement options.

As we all know, however, most of them sounded horrible. The very design feature that made them desirable (their slimness), was ruinous to sound quality. Absent a decent baffle, deep sounds were impossible to reproduce.

When a big-name company introduced (and heavily advertised) its "sound bar" device, therefore, I rejoiced. Already an owner of several of its table-top, radio / cd products, I had no doubts about the likely quality of its new product.

So I purchased one. And, sure enough, the sound was pretty darned good for the price. And the convenience -- the ability to place the system beneath my living room HDTV, and to connect it via only one cable -- was a delight.

Only one thing bothered me: The device allowed virtually no sound customization. The only adjustment available to the user was up / down volume selection. I wanted another sound bar (for the family room), but I also wanted more control -- I wanted to be able to vary the output relative to different input-source types: action movie, drama, sitcom, music, etc.

So I did some research online, and discovered Zvox products.

Wow. Talk about options. Bass and treble adjustments were only the beginning. Simulated surround-sound, dialogue emphasis (especially useful at low listening levels), output leveling (which helps tame those amplitude spikes when shows "go to commercial") were all attractive features.

Also appealing was the fact that, while both companies' products allow for connection via a variety of cables (optical, digital, analog, etc.), only Zvox's machines allow them to all be connected simultaneously -- and to be switched between electronically. That allows a user to, for example, connect a CD player, MP3 device, Bluetooth receiver, etc. to the sound bar all at once -- along with a television -- and pump audio input signals alternatively through the sound bar.

In addition, the Zvox products all have several front-panel, physical controls to go with the ones accessible via their remotes. (The other brand did not.)

Finally, when I learned of the reputation of Zvox's engineering team, the decision was made. And so I purchased the ZBase 555 (which was priced nearly identically to the other company's sound bar).

I have had both sound systems for several months now, and I have to say it: Zvox is the superior product. Proof of that conviction is the fact that I have moved the ZBase 555 to my primary listening / viewing location, and have demoted the competitor's product to the secondary one.

I like both machines. A lot. But I like the Zvox more. So much more that I have purchased another ZBase -- the 220 -- for the bedroom. Oh, yeah, that's another thing I like about Zvox: There are a variety of model choices. One or more should meet the needs of virtually anyone who likes getting "good sound from a small box," and who doesn't want to go broke (or clutter up the place) doing so.

Mike M.
Berea, OH


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