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post #1 of 585 Old 01-17-2009, 08:53 PM - Thread Starter
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I have been looking into "soundbar" type systems for my new 42 inch plasma setup. But as I learn more, I realize I may have another problem. My room is not suitable for "bouncing" the sound off walls. My HDTV is in a corner and the room is long and open on one end, not "squarish" and one wall has a lot of windows with vertical blinds. Also, no ceiling in part of the room (open to second floor). I think I may need a solution which does not depend on bouncing sound off walls, if such exists. Or I may just be stuck with my current 2.1 stereo setup.

I had been looking at things like the Sony HT-CT100, the Yamaha YAS-70 and the Boston Acoustics TVee Model Two. But now I'm wondering if I might have to settle for something like the Soundmatters MAINstageHD or something similar.

I should mention, if it matters, that I listen to music a fair amount, like the dialog to be crisp and clear (I'm getting older, ), prefer the hookups in the bar not the sub-woofer (if possible, most seem the other way), and don't need a built-in DVD player (already have several). Also, I am on a budget (around $300), so I realize I'm not going to have a top-end system and I'm OK with that. I just want something that sounds decent.

Anyone here solve a similar problem or have any sage advice to offer?

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or tips!

Update: 2/15 Just want to note here for anyone coming new to this thread that I pretty quickly zeroed in on some ZVOX gear and you will find a big focus on it in this thread.
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post #2 of 585 Old 01-17-2009, 10:07 PM
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Originally Posted by bron View Post

I think I may need a solution which does not depend on bouncing sound off walls, if such exists. Or I may just be stuck with my current 2.1 stereo setup.!

If you can't bounce sound off of the walls, you pretty much have to use real surround speakers.

I guess it depends on how bad you want surround sound. While it is nice, the majority of the sound comes from the front on movies, and most music (assuming you don't use SACD/DVD-A) would be fine with a 2.1 or 3.1 setup, or the Sony surround bar.

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post #3 of 585 Old 01-18-2009, 03:59 AM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Tulpa View Post

If you can't bounce sound off of the walls, you pretty much have to use real surround speakers.

I guess it depends on how bad you want surround sound. While it is nice, the majority of the sound comes from the front on movies, and most music (assuming you don't use SACD/DVD-A) would be fine with a 2.1 or 3.1 setup, or the Sony surround bar.


Thanks, Tulpa. I'm still considering the Sony, but now I've also run across the Zvox line and that seems promising. Not real surround, but phasing type of virtual surround. Reasonably priced and meet most of my criteria. Don't appear to use the sound beam approach. Seem to have good reviews everywhere. Basically a 3.1 type approach, I think.

I think their Zvox 325 is close to what I need. It's around $300-350, but I ran across a Zvox Mini (smaller version, "portable" to some extent) for only $125 (vs. normal $200-250) including shipping. That was too good to pass up, as it also makes a good MP3 player and music system according to reviews. And $125 is boom box pricing. So I figure not much to lose and I can find out if they're all they are cracked up to be.

If I like the Mini, then I'll get the 325 and use the Mini elsewhere, probably on my smaller LCD TV or as a semi-portable video/music system. Or with my gaming laptop or something. If it's not too good, then I'll probably go for the Sony or something else. The Sony sounds pretty darn good for $300 and seems very popular here.

Thanks again!
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post #4 of 585 Old 01-18-2009, 10:12 AM
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I've always had my doubts about phasing surround sound. I've heard systems like that (and my old TV sort of did that), and while they appeared to widen the soundstage up front, I never heard anything behind me. Maybe they've improved, though.

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post #5 of 585 Old 01-18-2009, 04:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa View Post

I've always had my doubts about phasing surround sound. I've heard systems like that (and my old TV sort of did that), and while they appeared to widen the soundstage up front, I never heard anything behind me. Maybe they've improved, though.

No, I think you are right. They mainly just widen the soundstage. Probably won't hear anything behind me, but I can live with that given my budget and room limitations. Reviews do seem to indicate that theirs is better than most. We'll see.
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post #6 of 585 Old 01-19-2009, 08:48 AM
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The Polk Audio Soundbars, Definitive Technology Mythos SSA's and the Sony CT-100 don't rely on reflection as far as I know. The CT-100 is less expensive by far, but the others have gotten good reviews on line.
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post #7 of 585 Old 01-19-2009, 10:13 AM
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I too am looking at a soundbar solution and, like you, want the dialog to be clear to my aging ears! I am interested in the Zvox 325 and would like to hear your experience.
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post #8 of 585 Old 01-19-2009, 01:57 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by dayvo View Post

The Polk Audio Soundbars, Definitive Technology Mythos SSA's and the Sony CT-100 don't rely on reflection as far as I know. The CT-100 is less expensive by far, but the others have gotten good reviews on line.

Thanks, Dayvo! The Sony CT-100 at $300 looks like a winner, for sure, though I have gotten intrigued by the Zvox units. Since I've been reading through the threads here and you seem to have owned nearly everything at one time or another, I'm surprised you haven't tried em. LOL! But since they are not true surround sound (and don't claim to be), I understand.

I have a line on a possible very good deal on one of the Denon's, either the S-102 or the DHT-FS3, but not sure if it's going to be available or not. Seem to have fair reviews, but, I'm telling you, they all seem to have fair reviews. Very hard to tell. So I understand the wisdom of your advice in saying you just need to get 'em and try for yourself.

Unfortunately, if I get one, it won't be returnable, so I'll have to resell it if it doesn't work out.
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post #9 of 585 Old 01-19-2009, 02:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Nautiduck View Post

I too am looking at a soundbar solution and, like you, want the dialog to be clear to my aging ears! I am interested in the Zvox 325 and would like to hear your experience.

I promise I'll come back and post about my experience with the mini, and with the 325 if I should get one. I have read several user reviews where they commented on the improved clarity of dialog - but that's versus regular TV speakers, so keep that in mind. Still that's a big point for us aging rockers.

The Zvox units seem to be, basically, good compact 3.1 units with an enhanced soundstage that can project out and give sort of a horseshoe shaped sound field. Not surround sound by any means, but a lot better than just TV speakers or, many said, many of the other soundbars (cheaper ones). We'll see.

The guy behind Zvox founded EPI and I still have a set of EPI speakers laying around, so that caught my eye. Everyone mentions the hi fidelity nature of the speakers and sound, so at the very reasonable prices, that's pretty good in itself. I think the key is not to expect any 'magic' and to be realistic. I think 'way better sound than my TV' is realistic.

I will come back and let you know and I will pay special attention to clarity of the dialog and see if it really helsp there. I have a Zvox Mini on the way which should give an idea, and I may have found a cheap 315 (precursor to the 325) as well. Like Dayvo, I'm a big believer in get one and try it.

By the way, if you buy directly from Zvox (zvoxaudio dot com), they have a 30 day "try it out and return if you don't like it" policy. They even pay return freight, I believe. That's a pretty confident and consumer friendly program, so you might even consider getting a 325 and giving it a whirl yourself. Nothing to lose!

Cheers!

Bron
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post #10 of 585 Old 01-22-2009, 09:51 PM - Thread Starter
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OK, I got my Mini and tried it out yesterday and today. I have a 315, 325, and 415 on the way. In for a penny, in for a pound. I wanted to take them all for a spin and I can use the remnants elsewhere, sell them off, or whatever. My current thinking is that the 415 is going to be my main HT unit. It's the most 'soundbar' like unit and the unit with the most power.

Anyway, the Mini both pleases and disappoints. The disappointment is in the max volume. It's loud, but not loud enough for even a medium room. More suited for an office or bedroom or personal area. You need to be sitting fairly close and directly in front of it for the best sound, though off axis the sound is still good, you lose a lot of the "phasecue" effects. (I'll be doing a full review later, this is just a "first impressions" bit.)

The good news is that it's a quality built unit. Heavy, sturdy, plenty of nicely done screws holding everything together. Very solid and classy looking in the white finish I received. At the price asked, I would expect no less ($199). It has a heavy power brick. Uses 3.5 mm jacks for the audio in and has a dual in/out use 2nd jack that (fortunately as it turns out) can be used to hookup an external sub-woofer. And one will be needed. Though it has fairly nice lows, it definitely does not have anything close to the bass response of a good sub-woofer.

The sound is very clear and accurate, my guess is that it's fairly flat between 500 and 10K Hz. Vocals are very clear and distinct, percussive sounds very nice (snares, blocks, things like that sound great!), guitars, saxes everything in that range sound super. I have not yet listened to enough variety of material, but so far, so good. Music sounds good (with just a touch of phasecue).

The problem is lack of power. It sounds like a great small box, but definitely a small box (without the sub-woofer). In fact, so far, my impression is that it sounds best at about 70% of the full volume range. I think it's straining at full volume (which, again, won't be full volume enough for many).

I've only played one DVD so far (the ultimate ed. Terminator 2, one of my standard test DVD's) and I actually felt it did a very good job. Again, sounds are very clear and distinct, crisp percussive sounds, nice throaty Harley, very clear dialog. The phasecue definitely does extend the perceived soundstage. It's not even close to surround sound, but it's a pleasant effect and does have a 3-dimensional feel, with things seeming far away or close, off to the left or right, and so on (but not behind).

Again, there's just not enough Ummph! (power) in my opinion. I'll be hooking up a sub later to see how much that helps. But for now, this sounded good, but only for a small setup, definitely not for a main room, or even a medium room. At 5 or 6 feet it's OK. I'll have to experiment more as my placement of the unit was far from ideal during this early listening experience (out on a table in the middle of a room w/a portable DVD player - hey, I was working quickly!). Placing it near a wall would probably help the bass response quite a bit (the port is in the real of the unit).

So, quick summary, feels a bit light on power, excellent overall sound quality as far as clear, accurate sounding delivery - especially of the DVD movie. With music, it did very well, but the phasecue was less effective and it sounded best to me with the phasecue at minimal settings, just enough to open up the sound a bit.

When I hooked up my mp3 player, it worked great, but when I turned it up the short-comings of some of the mp3's were clearly evident given this units crisp, full range reproduction. With quality CD's it sounded great. With my Roku Soundbridge M1001 internet radio it sounded super (in fact, this was one of my favorite pairings).

So I would class the Zvox Mini as something like the Apple ipod deck, the Bose Soundwave system, and other similar sized systems. I'm guessing it might make a pretty good gaming sound system, too. It's about the right size, strong enough to support a monitor on top, and the phasecue would probably work fairly well. As a bedroom sound system, I think it would do well. Or a personal small office system.

It hints at what might be possible. I'm hoping the larger Zvox units will live up to that promise and deliver something more suited for HT use. We'll see.

Oh, the vocals and dialog were indeed very clear, distinct and easy to understand, noticeably so, in fact. So that trait seems to be true as reported. The strong mid-range and accurate reproduction probably account for that. And the system is a breeze to setup with its simple design.

It is indeed a "mini" type system with hi-fidelity and a nice clear sound. Suitable for small spaces. I will be keeping it and using it for personal office DVD viewing on small screens, for internet radio and CD/MP3 music and that kind of thing. It's a fun unit to fool around with, fairly portable, and worth the price paid, I think.

2009-01-28 Update: After some more listening and some tweaking of the sub-woofer output setting, I got much better bottom-end with the music and this also helped the overall sound level and power perception. It *is* a mini system and definitely for a small to mid-size room, and the max volume is limited, but plenty loud for normal use. Overall, I am much happier with the sound now than earlier. You have to sort of tweak the phasecue, sub-woofer and unit volume levels to get the best results, the final results are very nice, definitely a high-quality sound. So +1 to the bass output and +1 to the overall sound quality.

The bass will distort if you turn the sub-woofer to max and the volume to max, but that's not really surprising. For music, I currently have the sub at 50% and the volume two clicks down from max. I then control overall volume via the source device (in this case, my Soundbridge). This is the way the Zvox's are all designed to work, although the later units offer more control on the remote. I dound that thanks to the clarity and presence, I can listen very comfortably at lower volume levels. In other words, you do not need to turn it up way loud to get good fidelity, as we were all wont to do in our youth.

The quality with good source material is very pleasant and you will definitely hear the flaws in poor source material. You can tweak the PhaseCue depending on the music content (i.e. classical vs rock) a bit, but you could just set it and leave it, too. You want just enough PhaseCue to open the soundstage for music, in my opinion, though with some material you can go hog wild. So usually, I have PhaseCue at about 1/3 of max for music and 1/2 to 2/3 for DVD's. But I'm still experimenting, listening, and learning.
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post #11 of 585 Old 01-23-2009, 10:54 AM
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Weird, no one mentioned the Samsung X810 Soundbar. Not onl does it look good but it seems to have alot of stuff going on for it for not being a 5.1 soundbar. Unless someone can convince me in this thread, ill be getting one later on this year for my living room to match my T.V. under the guise that it would be great for my wife to have when she is blasting spanish pop music while cleaning the house.
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post #12 of 585 Old 01-23-2009, 04:53 PM - Thread Starter
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Well, I had it on my list earlier but dropped it for reasons that may not matter to others. I did not need a unit with a built in DVD player, there were some issues with the bass and dialog, and a few other things. On the other hand, a lot of people liked it a lot and it had some features I really liked, like Bluetooth and the wireless sub-woofer.

I think it could be a good choice, many people have given it high marks.

Get one and then come back and let us know how you like it!

A funny note, one British reviewer noted that the bass output was so loud it frightened his wife.
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post #13 of 585 Old 01-24-2009, 05:27 PM
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Please post similar reviews for the other gear as it arrives. I am especially interested in the 315 and 325 since either would fit in my TV cabinet. I prefer not to add a subwoofer so interested in both vocals and how well the units will convey "big movie sound." Thanks again!!
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post #14 of 585 Old 01-24-2009, 08:10 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Nautiduck View Post

Please post similar reviews for the other gear as it arrives. I am especially interested in the 315 and 325 since either would fit in my TV cabinet. I prefer not to add a subwoofer so interested in both vocals and how well the units will convey "big movie sound." Thanks again!!

Will do!
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post #15 of 585 Old 01-28-2009, 09:59 AM
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great review on zvox mini. I also am interested in 325 review. Did you also look into 550 by the way? That one looks very promosing..surprised you didn't order that one.

Also, let us know where you put the 325 on..it's a pretty thick speaker, so I have hard time imagining where to put it..
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post #16 of 585 Old 01-28-2009, 07:33 PM - Thread Starter
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great review on zvox mini. I also am interested in 325 review. Did you also look into 550 by the way? That one looks very promosing..surprised you didn't order that one.

Also, let us know where you put the 325 on..it's a pretty thick speaker, so I have hard time imagining where to put it..

Thanks! I will post a review of the 315, 325 and the 415 as soon as I have the time. Promise!

My 325 had a power jack problem and they are sending me a replacement. A very nice company to do business with. I sent them an email saying I had a problem over the weekend and when I went to follow up Monday, they had already shipped a replacement! (I still have the bad unit.) They said they will arrange for the return of the defective unit once I get my replacement. Now, that's a lot more consumer friendly than most companies! Kudos to Zvox Audio for standing squarely behind their products!

Meanwhile, I have updated my review of the mini and boosted my rating of that unit based on a better evaluation, getting the sub-woofer level settings properly adjusted, and so on. I'd say it went from a 3-3.5 to a solid 4-4.5 out of 5, taking into account its size, price and intended uses.

I'm really enjoying it for listening to music with my Roku Soundbridge internet radio setup.

Yes, I looked at the 550 and the form factor is very appealing, but it uses 2.5" speakers versus the 3.5" used in the 325 and 415. I was concerned about the sound levels. It's had some good reviews, though.
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post #17 of 585 Old 01-28-2009, 08:10 PM - Thread Starter
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I was able to spend a little time with the 415. A few quick comments. First, I like the style and form factor. It's well constructed, nice black metal grill, solid case, gives an impression of quality. It is, of course, much more powerful than the mini. And it has a stronger, bigger soundstage due to it's wider stance (30.5x5x6"). It also has a stronger bottom end (down to 45 Hz).

I was able to get some good sound out of the 415 fairly quickly. All the controls are on the remote (not a great remote, physically). It uses standard RCA analog audio jacks (none of the Zvox units have digital inputs). It's fairly loud, but it's only 60 watts. However, the sound quality is again pristine and clear and once again, I'm finding that means you can listen at lower levels with good fidelity comfortably. In fact, I find myself tending to steadily reduce the volume levels over time as I listen to these units. Of course, at first I'm going for the max just to see what's possible. The 415 should be able to fill a good size room with no trouble.

Most of what I said about the mini's sound quality applies here as well. Just more of it. Having all the controls on the remote is convenient. But, again, you will normally "tune" the Zvox and then control the overall volume levels from your source system. The 415 can cover a much larger area, of course, and is much more suitable as a 'sound bar' type device than the mini (which, to be fair, the mini was never intended to be). The real comparison will be with the 315 and 325 (and the 425 and 550 if I had 'em).

Although the 415 has a pretty good bottom end, I think you might still want to add a sub-woofer for a HT setup for those teeth rattling explosions. That said, I do think you could get by without one and be fairly happy. It's pretty solid and full sounding.

More to follow later! The 315 is here, the 325 should be here soon. Alas, I can't swing the 425...it has twice the power of the 415, so I'd love to try it out, but that will have to wait for someone else or another day.
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post #18 of 585 Old 01-28-2009, 09:14 PM
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Great review again!

One concern people were having about the zvox's were that the sound is not as good, if you're not in the center or right in front of the speaker. If you have an open living room, then it doesn't sound as good. I'm not sure what your setup is, but did you feel the same way about it?

Also, where do you plan to place your 325 or 415? Both are pretty thick speakers, and unless you have a shelf directly above or below the TV, it's kinda hard to place it....
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post #19 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 06:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Great review again!

One concern people were having about the zvox's were that the sound is not as good, if you're not in the center or right in front of the speaker. If you have an open living room, then it doesn't sound as good. I'm not sure what your setup is, but did you feel the same way about it?

Also, where do you plan to place your 325 or 415? Both are pretty thick speakers, and unless you have a shelf directly above or below the TV, it's kinda hard to place it....

Thanks! I have a large open room, a sunken family room, cathedral ceiling, dining room off (no walls between), lots of glass on one wall - in short, terrible for setting up a good audio or video system. So, when I get a chance to experiment more, I will be able to answer your question better. However, I can already tell that with music, at least, I do not see this as a problem at all with the 325 and 415. It might be with the mini, although I wouldn't say it's a problem, it's just that the mini is, well, small.

See my next post for more comments on this. By the way, I'm listening to music on the 325 now and I'm 170% off to the left and it sounds fine. Not the same as right in front, but still good. There's still a spread out soundstage (though narrower) so the PhaseCue effect is still working. I'm surprised, actually, but there it is. It might well be different for DVD/movies, I'll make sure to check that out. (I had a concern about this as well from reading reviews, but I'm much less concerned now if that tells you anything.)

Oh, one more point about that...how many systems sound the same no matter where you sit? Certainly not most other "real" setups in a typical family room. Again, I'll try to address this specific concern more one I actually have time to place the systems better and can move around and listen to a variety of content.

As far as placement, I will have to see. In my case, the 415 will be easier, I think, because I can probably work it out so it can sit in front of and below my set. I think my screen will clear it, but we'll see. I'd have to put the 325 on a shelf below (none there now, so would have to build one). The 325 would work well if you have shelves or an entertainment center type setup. That shelf that used to be for your VCR, would work perfectly. The sub port is in the rear, not sure if that will be a problem, might be for an enclosed unit.

More to follow.
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post #20 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 07:41 PM
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nice bron..keep them coming.. I pulled the trigger and bought myself CT100, but I can always return it 415 does sound like a good deal easier to place..325 is just too thick and big if you don't have a shelf space that goes directly below the TV's center...
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post #21 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 08:05 PM - Thread Starter
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My 325 replacement arrived today (that was quick!) and I had a chance to set it up and check it out a bit (with music content only). So here are some quick impressions. I'll post more later and hope to have some time this weekend to check out some TV and DVD content on it.

It's styled like the mini only much larger (17x16x4.8 inches). And it has an additional input on the front. I plugged a cable up to my mp3 player (yep, that's what I had handy) and took it for a spin. The 325 is much more powerful than the mini, of course. I put the 325 in my roughly 18x24' family room which opens to a dining room with no walls between them and a kitchen (no walls again) -- it's a very open floor plan. The family room also has an open ceiling about 24' or more? (I'm guessing) - so not much reflecting back other than the wall of windows to the left. A really hard room to setup in.

Anyway, the 325 has no trouble filling the room with sound and was very listenable in the DR and kitchen as well. It's pretty loud. It's only 60 watts, but the sound is clean and strong. The bass is very good. In my opinion, you can get by fine without a sub-woofer for music. (Movies may be a different matter, we'll see). I turned up the PhaseCue for a big soundstage and I could walk around the room and everything sounded fine from a variety of positions. In fact, even 170% off axis, music still sounded great and the phasecue effect, though diminished was still present. If you sit back from the unit, you can spread out nicely as far as sitting positions. Even up in the dining room the soundstage held up well -- like a wide stereo setup. Again this is not a 5.1 system, not even close, but the effect is pleasant and does give it a "big" sound -- impressive when you look at the fairly small cabinet it is emanating from. The effect is sort of like the sound is spread out in front of you (not behind). A live concert like sound. Very nice for music.

The bass is good. I set the sub-woofer level about halfway for these initial listening tests. The PhaseCue I varied from about 1/3 to 2/3, occasionally turning it to the min or max just for comparison. You could probably set it about half way as well and be done with it for most music content. My usual method was to turn it down and then turn it 'up' until I heard the soundstage widen nicely. That occurred usually around the 1/3-1/2 area, but some material sounded great at 2/3...and if you're into trance, go full bore! (Techno/electronic stuff sounds great as you might expect -- it loves that big spacey-wide PhaseCue effect.)

Live, acoustic sets sounded superb. The definition of the instrumentation is excellent. The vocals awesome. The Zvox gear really does have great sound quality. Or, as I reflected....Man, have I been listening to crappy speakers a lot, lately, or what! I used to have a great stereo audio setup (interesting side note, I had some Yamaha speakers and a pair of EPI speakers as part of it (still have them) and the Zvox CEO founded EPI. Small world). But with raising a family and all, I slid into boom boxes and kludged together stereo systems (grab a sub and a pair of monitor speakers and voila!). So I have been "deprived" for awhile, keep that in mind as it may well color my perspective.

So - man, I remember now what music can sound like. To be able to hear the transients, the harmonics, the percussives - live instruments sound like live instruments. The vocals on the 325 sound superb. The clarity is thrilling. Listening to the sibilance, the throaty sounds, the soaring vocals, was thrilling. I've been relegated to headphones to get this kind of sonic accuracy for some time and this was a real treat. I love my headphones, but full, airy, open room sound is just something special, too. The crisp pick sounds on guitar work, all the overtones and harmonics on strings. Sweet!

Here's some of what I listened to (I just let my mp3 player randomly pick stuff): Stevie Ray Vaughn "Texas Flood" was joyous. Crisp guitar, super live sounding, great bass, strong vocals, just really good overall. Eurythmics "17 Again" lovely soaring vocals and strong bass line -a great "spacey" effect at the point in the song that uses it, tight, distinct guitar. Thelonious Monk "Straight, No chaser" - sounds like you're in the room - the piano sounds incredible - very live and real. Alison Krauss "Can't Find My Way Home" -- thumping bass, strong acoustical guitar, breathy vocals, great percussion, a moving experience (if you ever get the chance to see her and Union Station live - go!), then a rocking Pat Benatar "Sex as a Weapon" followed by Joni Mitchell "Edith and the Kingpin" more nice bass lines and Joni's signature vocals...ahhhh. Julie Driscoll "Walk Down". Annie Lennox "Little Bird", another great Alison Krauss and Uniion Station song "The Road is a Lover" -- on this one all the instruments sounded awesome. Then a real change of pace with Jefferson Airplane "Plastic Fantastic Lover", some Carole King and another sweet Joni Mitchell song "A Case of You" (nice dulcimer sound). [Yes, I like the ladies!]

Everything sounded great. Percussion very live and crisp. Vocals simply superb. Electric guitars- great! Acoustic guitars - great! A real treat. And I could walk around the room, wander up the steps to the dining room and kitchen and everything continued to sound good. Sitting way off to the left, sounds good. In front, great! Yes, there's a difference, but both sound good. Every now and then the sound quality will really grab you and you'll hear something you hadn't noticed before. On one jazz number I listened to, there was some kind of light, wooden block type percussion bit I had never noticed before much, it stood out very distinctly on the Zvox. Very "live" sounding. Things like that were a real treat to hear.

Some people might like a bit stronger bass, but I think the bass lines were very accurate and not over done like some systems with sub-woofers tend to sound. I had the sub-woofer level at 1/2 way. The bass grew much stronger when I turned it up, but I preferred to back it off - that sounded more real to me. I listened to a jazz piece with some nice string bass and it sounded very, very good. A very live sound. In fact, that's the word I kept coming back to - "live" -- acoustic instruments, especially, sounded very "live" (that is, extremely good!) to me. Vocals were outstanding. As good as I've ever heard, lately (but remember, I've been "deprived!"). Pianos sounded great as you had the great percussive sounds plus the very accurate tones. I'm not an audiophile by a long shot, but I do enjoy good sound, and this all sounded pretty darn good to me.

I'm struggling as to how best to explain the "PhaseCue" effect. It does make the sound "wider" and also "deeper" -- so the bass might sound as if it's in the far back, the brass on the right, the vocals center, the piano usually seemed to be center or right, drums maybe left, and so on. It sounds as if everything is spread out in front of you. Never did I hear anything behind me. But it did sound very much like a live stage in front of you. And it does not (usually) sound artificial (if you turn it all the way up the sound starts to wrap around weirdly sometimes) at all. If you go too "wide' then the center "drops out" a bit and some sounds move way off on their own in a strange way. But if you set it reasonably, you get a very nice effect. On some things it reminded me of a concert hall type effect. On others, just a nice wide stereo effect. Reverb might be a little bit accentuated, sometimes, but it's really hard to be sure...maybe that's how it was supposed to sound? To really know, you would need to compare it to a known, very good sound system side-by-side and, alas, I cannot do that.

(One note, I searched for any reviews where they actually tested the frequency response curve for these units and could never find anything. Strange, but those tests seem somewhat out of favor these days. I'd love to see a frequency response curve for the speakers at different "PhaseCue" levels, for example. Inquiring minds want to know!)

I can't wait to try out some TV and movies. So far, the 325 looks like a winner, to me. It has enough power, great sound quality, solid construction, easy set-up and use. Reasonable price (especially with the $50 off they're now offering on the 325 [$100 on the 415]). And the service from Zvox is outstanding - far better than average. You are dealing with real people who actually answer emails promptly and address concerns quickly. That's a real plus.

More to come!
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post #22 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 08:11 PM
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nice bron..keep them coming.. I pulled the trigger and bought myself CT100, but I can always return it 415 does sound like a good deal easier to place..325 is just too thick and big if you don't have a shelf space that goes directly below the TV's center...

Do take into consideration that none of the ZVOX soundbars have not one HDMI input (or output) and are mostly dependant on analog input (which is fine for most people). I did try the 425 and the 550 in my home, both sounded pretty good but I honestly think that a new model needs to come out with HDMI ports and able to accept PCM at 5.1/7.1 uncompressed sound for me to keep the unit in my home.

@bron: Have you compared these units to another analog soundbar? Like the Yamaha YSP units? I'll tell you what, no matter how much I like my Sony CT100, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Yamaha YSP units are king when it comes to soundbars. Have you compared at least the Yamaha YSP 1100 (which you can grab online for less than $500) to the ZVOX units?
I can't speak for Davyo but me and him do comparisons when it comes to soundbars and have done lengthy tests. I've compared the ZVOX to the oldest model of the Yamaha YSP brands, the YSP-1, and that blows them (the ZVOX brands) out of the water still. To explain why is because unlike most soundbars that use a DOME effect in creating a surround field (ZVOX brands do this but the CT100 does it too), the Yamaha YSP series use multiple sound beams (alot of them) to reflect off walls to give you a surround effect. It's been herald by a multitude of people as being the only soundbar close enough to replicate an almost TRUE 5.1 surround sound (actually beating out some REAL 5.1 sound systems actually). Reason I don't own one... well, I've jumped into the HD age (PS3= Bluray Player), the CT100 is the only soundbar on the market that allows a 5.1/7.1 LPCM Uncompressed surround sound signal through it (HD audio Tracks via PCM).

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not actually trying to put down the ZVOX because like I mentioned before they sound pretty good actually. Moreso, I like your in depth reviews of each unit you've managed to get your hands on of the ZVOX brand. I personally would like to see ZVOX bring out a new unit that could compete with Yamaha and Sony when it comes to updated soundbar units that are looking towards the future of sound not the past of analog sound. To some people the ZVOX will be perfect in their home if most of their devices are still analog. To some the ZVOX will sound great in their home due to not having walls or too big of a room to handle other soundbars "technologies". Keep doing what you do bron, you're making a believer out of everyone else and almost got me to rethink about giving the ZVOX units another try...

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post #23 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 08:24 PM - Thread Starter
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nice bron..keep them coming.. I pulled the trigger and bought myself CT100, but I can always return it 415 does sound like a good deal easier to place..325 is just too thick and big if you don't have a shelf space that goes directly below the TV's center...

Well, I started to get into this earlier, but didn't -- perhaps wisely. I must say that I think the Sony CT-100 is a really viable option. On price alone, it's very hard to beat. You get a true sub-woofer and, by all accounts, a pretty good soundbar with some nice surround-sound effects. I don't like having the connections on the sub, but that's probably not a deal breaker. I am very tempted to get a CT-100, myself, if only to find out, but I've already spent way too much on this.

If I were primarily interested in the Home Theatre aspect, I'd be leaning to the CT-100 if it were vs. the 315 or 325, I think. It's tough, but I'm guessing the surround sound effects of the CT-100 are better than the 325 or 315, possibly much, much better. (I'd love to know! Be sure to come back and tell us how you like the CT-100!)

However, for me, personally, the music aspect is equally, maybe even more important, than the HT aspect. Because I will have to use it for both and because I think the sound quality actually matters more on the music side. So, as a great music system than can also handle the HT side, I might lean towards the Zvox.

A lot would depend on the CT-100's amp and the quality of the speakes in that soundbar. If I were designing for HT, I think I'd make choices that might not be the best for music. It's really a tough call. But I think the audio heritage of the Zvox gear gives it an edge, musically, and to me, that's very important.

Of course, for what I've already spent, I could have had the CT-100 and a 325...and have money left over...so clearly my passion has superseded my logic somewhere along the way. LOL!
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Nautiduck,

Re: dialog

So far, it seems to be true that the dialog is exceptionally strong and clear with the Zvox units. Most certainly as compared with typical, cheaper units or TV speakers. There is no "muddy" sound here. It is all crisp and clear. I have already noticed that I can lower the volume levels and still hear vocals and dialog clearly. As my wife can tell you, that's not true with the 2.1 system I currently am using. I tend to turn it up pretty loud in order to hear everything clearly, especially when they speak softly during action sequences and so on. I'll speak to this again after I've put in more listening time on a wider variety of content. But, so far, so good.
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post #25 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 09:07 PM
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Well, I started to get into this earlier, but didn't -- perhaps wisely. I must say that I think the Sony CT-100 is a really viable option. On price alone, it's very hard to beat. You get a true sub-woofer and, by all accounts, a pretty good soundbar with some nice surround-sound effects. I don't like having the connections on the sub, but that's probably not a deal breaker. I am very tempted to get a CT-100, myself, if only to find out, but I've already spent way too much on this.

If I were primarily interested in the Home Theatre aspect, I'd be leaning to the CT-100 if it were vs. the 315 or 325, I think. It's tough, but I'm guessing the surround sound effects of the CT-100 are better than the 325 or 315, possibly much, much better. (I'd love to know! Be sure to come back and tell us how you like the CT-100!)

However, for me, personally, the music aspect is equally, maybe even more important, than the HT aspect. Because I will have to use it for both and because I think the sound quality actually matters more on the music side. So, as a great music system than can also handle the HT side, I might lean towards the Zvox.

A lot would depend on the CT-100's amp and the quality of the speakes in that soundbar. If I were designing for HT, I think I'd make choices that might not be the best for music. It's really a tough call. But I think the audio heritage of the Zvox gear gives it an edge, musically, and to me, that's very important.

Of course, for what I've already spent, I could have had the CT-100 and a 325...and have money left over...so clearly my passion has superseded my logic somewhere along the way. LOL!

I agree with you on the ZVOX doing music pretty well, I've had the 425 once (for test/comparison reasons) and I have a few ... "hip-hop" music and the Bass on the 425 was extremely surprising, more so of the fact of how loud it really can get up to (neighbors had my Landlord to come by !) In my opinion, I think the 425 is best suited for music (which is what you used for most of your Tests in regards to the ZVOX units) but has a slight negative of the upper registers come through clearly but not as clear as I would hope. The 550 in my opinion was no where near the 425's Bass but I think it's merely due to it's size and the people who made this unit was probably thinking about those who were concerned about cabinet size (people who would rather just place the unit on top of their TV stand). I felt that the 550 tried to do much less than the 425 and because of this the 550 went back faster than the 425 (which I was still doing tests on).

If I had to compare a soundbar to the ZVOX brand, I honestly would have to point to the Polk Audio Soundbar series due to the fact they use a similar technology to the ZVOX's PhaseCue. The Polk Audio Soundbars technology is SDA Surround Sound and I've borrowed the Soundbar 50 and 360 from a close friend (who's in the military) who very much liked how I test equipment.
If you check out their website:
http://www.polkaudio.com/homeaudio/surroundbar/
You will also notice the technology they use to "envelope" people in sound is very, very simlar to ZVOX's PhaseCue. The only problems with these units I found is that both have the sound collapse back into the unit, aka no surround if you aren't sitting in front of the sound bar. This doesn't mean they go quiet or aren't loud mind you, they are still plenty loud in my opinion. DVD's really make the technology of both companies soundbars shine but only if you are sitting in front of the units when it comes to my ears. The big downer was that no matter what both companies bring out, they never were mindful of people jumping into the future of audio and video, the people who love HD. It's an up incoming and will soon sweep everyone up eventually and if ZVOX or Polk don't step up their game soon, they very well may be left to be forgotten. Both are still Analog, no HDMI whatsoever, I'm wondering why people haven't voiced these issues to them yet (Yamaha listened).

Do take into consideration that I can hear things a bit better than others due to the fact most of the sound equipment I own/test are set up in a very small room (10x10). So with most soundbars that say they do "rear effects" the ZVOX in my opinion just didn't provide. The CT100 and the Yamaha YSP's are a different story and I can hear things behind me constantly. The CT100 has this feeling of rear sounds of, how can I put this, trying to be pushed behind me (don't know if that can explain better). So numerous times it sounds like a somewhat echo effect but in actuality, I come to find out through more test that this was the rear effect the whole time. The Yamaha's YSP's are in an entire league of their own in producing sound in different directions (left, right, rear), you have to hear it for yourself because words can't really explain it !

If you ever get the chance, try both the CT100 (you can find them for less than $250, yubjun knows where) and the Yamaha YSP 1100 (you can find that for less than $500, but a sub will need to be bought as well). Now since it's near bedtime for me, I'll leave this post with one more soundbar to think about. If you ever grab a HD Receiver, try the Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-50 with it and you'll be amazed! I can honestly say that it is the best soundbar I've ever heard in my life (better than the Yamaha YSP's and CT100) and they don't bounce sound off walls whatsoever!

P.S. I've tried the ZVOX with DVD's and Blurays and the sound was big and loud but not as "directional" as the other soundbars I mentioned above (doesn't mean it doesn't I'm just saying not AS WELL).

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http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...7#post15172017
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post #26 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 10:06 PM - Thread Starter
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Do take into consideration that none of the ZVOX soundbars have not one HDMI input (or output) and are mostly dependant on analog input (which is fine for most people). I did try the 425 and the 550 in my home, both sounded pretty good but I honestly think that a new model needs to come out with HDMI ports and able to accept PCM at 5.1/7.1 uncompressed sound for me to keep the unit in my home.

@bron: Have you compared these units to another analog soundbar? Like the Yamaha YSP units? I'll tell you what, no matter how much I like my Sony CT100, I know without a shadow of a doubt that the Yamaha YSP units are king when it comes to soundbars. Have you compared at least the Yamaha YSP 1100 (which you can grab online for less than $500) to the ZVOX units?
I can't speak for Davyo but me and him do comparisons when it comes to soundbars and have done lengthy tests. I've compared the ZVOX to the oldest model of the Yamaha YSP brands, the YSP-1, and that blows them (the ZVOX brands) out of the water still. To explain why is because unlike most soundbars that use a DOME effect in creating a surround field (ZVOX brands do this but the CT100 does it too), the Yamaha YSP series use multiple sound beams (alot of them) to reflect off walls to give you a surround effect. It's been herald by a multitude of people as being the only soundbar close enough to replicate an almost TRUE 5.1 surround sound (actually beating out some REAL 5.1 sound systems actually). Reason I don't own one... well, I've jumped into the HD age (PS3= Bluray Player), the CT100 is the only soundbar on the market that allows a 5.1/7.1 LPCM Uncompressed surround sound signal through it (HD audio Tracks via PCM).

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not actually trying to put down the ZVOX because like I mentioned before they sound pretty good actually. Moreso, I like your in depth reviews of each unit you've managed to get your hands on of the ZVOX brand. I personally would like to see ZVOX bring out a new unit that could compete with Yamaha and Sony when it comes to updated soundbar units that are looking towards the future of sound not the past of analog sound. To some people the ZVOX will be perfect in their home if most of their devices are still analog. To some the ZVOX will sound great in their home due to not having walls or too big of a room to handle other soundbars "technologies". Keep doing what you do bron, you're making a believer out of everyone else and almost got me to rethink about giving the ZVOX units another try...

Wow, thanks! I really appreciate the kind words, especially from someone I consider much more knowledgeable than I and whose posts I have read and enjoyed here.

I agree with everything you've said above. You hit one of my big reasons "To some the ZVOX will sound great in their home due to not having walls or too big of a room to handle other soundbars "technologies"." -- That's the main thing that pulled me away from the Yamaha's (plus cost, but then I have negated that difference as I got carried away with all this). And then see my prev post which I must have been writing as you were writing yours. The music aspect is also very key for me and everyone reading my reviews should keep that in mind. I'm looking for [u]acceptable[u] HT sound, but it does not have to be true 5.1 or even close. Just a lot better than what I have. And, it has to handle music as well or better than other content. So, my needs are a bit different, maybe, than the typical person in this forum.

I like Yamaha gear a lot (I have Yamaha speakers, a Yamaha guitar, a Yamaha mixing deck and tape recorder, etc.) and, though I have not even heard one, I pretty much concluded the Yamaha is king of the soundbars (based in good part on posts here by you and others). But, given my room situation, I did not think they would work. That's what led me to the Sony CT-100, a few other units, and ZVOX, initially.

I actually came very, very close to buying the CT-100. If the connections had not been on the sub-woofer, I probably would have. That gave me pause and I decided to look around some more. Then, the more I read about the ZVOX , the more it seemed to fit my needs. There were a few other 'hooks' that helped tip the scales, for me, as well. A big one was the audio DNA, if you will, of the ZVOX line. I liked my EPI speakers. The ZVOX founder also founded EPI. That caught my attention. Being an old UNIX computer geek, I firmly believe in the simple is better philosophy - each tool should do one job and do it well. I did not want a built in DVD player or a lot of frills. Having a cabling mess already, the one cable analog approach appealed to me.

I'm also a guy who likes to "rig things up" a lot. Meaning, I'll say, hey, I could take that, and that and put it with this and voila - ain't that cool! So the flexibility of the ZVOX design was very appealing (one box, one cable, anything with an analog audio output, etc.). So, one box could, potentially, serve for my HT, projector, mp3 player, Soundbridge streaming audio, game system, almost anything where I needed good sound. [Of course, I later perverted this into "several ZVOX units could..." but that's how I was thinking at the start.]

I especially did *not* want a unit with lots of inputs, HDMI, and so on. If I wanted that, I would buy an A/V receiver and a passive soundbar, or just go full speed into 5.1. (I had considered the former seriously, but cost started to creep up higher and higher.) I'm not technology agnostic, for reasons I won't get into in detail here, I'm not a big fan of HDMI, DRM/HDCP, and I'm not a digital is always better than analog guy, either. My main HDTV, currently, is using component. I am moving to HDMI by necessity, now, but still not sure it's "better" by any means. And, I already have lots of switches and other gizmos on hand. So a simple analog connection is fine by me. It's all analog at the speaker anyway, right?

So the more I looked into the ZVOX line, the more I liked what I saw. And I liked the idea of this small company saying, hey, how 'bout just a really good sounding audio system, fairly cheap, and really easy to hook up and use? The only question was, were they for real or was it all hype? That's what I endeavored to find out!

So. It should be duly noted that I have never had 5.1 sound. I've heard it and it's very cool. But I'm willing to accept less based on my current situation, room, needs, and so on. I have a 2.1 system currently, so anything we're discussing here will be a big step up. I just like the design ideas of the ZVOX units. Their approach appeals to me. It's just a matter of whether they can deliver. So far, it looks like they can, but I'm still exploring and learning.

By the way, I envy you. I'm really drooling over the 425, significantly more power. Id love to get one and give it a listen. But I'm not quite sure what my wife will do if yet another ZVOX box shows up. LOL!

Thanks again for the thoughtful post and comments. One day I may just find a good deal on a Yamaha and ...

Cheers!

Bron
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post #27 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 10:27 PM - Thread Starter
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Wow! Yet another big post! It's getting late, so I'll come back and respond more later, maybe, but I did run across the Definitive Technology Mythos SSA-50 just recently and was quite intrigued by what I read. So I may go back at that one again.

Again, I agree with everything you've said about the ZVOX units. It's just that I'm also OK with all of it. I have a big open room. I love the way it handles music and all the stuff I posted above.

I think the 415 I have is very similar to the 425, but much less power. I find the bass very good and surprising as well. In fact, I can pretty much say that about all the units as long as you factor their cabinet size into the equation. (And you adjust the sub level properly! Early in my tests, I somehow turned the sub level down and I was really puzzled, thinking, it just does not have the punch, where's the bass? Then I checked and found my error, turned it up and...much better.)

The 415 and 425 both have a treble adjustment - the only ZVOX's that do (well, maybe the 550 does, too, I'm not too up on that unit). I find adjusting the treble and sub levels can make a big difference in the overall sound. But, I'll make a point of listening for that high rolloff you heard, though my ears probably aren't as good as yours.

A very interesting post and lots of good stuff therein for me to ponder! I will do so and get back to you when I have more time.

Thanks again!
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post #28 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 10:38 PM
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I do look forward to other reviews if you happen to grab any further ZVOX brand soundbars. As mentioned above, it's my personal opinion of why/what I think the ZVOX soundbars should change, doesn't mean they have to. I do agree that most soundbars are analog anyway. Only recently soundbars have grabbed HDMI ports, well actually there's only 4, but only one tried to differentiate itself from the others by providing 5.1/7.1 uncompressed sound (simulated) and that would be the CT100.

Overall though, most soundbars are about the same and produce DD 5.1 (also it's counter part Prologic II) and DTS 5.1 sound signals anyway. It's just the small difference of technology when it comes to creating the sound field for each one. Like you mentioned, Passive soundbars may be the better bet but require a bit more money from us (and with the way the economy is, it doesn't help anything). You have to buy a Receiver, a subwoofer and multiple cables to hook the thing up. We both do like simple setups through and quite frankly I don't think I'll ever move out of the soundbar category.

Simple belief of mine is that if a soundbar produces good surround sound, despite being "simulated", and is loud, produces big sound, and I can somewhat hear "directional" sound from certain places in the room, why do I need a REAL full fledged sound system that gives me the same feeling of having sound around me? Plus I had a 5.1 surround system once but only cost me $50 (I know, cheap crap of course). I had wires all over my room and it looked flat out ugly. Of course you can probably hide them but the simple fact that they were there was enough to make me consider I needed something different and less cable related. So Soundbars came into my life and I've never looked back since. I think you feel the same way Bron. Keep doing what your doing of testing out each ZVOX soundbar and informing people in what great sound comes out of these things (and I agree !) Nice chattin with ya, bed time now...

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My Sony CT-100 Settings (& PS3 Settings) *UPDATED 1/10/09*
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...7#post15172017
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post #29 of 585 Old 01-29-2009, 10:43 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, I will! I enjoy all this discussion, it's all part fo the fun!
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post #30 of 585 Old 01-30-2009, 09:09 AM
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Guys, I'm enjoying the info you guys are providing. I have a 46 inch Samsung 120Hz tv and have been looking at home theater systems. I have really been interested in sound bars and the information here has been helpful. This is the first I had heard of Zvox and it's quite interesting. You might can steer me in the right direction, my room is 20X24 and I really just want to improve audio on movies and tv programs with music. I listen to my main music with an old Pioneer, Onkyo and Sony stereo system, so it would not be for main music listening but just an improvement that comes out of this tv. I'll continue to read, thanks for the info.
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