Here is my “review” of the ZVOX Z-Base 555:
I recently purchases a Sony 46HX909 (a great TV!) and I found the speakers to be terribly anemic. I decided I wanted to get a sound system to beef up the sound. I didn’t want anything too elaborate or loud; my living room is not large. My wife expressed concerns about having too many cords/speaker that would “junk up the room”. After looking at a number of soundbars, I decided not to get one because I don’t have room for a subwoofer (and the SBs without subs didn’t have enough low end). I did some research and came across the 555. After reading up on it, I decided to give it a try … ZVOX has a 30 day money back guarantee.
The system fit the bill for me perfectly. Here is why:
1) Because the Z-Base system is a simple looking black wooden box that your TV sits on, it is practically unnoticeable to anyone walking in the room. I actually have had to point it out to some people. The construction is very solid and the quality of the build is impressive.
2) It is programmable, so you don’t need to use the remote once you adjust the settings (EQ, Surround-sound, etc.).
3) It has bass without using a sub! Mind you, it doesn’t have tons of bass and it is mostly present in the low-mids. If you have to have those house shaking lows, you will need a sub. But if you are like me and not that picky, it is fine (even good!).
4) Overall, the sound is very good. Like I said, “low” low end is not present and it seems the same with the really high end… but overall the system has a nice sound. It did exactly what I wanted – it improved the sound of my TV a great deal.
5) Setup is extremely simple. One optical cable does the trick, reducing cordage for those neat freaks like my wife and me.
6) The Surround-sound does a decent job. There are 3 levels – I keep it on the most “Surroundy” (lv 3). ZVOX did a nice job with this feature, which gives the unit a bigger, fuller sound (unlike the surround in most TVs that do nothing).
7) There is a digital readout on the right side of the unit. It only displays when you use the remote and turns off after several seconds.
8) The system turns itself off if there is no input after a certain amount of time.
Thing that could be improved on, in my opinion:
1) The remote is small and not too impressive. This isn’t an issue for me because I don’t use it.
2) I would like to see more EQ settings than just treble and bass. Mids would be nice, but I guess that might be getting too picky. Not many devices like this one have mid controls.
3) The high end could be just a bit brighter. Again, I am getting picky. I actually avoid this problem by leaving my TV speakers on really low. They have a nice high end, but little else. They supplement the “tingier” high frequencies very nicely.
4) There is no HDMI support! This is my biggest bitch!Edit
(8/17/11): Upon research, I think that my comment about HDMI is not warranted. From what I have read, HDMI would not have a great advantage over the optical input. Also, now that I have had the speakers for a while, I think that the high frequencies are present enough on their own.
Notable features that I don’t care about or use:
1) In addition to the EQ and Surround setting there is also a limiter and a “voice enhancer”. Both work well and are fine for something like a news broadcast, but I wouldn’t use them while viewing a movie or watching a concert. The limiter compresses the sound so those pesky commercials are less blaring and annoying, but it kills dynamics. The voice enhancer boosts midrange to make vocals sound more prominent. This is at the cost of other frequencies and the surround sound.
2) It has a number of other inputs, but the optical is best. Also, an optical cable is included with your purchase, which is a nice touch these days.Edit:
(9/5/11) now that I have had the system for over a month, I do find that the voice enhancer is useful sometimes. It really does a nice job of making the voices clearer and easier to understand.
Overall, I am very happy with the ZVOX Z-Base 555. It does not replace a good 5.1, 7.1 or a great stereo (we have JBL studio monitors that sound great…. but I don’t want to leave them on all the time). You won’t get true surround sound with this system, so don’t expect miracles. However, you will get much improved sound from your TV speakers and the surround does a commendable job. I have been demoing the unit to my friends and family first with the TV speaker, then with the 555 and it has been getting rave reviews. Everyone says, “wow, that thing sounds good…. who makes it?”. Or something like that...
At its price,you could argue that you can get something that sounds a lot better and that may be true. But you won’t get anything that is so hidden (unless you go for in-wall speakers) and easy to set up and operate.
If I were to score the 555 I would give it a 93%. Although it is not perfect… sturdy construction, rich robust sound and aesthetically pleasing looks make this system a winner. If you want to avoid using a subwoofer and have a sound system that is inconspicuous in your décor, it might be the one for you!EDIT:
(9/10/11) Cnet reviewed the 555, here is there take
. They pretty much like it.
They mostly agree with me only they are a little harder on the sound quality. Like I said, it is a big step up from my TV speakers, but far from perfect...