Well, I had some time to take the ZVOX 325
for a spin with my std. test DVD, the Terminator 2 Extreme edition and here are some comments from the notes I made while listening. For these test's I turned up the sub-woofer levels and PhaseCue levels and also varied the volume quite a bit from time to time to see how that affected things.
As I have said, I don't consider the PhaseCue effect to be anything like true 5.1 surround sound, nor does ZVOX claim that it is. I liked da1writer's use of "dome effect" to describe it. But it's hard to describe. There's definitely the sense that the soundstage is "wide" and "deep" -- with music there's a very "live" ambiance, with standard TV fair there's not much of anything, and with other content it varies. With a well designed and produced DVD like Terminator 2 Ultimate, you probably get the best it has to offer. There are plenty of well planned audio cues in T2 lovingly put there to juice things up, so I was very curious to see how the 325 would do with it.
Let me stop here for a minute, though, and go very directly at the main question. Do you get that "at the movies" sound and feel? And the answer, in my opinion, is yes. You definitely get "big sound" from the 325. It may not be 5.1 surround, but it is a very immersive sound that at times does feel like it's "all around" you (though I never once heard a truly directional sound behind
me). I'd say it's more 3.1+ than 5.1, but it's one hell of a lot better than your TV's speakers (or my current 2.1 setup) by far. There's great dynamic range, very detailed accents, crisp, clear dialog that stays centered and everything sounds natural. So, yes, to me it had that "at the movies" feel to it and that will be enough for many of us.
In T2, there were plenty of chances for the 325 to show its stuff. And mostly it did. The Harley sounded like a Harley - nice throaty rumble, you could feel the Harley rumble when he throttled up. The scooter sounded like a scooter, the music at the end of the bar scene was outstanding. As mentioned, there were many times when I felt as if the sound as all around me in a general sense (though as I mentioned, I never once truly hear anything behind me in a directional sense). I did hear lots of directional queues off to both sides, deep and far away, to the front, left, and right. Sort of a semihemisphere of sound most of the time, that, at times, could become a dome-like sound. Anyway, if you ever sit all the way at the back of the theatre, sort of like that.
I noticed that the transitions between interior and exterior settings was very convincing. And things like hallways sounded right. (So, I could close my eyes and tell you when they left the room and walked down a hallway easily, to the credit of the sound team on T2.) Once the Psychiatrist spoke on an intercom and the sound was superb - they pegged it and the 325 pegged it.
The dialog was crisp and clear throughout. I never once had any trouble hearing anything that was said (of course, I had it pretty loud most of the time - like a theatre, right?), but when I did turn it down, I still never noticed any difficulty hearing anything said. The dialog always stayed centered, as it should - I never noticed any "processed" coloration added to the sound.
If there was anyplace it might fall short of true "theatre" sound, I'd say it was the big explosions -- it just does not have bass down into that bone jarring range, but then I doubt many soundbar systems do and the 325 does have an output especially for adding a true powered sub-woofer, should you feel the need. That said, I have a small powered sub on my 2.1 system and the 325 was almost as good [edit:
I had said "better" but after doing some A/B tests, I changed my mind, I think the powered sub did better]. When I cranked the sub-woofer levels I was definitely getting lows I could feel. edit:
[But after further tests, I concluded it could not match a separate sub-woofer, even my small one. Though when cranked up, it still sounded pretty good.]
There was great dynamic range, so there could be soft whispering and then a sudden crescendo (as Director's love to do) of metal clattering down (or whatever) that would make you jump. I could move around the room and the sound remained convincing over a wide arc. Yes, the soundstage shifted a bit, and from some places was more directional, but never did the effect "collapse" and I could have enjoyed it from any reasonable position, though, yes, the best seat in the house is in center. However, as you move back, the "center" is fairly wide, so at about 12 feet back, I'd say it extends and good 4-6 feet off axis to the left or right. (I did not actually try to measure this. Just guessing.)
The audio fidelity of the ZVOX lends a realism to the sound effects - that "live" quality I mentioned before in my music listening tests. And the musical score obviously benefits as well. You may notice the music in your movies a bit more, I did. The 325 won't blow the windows out, but it had plenty of volume for my fairly large, open room (more than enough to annoy other family members during my tests, LOL!). Certainly plenty for normal listening. In fact, my ears were ringing a bit after my "max volume" tests.
One DVD does not a thorough test make, so I will be doing more listening tests, but the 325 is off to a good start!