AVS Forum banner
1 - 20 of 585 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,938 Posts

Quote:
Originally Posted by bron /forum/post/15583749


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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #3 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa /forum/post/15584096


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!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,938 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tulpa /forum/post/15586472


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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
241 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by dayvo /forum/post/15593532


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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nautiduck /forum/post/15594306


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
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
54 Posts
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
18 Posts
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!!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #14 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nautiduck /forum/post/15642713


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!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
40 Posts
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..
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by yubjun /forum/post/15674439


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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
40 Posts
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....
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,087 Posts
Discussion Starter · #19 ·

Quote:
Originally Posted by yubjun /forum/post/15681325


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.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
40 Posts
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...
 
1 - 20 of 585 Posts
Top