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Zvox AV357 soundbar evaluation: Premium dialogue, however not the most effective worth


Are you placing up with indecipherable dialogue in your TV? There are quite a few options to countering poor sound, however shopping for a brand new soundbar is an efficient place to start out. Massachusetts-based firm Zvox just about invented the soundbar, and it has been refining its designs within the virtually 20 years since. After a detour into listening to aids, the corporate has been utilizing what it discovered to develop its line of AccuVoice audio system, which incorporates all the pieces from the entry-level ZV100 ($100) to this new flagship AV357 soundbar — which lists for $350 however is on sale proper now at $300. 

Like

  • Loads of voice modes and EQ customizations
  • Voices sound pure and extra comprehensible
  • Convincing quantities of bass for music

Do not Like

  • Paying a premium for wooden over aluminum
  • Much less options than the step-down
  • Restricted inputs
  • Pricey

With its MDF development (that is engineered wooden for these unfamiliar with the acronym), the AV357 is each bigger and extra enticing than step-down fashions. Options are pretty sparse — there is not Bluetooth streaming — however its efficiency is above and past what you’d count on from the scale.

That mentioned, in comparison with different soundbars at this worth level, the Zvox lacks numerous options. Rivals beat it handsomely for must-haves like superior connectivity and value — as does the Zvox AV257, which is at the moment out of inventory. However on the finish of the day, the AV357 is well-built and makes TV dialogue and music sound higher than any tv alone.

What’s it?

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Zvox AV357 is a single, 24-inch soundbar designed to enhance dialogue out of your TV. It does not provide Bluetooth, HDMI or different commonplace fripperies nevertheless it does have 12 ranges of voice enhancement. Some soundbars have a single dialogue mode, in the event that they’re fortunate, so this implies the AV357 is very configurable compared.

The unit provides six phases of AccuVoice increase, plus a further six phases of SuperVoice accessed through the distant’s AccuVoice button. SuperVoice is designed to cut back background sounds and increase dialogue even additional. Different sound modes embody a quantity leveling mode (for loud commercials), PhaseCue digital encompass and bass and treble controls.

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Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Zvox has simply two inputs: an analog and an optical digital. The analog enter permits customers to attach a TV or an Amazon Echo for automated muting when issuing instructions. The bar itself is roofed in a comparatively enticing black ash veneer and measures 23.75 inches broad, 4.19 inches deep and a couple of.75 inches excessive. I used to be utilizing a reasonably low-slung Westinghouse TV throughout my testing and located that the soundbar did block its IR port. If that is an issue for you, there sadly is not a wall-mounting possibility (although you can most likely discover a third-party resolution.

zvox-av357-4

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

You’ll be able to program your TV’s distant to regulate the speaker’s quantity ranges or use the included distant, which has a pleasant premium really feel to it and huge buttons to help folks with low imaginative and prescient. (It means that you can entry the speaker’s further options, although it could have been nice so as to add a SuperVoice button as a result of this is not apparent with out consulting the guide.) Alas, in contrast to different Zvox audio system I’ve examined, the AV357 does not have controls on the unit. This might be a difficulty if, like me, you misplace the distant and want to show down the sound in a rush.

The soundbar is powered by a 24-watt Class D digital amplifier — similar to the AV257 — and a complement of 3-inch, full-range audio system. In order for you extra bass oomph, there’s a mixed headphone and subwoofer output.

Personally, I desire the options of the AV257 to the AV357 because it provides each the additional optical-analog enter and has controls on the unit. It is also $80 cheaper. Whereas I have not heard the AV257, the opposite principal variations are the AV357 is way wider and it options wooden development. The elevated bodily quantity almost definitely contributes to the bass weight that I heard. However may I inform the soundbar was wooden and never aluminum by taking a look at it? Probably not. It was a black blob in entrance of the TV. I really desire the distinctive, brushed look of Zvox’s aluminum soundbars to the AV357’s considerably pedestrian black ash.

How does it carry out?

When organising the AV357, I wanted to tweak the sound to get it precisely how I wished. It wasn’t fairly able to exit of the field — most likely as a result of it utilizing an analog TV supply as an alternative of digital. For example, I wanted to cut back ‘Lo’ by 2, or bass drums sounded free and floppy. Moreover, AccuVoice settings 2 and above have been loud and too ahead and vivid — not good for music. Lastly, when set in SD 3 (Encompass 3) mode, the soundbar was able to a large sufficient soundstage and bass for music. 

In my earlier experiences with Zvox soundbars, one of many firm’s constant strengths — along with nice dialogue — has been the quantity of bass the model can squeeze out of a compact cupboard. In fact, this implies numerous behind-the-scenes sign processing, and I discovered this might result in some bizarre conduct. Bass-heavy music may pulse out and in to the beat, for instance. 

Fortunately, this was much less of a difficulty with the AV357. Whereas I did discover delicate fading results on the sparse spoken-word interlude of Fucked Up’s 12 months of the Horse Act 1, I solely heard it as soon as throughout my week with the speaker. Even Alt-J’s notoriously speaker-destroying 3WW did not overload the cupboard with its deep bass mattress — not less than, not after pulling again the bass management beforehand.

With additional music listening I discovered Foals’ What Went Down was particularly pleasant. It is a cliche, however I actually did verify to see if the Vizio V21 was on because the bass appeared too deep, too tuneful to be from the Zvox’s small enclosure.

As you’d count on, given the corporate’s principal pitch, the Zvox was higher with voices than the Vizio V21 (our present funds favourite). The AV357 supplied enhanced element, reminding me of audiophile-grade loudspeakers, and it was particularly able to deciphering gritty British cop exhibits like Lone of Responsibility. 

The AV357 provides so many tailor-made choices that it encourages tweaking, however these will be taken too far. Relying on the mode, it’s possible you’ll discover that mid-range heavy sounds turn out to be unnatural (ex., Supermode 2 and three accentuated turning bedsheets in John Wick), making them sound like they’d been sitting out within the frost in a single day. Additionally, at Accusound’s highest ranges the brighter sound might be uncomfortable for relations who do not want a lot help with listening to voices.

As you’d count on, the Vizio ran rings across the Zvox for dwelling theater pleasure. Throughout Avatar’s thanator chase scene, the thump of the Vizio’s wi-fi sub enhanced the drama. In the meantime, the Zvox got here off slightly skinny; clear, however skinny. What I did not count on was the Zvox’s dynamics. It could not have the ability to pump out bass, however in the event you do not use the quantity leveling function, the AV357 handles dynamic shifts properly — just like the quiet jungle sounds of Pandora damaged by gunfire.

Do you have to purchase it?

Zvox is not the one firm making dialogue-improving soundbars: Polk, Samsung and Vizio all provide fashions with voice enhancement, although they provide little in the best way of customized configuration. The Zvox AV357’s six ranges of voice management are one thing no different soundbar firm can provide. But when you really want AccuVoice, there are cheaper Zvox soundbars that additionally embody it, together with the aforementioned $100 AV100. 

The costlier SB500 and SB700 additionally embody AccuVoice along with Bluetooth, and the SB500 is way bigger (making it value the additional $80). It additionally has a number of onboard controls if you cannot discover the distant. 

Options and development apart, the AV357’s principal attraction is its audio efficiency: It is one of many clearest, most dynamic soundbars you will discover in a small enclosure. Its efficiency belies its measurement, as it’s able to wonderful readability and a deceptively deep bass. It is also surprisingly good with music. Being made from wooden is one in all its least attention-grabbing qualities.



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