Zvox AV357 review: Premium soundbar improves your TV’s voices

    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 begin. Massachusetts-based firm Zvox nearly invented the soundbar, and it has been refining its designs within the nearly 20 years since. After a detour into listening to aids, the corporate has been utilizing what it realized to develop its line of AccuVoice audio system, which incorporates the whole lot from the entry-level ZV100 ($100) to this new flagship AV357 soundbar — which lists for $350 however is on sale proper now at $300. 

    LikePlenty of voice modes and EQ customizationsVoices sound pure and extra understandableConvincing quantities of bass for music

    Don’t LikePaying a premium for wooden over aluminumLess options than the step-downLimited inputsCostly

    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. Features 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 value level, the Zvox lacks loads of options. Competitors beat it handsomely for must-haves like superior connectivity and value — as does the Zvox AV257, which is presently out of inventory. But on the finish of the day, the AV357 is well-built and makes TV dialogue and music sound higher than any tv alone.

    What is it?
    Ty Pendlebury/CNET
    The Zvox AV357 is a single, 24-inch soundbar designed to enhance dialogue out of your TV. It would not provide Bluetooth, HDMI or different customary fripperies however 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 presents six levels of AccuVoice enhance, plus a further six levels of SuperVoice accessed through the distant’s AccuVoice button. SuperVoice is designed to cut back background sounds and enhance dialogue even additional. Other sound modes embody a quantity leveling mode (for loud commercials), PhaseCue digital encompass and bass and treble controls.
    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 vast, 4.19 inches deep and a pair 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 possibly can in all probability discover a third-party resolution).

    Ty Pendlebury/CNET
    You can program your TV’s distant to regulate the speaker’s quantity ranges or use the included distant, which has a premium really feel to it and enormous buttons to assist folks with low imaginative and prescient. (It permits you to entry the speaker’s extra options, although it will 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 would not have controls on the unit. This might be a problem if, like me, you misplace the distant and wish to show down the sound in a rush.The soundbar is powered by a 24-watt Class D digital amplifier — identical to the AV257 — and a complement of 3-inch, full-range audio system. If you need extra bass oomph, there’s a mixed headphone and subwoofer output.Personally, I want the options of the AV257 to the AV357 because it presents each the additional optical-analog enter and has controls on the unit. It’s additionally $80 cheaper. While I have not heard the AV257, the opposite principal variations are the AV357 is far wider and it options wooden development. The elevated bodily quantity almost certainly contributes to the bass weight that I heard. But may I inform the soundbar was wooden and never aluminum by it? Not actually. It was a black blob in entrance of the TV. I truly want the distinctive, brushed look of Zvox’s aluminum soundbars to the AV357’s considerably pedestrian black ash.How does it carry out?When establishing the AV357, I wanted to tweak the sound to get it precisely how I needed. It wasn’t fairly able to exit of the field — in all probability as a consequence of it utilizing an analog TV supply as an alternative of digital. For occasion, I wanted to cut back “Lo” by 2, or bass drums sounded unfastened and floppy. Additionally, AccuVoice settings 2 and above had been loud and too ahead and vivid — not good for music. Finally, when set in SD 3 (Surround 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. Of course, this implies loads of behind-the-scenes sign processing, and I discovered this might result in some bizarre habits. Bass-heavy music may pulse out and in to the beat, for instance. Luckily, this was much less of a problem with the AV357. While I did discover delicate fading results on the sparse spoken-word interlude of Fucked Up’s Year 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 — a minimum of, not after pulling again the bass management beforehand.

    With additional music listening I discovered Foals’ What Went Down was particularly pleasant. It’s a cliche, however I actually did test 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 price range favourite). The AV357 provided enhanced element, reminding me of audiophile-grade loudspeakers, and it was particularly able to deciphering gritty British cop reveals like Line of Duty. The AV357 presents so many tailor-made choices that it encourages tweaking, however these could be taken too far. Depending on the mode, you might discover that midrange heavy sounds grow to be unnatural (e.g., Supermode 2 and 3 accentuated turning bedsheets in John Wick), making them sound like they’d been sitting out within the frost in a single day. Also, at AccuVoice’s highest ranges the brighter sound might be uncomfortable for members of the family who do not want a lot help with listening to voices.As you’d count on, the Vizio ran rings across the Zvox for house theater pleasure. During Avatar’s thanator chase scene, the thump of the Vizio’s wi-fi sub enhanced the drama. Meanwhile, the Zvox got here off a bit skinny; clear, however skinny. What I did not count on was the Zvox’s dynamics. It might not have the ability to pump out bass, however when you do not use the quantity leveling characteristic, the AV357 handles dynamic shifts properly — just like the quiet jungle sounds of Pandora damaged by gunfire.Should you 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 if you really want AccuVoice, there are cheaper Zvox soundbars that additionally embody it, together with the $100 AV100. The dearer SB500 and SB700 additionally embody AccuVoice along with Bluetooth, and the SB500 is far bigger (making it value the additional $80). It additionally has a number of onboard controls if you cannot discover the distant. Features and development apart, the AV357’s principal attraction is its audio efficiency: It’s one of many clearest, most dynamic soundbars you may discover in a small enclosure. Its efficiency belies its measurement, as it’s able to wonderful readability and a deceptively deep bass. It’s additionally surprisingly good with music. Being made from wooden is one among its least fascinating qualities.

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