Saturday, October 29, 2011

ZVOX ZBASE 580 Soundbar Review

Up for review today is an excellently designed soundbar by ZVOX, their ZBASE 580. TV sets sound tends to be rather anemic sounding. It's usually ok, but just barely. After all, the sound from the TV is usually not thought about until after it's already home and on the wall or stand.
I'll admit that the ZBASE 580 is not quite in the league as a good 5.1 surround sound system. But lets face it, the fancy surround sound is not for everyone. And dealing with all the wires and speakers can be burdensome. Thus, the need for soundbars.
Soundbars tend to come in two varieties. The first is just a slim soundbar in a multiple speaker array, that sounds much better but still anemic on the low end. The next type is a similar design but includes a powered subwoofer, which is still an additional component.
Enter the ZVOX ZBASE 580, with an MSRP of $599. It is an all in one solution. No additional wires or components. The ZBASE 580 is a single box soundbar with a speaker array in the front, and two 6.5" down firing subwoofers. It has everything covered in a single box to make wiring as simple as possible.
It's build quality is also amazing. It features an all wood construction. And it is sturdy enough to handle standing your flat screen on top of it, up to 160lbs! It's features and specs include:
Dimensions: 36"W x 16.5"D x 5"H
Weight: 33 pounds.
With box and packing: 39 pounds.
Amplifier: The 580 uses a high-efficiency 120 watt Class D digital amplifier.
Rear inputs: (2) analog stereo inputs, (1) digital (Toslink) optical input, (1) coaxial digital input.
Front input: (1) 3.5mm stereo front panel input.
Frequency range: 34 Hz – 20 kHz.
Virtual surround sound: The 580 uses ZVOX's proprietary PhaseCue II virtual surround sound processing. PhaseCue II, as its name implies, manipulates the phase of the separate channels to "fool the ear" into believing that sound is coming from a variety of sources throughout the room. The benefits of PhaseCue II vary greatly based on program material. Live music and well-recorded modern movie soundtracks will deliver rich, three-dimensional sound - pulling the sound out from the speakers and into the room, literally surrounding the listener. Note: All virtual surround systems- including the PhaseCue II system - are limited in their effects when compared to a good 5.1 system. And sitcoms, news broadcasts and soundtracks from older movies often have very little in the way of three-dimensional sound. That being said, PhaseCue II is capable of generating a wonderful and engaging virtual surround experience.
The 580 is bi-amplified, using a specially designed amplifier that includes electronic contouring for superb frequency response.
The 580 uses dual 6.5" subwoofers with a high-mass long-throw design in a ported enclosure. The 580's five 3.25" main speaker drivers use a long-throw design to create remarkably wide range, accurate sound.
The system is magnetically shielded so it can be used near a TV or monitor.
Unlike most systems in its category, the 580 uses an MDF (medium density fiberboard) wood cabinet - instead of molded plastic. MDF is the preferred construction material for high-performance speaker systems.
A subwoofer output jack on the rear allows an owner to connect a separate powered subwoofer (optional).
A 2-meter RCA-RCA analog stereo connecting cord is included.
The ZVOX 580 is backed by a one year limited parts and labor warranty.
The ZVOX ZBASE 580 came well packaged and secured and wrapped to protect it's finish. Unwrapping it revealed a well built cabinet. I liked the elegant touch that the gloss black finish side panels yielded. Also included were a power cable, optical cable, remote user manual and set-up guide.
It is also pretty loaded with features. For a soundbar, it has a lot of inputs. Not only does it have multiple analog and digital inputs on the back, it even has a subwoofer output...just in case the two built-in subwoofers weren't enough for you. It also has a front panel input so you can connect your mp3 player. the learning feature is also cool. If you saw the remote and thought to yourself, oh no, not another remote...this feature is probably for you! You can program it to learn from your TV's remote, or cable remote. How cool is that for a soundbar?! And in case you can't find the remote, there are power and volume controls on the front.
The ZVOX also has your sound options covered as well. Treble and Bass aren't the only things that can be adjusted. There is also a Dialog Emphasis feature that increases the clarity of most voices. And it doesn't stop there. The ZVOX ZBASE 580 also has Surround Levels Sd1 for a low virtual surround effect, Sd2 for a moderate virtual surround sound effect, and Sd3 for a strong virtual surround effect.
The ZBASE 580 can support a TV up to 160 lbs being set on top of it, so chances are it can handle your tv being set on top of it. The included instructions were easy to follow. It didn't take but a few minutes to get it set up and running. And ZVOX has an amazing 30 day trial period, where if you aren't satisfied with it, just send it back.
What I can tell you is once I turned on the power...WOW! I just shook my head at the thought of using just the built-in TV speakers again. The sound was that good compared to those in the TV.
The sound was amazing. Vocals were clearly audible and easy to understand. The surround settings really did add a wide surround effect that sounded great. And the two build-in subwoofers actually added some really good bass and low end extension that sounded really cool. I couldn't stop the smile coming on my face. The mids and highs were crisp and clean with good detail and resolution. I could tell that the front array of 3.25" long throw drivers had some special engineering to them, and were not just off the shelf overseas drivers. And the subs provided tight bass with good authority that wasn't too boomy. It actually sounded as if I had a separate subwoofer! And if you wanted it loud, it played loud, AND undistorted.
The ZVOX ZBASE 580 is what all soundbars should be. The build quality and sound quality were all top notch. If you're in the market for a soundbar, the ZBASE 580 should be on your short list. Based on it's design, quality, features and performance, the ZVOX ZBASE 580 has earned our Editor's Choice Award. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at