ZVOX Dialogue-Clarifying Sound Bars Overview
ZVOX sent out a press release announcing their AV357 Dialogue-Clarifying Sound Bar recently. This got us looking at their well-reviewed and popular soundbar offerings. Turns out that the AV357 is just the latest in their *57 line. In all three offerings, the internals are the same. The differences between the AV157, AV257, and AV357? The cabinet design and material. So, let’s take a look at all three as their performance and features are nearly identical.
The big push with the ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars is, obviously, how they can be adjusted to make dialogue more intelligible. To do this, the bars each have three internal “speakers.” These speakers are individual 2″x3” high-output full-range drivers that act as the left, right, and center channels of the sound bar.
All the ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars feature Dolby Digital decoding. They have an optical input and two 3.5mm jacks – one that is an input and a second that is an output. The output can be used to add a subwoofer to your system or to plug in a pair of headphones. Amplification is taken care of by a 24 watt, Class D integrated amplifier.
The ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars sport a small IR remote. The bars can also be programmed to work with your existing remotes. There is a large, four-character display that will illuminate under the grill when the bars receive a command. It will slowly fade afterward.
Lastly, the 3.5mm input can be used with something like an Echo Dot to ingrate Alexa into your system. When sound is detected coming in from the 3.5mm input, the sound bar lowers the volume from the optical input and plays the sound from the 3.5mm input. Once that input is no longer receiving sound, the sound bar resumes the optical input volume at the normal level. ZVOX calls this “Alexa-ready” but it should work with any voice assistant that has an analogue output.
All three ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars include a number of different processing settings. There is the proprietary PhaseCue virtual surround processing to use phase to make sounds seem like they are coming from all around you. Also included is an Output Leveling feature that tames loud commercials through dynamic range compression. Most importantly, are the 12 levels of dialogue boost.
ZVOX has included six stages of what they call AccuVoice boost that can be paired with six stages of their new SuperVoice technology. AccuVoice increases the volume of dialogue much in the same way hearing aids work. SuperVoice reduces non-vocal background sounds. Each of these can be set at different levels from 1 to 6 depending on your needs.
One drawback to note is that the PhaseCue virtual surround processing can not be used in conjunction with the dialogue boosting functions. It is one or the other.
There are some differences between the ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars. These differences are solely in the cabinets. The AV157 has a plastic, injection-molded cabinet that comes in black, titanium (grey), and espresso (brown). The AV257 sports a black aluminum cabinet. Both of these cabinets are 17″w x 3 3/8″d x 2 7/8″h and weigh in at 2.8 pounds. The AV357 has a wood veneer-wrapped MDF cabinet. The AV357 is slightly larger at 23 3/4″w x 4 3/16″d x 2 3/4″h and clocks in at 4.2 pounds. This larger cabinet will create more bass and will be slightly louder than the smaller bars.
One difference to keep in mind when deciding which sound bar to buy is the mounting options. The AV157 and AV257 have threaded inserts on the back that can be used for mounting under a display or on a wall (mount not included). The AV357 has no integrated mounting options so it will need to be placed on a shelf.
Pricing is also slightly different. The injection-molded cabinet AV157 retails for $199, the aluminum cabinet AV257 retails for $219, and the wood-veneer cabinet AV357 will cost you $299.
We like our sound bars to be sound bars. In this, the ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars are already good in our books. These bars are fairly small and really not that expensive. One thing to remember, however, is that the ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars are built to make dialogue easier to understand. The full-range drivers are unlikely to fully represent all the sounds (will roll off the top end) and aren’t likely to be flat throughout the frequency range.
But that’s okay. These bars are built for people that have a hard time hearing and just want to be able to understand what people are saying. It doesn’t matter how the drivers perform outside the area of human vocals.
Reportedly, the ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars can get tinny as more and more dialogue boost is applied. That is to be expected. You can actually hear it on the videos on the ZVOX Amazon page. The dialogue is definitely easier to understand, but it isn’t as natural sounding. That’s fine. It’s doing what it is supposed to do and by nearly all accounts, the ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars perform very well.
If you are having problems understanding what people are saying on TV, the ZVOX dialogue-clarifying sound bars offer an affordable, and attractive, solution.
For more information, please visit the ZVOX website.