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

Nancy J. Delong

Are you placing up with indecipherable dialogue on your Television set? There are numerous answers to countering poor audio, but purchasing a new soundbar is a fantastic location to get started. Massachusetts-primarily based firm Zvox pretty much invented the soundbar, and it’s been refining its layouts in the nearly twenty several years due to the fact. Just after a detour into listening to aids, the firm has been employing what it realized to build its line of AccuVoice speakers, which involves almost everything from the entry-amount ZV100 ($100) to this new flagship AV357 soundbar — which lists for $350 but is on sale correct now at $three hundred. 

Like

  • A good deal of voice modes and EQ customizations
  • Voices audio natural and far more understandable
  • Convincing quantities of bass for songs

Don’t Like

  • Spending a high quality for wood in excess of aluminum
  • Significantly less options than the step-down
  • Restricted inputs
  • Expensive

With its MDF building (that is engineered wood for all those unfamiliar with the acronym), the AV357 is both of those larger and far more appealing than step-down models. Attributes are reasonably sparse — there isn’t Bluetooth streaming — but its functionality is previously mentioned and further than what you’d hope from the dimension.

That mentioned, compared to other soundbars at this value issue, the Zvox lacks a large amount of options. Competition beat it handsomely for have to-haves like sophisticated connectivity and usability — as does the Zvox AV257, which is at the moment out of stock. But at the conclusion of the day, the AV357 is properly-developed and can make Television set dialogue and songs audio improved than any television by yourself.

What is it?

zvox-av357-3

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Zvox AV357 is a one, 24-inch soundbar built to increase dialogue from your Television set. It doesn’t offer you Bluetooth, HDMI or other conventional fripperies but it does have 12 ranges of voice enhancement. Some soundbars have a one dialogue method, if they are lucky, so this means the AV357 is very configurable in comparison.

The unit delivers six levels of AccuVoice raise, furthermore an more six levels of SuperVoice accessed by using the remote’s AccuVoice button. SuperVoice is built to reduce background sounds and raise dialogue even additional. Other audio modes incorporate a quantity leveling method (for loud commercials), PhaseCue virtual surround and bass and treble controls.

zvox-av357-2

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Zvox has just two inputs: an analog and an optical electronic. The analog enter will allow customers to hook up a Television set or an Amazon Echo for automated muting when issuing commands. The bar by itself is coated in a fairly appealing black ash veneer and measures 23.seventy five inches huge, 4.19 inches deep and 2.seventy five inches higher. I was employing a reasonably small-slung Westinghouse Television set through my screening and identified that the soundbar did block its IR port. If that is a trouble for you, there unfortunately just isn’t a wall-mounting possibility (although you could in all probability discover a third-get together resolution).

zvox-av357-4

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

You can plan your TV’s distant to command the speaker’s quantity ranges or use the included distant, which has a high quality really feel to it and large buttons to assist folks with small eyesight. (It will allow you to accessibility the speaker’s more options, although it would have been good to include a SuperVoice button mainly because this just isn’t obvious devoid of consulting the handbook.) Alas, contrary to other Zvox speakers I have tested, the AV357 doesn’t have controls on the unit. This could be an issue if, like me, you misplace the distant and want to convert down the audio in a hurry.

The soundbar is run by a 24-watt Class D electronic amplifier — just like the AV257 — and a enhance of three-inch, complete-selection speakers. If you want far more bass oomph, there is a combined headphone and subwoofer output.

Individually, I desire the options of the AV257 to the AV357 as it delivers both of those the additional optical-analog enter and has controls on the unit. It really is also $eighty cheaper. When I haven’t listened to the AV257, the other major discrepancies are the AV357 is significantly wider and it options wood building. The amplified physical quantity most most likely contributes to the bass pounds that I listened to. But could I explain to the soundbar was wood and not aluminum by seeking at it? Not actually. It was a black blob in front of the Television set. I basically desire the distinctive, brushed look of Zvox’s aluminum soundbars to the AV357’s fairly pedestrian black ash.

How does it complete?

When setting up the AV357, I necessary to tweak the audio to get it accurately how I needed. It wasn’t really completely ready to go out of the box — in all probability because of to it employing an analog Television set resource as an alternative of electronic. For instance, I necessary to reduce “Lo” by 2, or bass drums sounded unfastened and floppy. Moreover, AccuVoice settings 2 and previously mentioned were being loud and as well ahead and shiny — not fantastic for songs. Lastly, when set in SD three (Surround three) method, the soundbar was capable of a huge more than enough soundstage and bass for songs. 

In my preceding activities with Zvox soundbars, a single of the company’s steady strengths — in addition to good dialogue — has been the quantity of bass the manufacturer can squeeze out of a compact cupboard. Of class, this means a large amount of powering-the-scenes signal processing, and I identified this could guide to some odd habits. Bass-hefty songs could pulse in and out to the beat, for instance. 

Thankfully, this was significantly less of an issue with the AV357. When I did recognize refined fading results on the sparse spoken-term interlude of Fucked Up’s Year of the Horse Act one, I only listened to it the moment through my 7 days with the speaker. Even Alt-J’s notoriously speaker-destroying 3WW failed to overload the cupboard with its deep bass bed — at the very least, not right after pulling back again the bass command formerly.

With additional songs listening I identified Foals’ What Went Down was especially satisfying. It really is a cliche, but I actually did examine to see if the Vizio V21 was on as the bass seemed as well deep, as well tuneful to be from the Zvox’s compact enclosure.

As you’d hope, presented the company’s major pitch, the Zvox was improved with voices than the Vizio V21 (our present spending plan favourite). The AV357 provided enhanced detail, reminding me of audiophile-grade loudspeakers, and it was especially capable of deciphering gritty British cop demonstrates like Line of Obligation. 

The AV357 delivers so many customized selections that it encourages tweaking, but all those can be taken as well significantly. Dependent on the method, you may well discover that midrange hefty sounds develop into unnatural (e.g., Supermode 2 and three accentuated turning bedsheets in John Wick), making them audio like they’d been sitting out in the frost right away. Also, at AccuVoice’s optimum ranges the brighter audio could be awkward for spouse and children users who will not want significantly aid with listening to voices.

As you’d hope, the Vizio ran rings close to the Zvox for residence theater enjoyment. For the duration of Avatar’s thanator chase scene, the thump of the Vizio’s wireless sub enhanced the drama. In the meantime, the Zvox came off a minimal slender clear, but slender. What I failed to hope was the Zvox’s dynamics. It may well not be able to pump out bass, but if you will not use the quantity leveling attribute, the AV357 handles dynamic shifts properly — like the tranquil jungle sounds of Pandora damaged by gunfire.

Need to you buy it?

Zvox just isn’t the only firm making dialogue-improving soundbars: Polk, Samsung and Vizio all offer you models with voice enhancement, although they offer you minimal in the way of customized configuration. The Zvox AV357’s six ranges of voice command are a little something no other soundbar firm can offer you. But if you actually want AccuVoice, there are cheaper Zvox soundbars that also incorporate it, including the $100 AV100. 

The far more high priced SB500 and SB700 also incorporate AccuVoice in addition to Bluetooth, and the SB500 is significantly larger (making it really worth the additional $eighty). It also has a variety of onboard controls if you are unable to discover the distant. 

Attributes and building aside, the AV357’s major attraction is its audio functionality: It really is a single of the clearest, most dynamic soundbars you will discover in a compact enclosure. Its functionality belies its dimension, as it is capable of exceptional clarity and a deceptively deep bass. It really is also remarkably fantastic with songs. Getting designed of wood is a single of its the very least exciting characteristics.

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