A soundbar is a compact bar-shaped speaker system designed to create home theater sound for your TV -- without the complexity and expense of a multi-speaker sound system.
Different Kinds of SoundBars
When sound bars were first introduced they usually had an external subwoofer -- a large black cabinet that is placed on the floor to reproduce loud bass notes. This is still the most commonly found kind of sound bar and they range in price from about $150 to $2,000.
In 2007 ZVOX developed a new kind of soundbar with a built-in compact subwoofer. Soundbars with internal subwoofers can, depending on their design, have outstanding bass without the complexity and bulk of an external subwoofer.
A growing number of soundbars have no subwoofer at all. Bass output from such systems is limited, but some people don't care that much about powerful bass.
How Big A Sound Bar Do I Need?
Soundbars range in size from 17" to 57". Many people like to choose one that is about the same width as their TV, but that's a cosmetic decision. Larger soundbars also leave room for larger, high quality speakers and subwoofers.
What SoundBar Features Are Important?
Virtual surround sound.Some soundbars are simply stereo speaker systems, while others include technology allowing them to replicate surround sound effects, without external speakers. A good virtual surround system creates enveloping three-dimensional sound.
Dialogue enhancement. New Hollywood mixing techniques.often result in dialogue that is very difficult to understand. And many people with minor hearing impairment have difficulty understanding voices on TV. The AccuVoice system developed by ZVOX uses hearing aid technology to make dialogue clear, even at low volumes.
Center speaker or no center speaker.Most soundbars don't have a center speaker -- crucial to balanced sound and dialogue clarity.
Bluetooth connectivity.Bluetooth lets you stream music from your phone or tablet to your soundbar. Bluetooth was was considered a crucial feature, but more and more TVs and media players (like Roku, Apple TV and Googlecast) provide access to music streaming services, making Bluetooth a less important feature.
Wifi audio streaming.A number of soundbars include wifi streaming functionality that lets you stream high fidelity music. This functionality allows a soundbar to integrate with a multi-zone wifi sound system. There are two drawbacks to built-inwifi streaming. 1. You become committed to one technology choice. If you want to swtich to another kind of wifi system later on, you need to buy a whole new soundbar. 2. Technology changes fast. If a new kind of system comes out, you may want to switch to it -- which means you need to buy a new soundbar. ZVOX systems simply offer multiple inputs that allow you to connect a small external wifi connector. Our current favorite is the Google Chromecast Audio dongle ($30). Connect it to any ZVOX soundbar and you've got a "smart" sound system.
The Most Important Feature. Sound Quality.
Unfortunately, many soundbars on the market are not high fidelity sound systems. They are actually just cheap table radios in bar-shaped cabinets with no radio tuner. So we recommend you read reviews, stick with known brand names, and be sure to get return privileges so you can test it in your own home.
Here's a sampling of consumer reviews of ZVOX soundbars:
"This soundbar delivers. Sound is great especially for hearing impaired-can finally hear dialog. The remote works and the installer programmed our other remotes to work with the soundbar. Great quality just wished I had purchased this one instead of the P**k which was a waste of money." ZVOX SB400 Owner
"I bought the SB500 to use with a new 55" OLED TV.It is beautifully-made, very sturdy construction, easy to install, and sounds great. Dialog sounds particularly clear. The low-end extends down to about 40 Hz which is sufficient for all but the most extreme low-frequency effects. If you want floor-shaking low frequencies, then go with the full home theater system with subwoofer, which will cost a lot more. I had that in the past, but have to say I am very happy with the overall performance and sound of this sound bar." ZVOX SB500 Owner
"Zvox seems to be highly underrated! This little soundbar is astonishing in terms of shear volume. If you're a renter with extremely annoying neighbors who like to complain, this is the best soundbar! The Accuvoice allows for clearer dialog so there's no need to crank up the regular tv speakers anymore. Bass reproduction was shocking given the size. Overall this product cannot be beat if you just want ONE speaker for everyday regular tv watching. For movies it's pretty amazing as well! If you do happen to own a powered sub, you can use the optical output from the soundbar or your receiver to blend in additional low tones. For every day tv watching however, I like the soundbar by itself." ZVOX SB700 Owner