ZVOX isn’t really a very popular company compared to other companies that make audio products because ZVOX fully focuses on sound bars. But ZVOX isn’t shy on taking on the big boys anyway because it has an interesting take in winning consumers – come up with simple-looking products that are attractively priced but provide very good sound. Evaluating the ZVOX SoundBase 220 is a pretty good way to see what kind of cost-cutting measures ZVOX can take without compromising on the audio quality.
The ZVOX 220 has a pretty traditional design that pales in comparison with the slim and sleek models that many competitors introduce. In this aspect, the ZVOX SoundBase 220 can be a pretty tough sell since a handful of these manufacturers also build HDTVs and they tend to make their sound bars match the designs of their TVs. However, the ZVOX 220 still has appeal for those that don’t really want to show off their sound bar. The ZVOX SoundBase 220 is like a giant version of one of those old digital alarm clocks but the all-black design also makes the massive speaker unnoticeable if you blend it with your other home theater components. Those that are into minimal setups may actually appreciate this simple look despite the speaker’s size. Compared to the other ZVOX speakers, the ZVOX 220 is actually quite small and is therefore meant for smaller TVs under 40 inches. One of the unique things about this speaker is the cabinet as it is made of medium-density fibreboard. It makes the ZVOX SoundBase 220 feel a bit more premium than the sound bars that normally use plastic.
As far as placement is concerned, the ZVOX 220 is durable and heavy enough to support a small 17 to 27-inch TV on top. This setup may not be best though if you frequently listen to bass-heavy tracks because the speaker tends to vibrate. Fortunately, you can mount the speaker to the wall.
The front of the speaker is pretty much all grille but once you plug it in and switch it on, you will also discover that it has an off-centered display that looks as if it is part of the grille. The display is very small and basic serving as a small status indicator relating to the setting you are changing. This can include the volume, treble or bass levels as well as the mute status. Once you are done with the adjustments, the display just fades away. Below the display lies some basic controls including the power button, volume buttons and input button. Right next to the input button is a 3.5mm input jack. The rest of the inputs are found on the back of the speaker. These inputs are pretty basic including the usual optical and coaxial inputs along with a pair of RCA stereo inputs.
The ZVOX 220 is part of the ZVOX V-Series so you have the option to use PCM digital audio or analog audio so even your old TVs should be able to work with this speaker. Thanks to the front-panel connection, the ZVOX SoundBase 220 isn’t just for TVs as you can hook up iPod devices or any other portable devices that can connect to the input jack. The ZVOX 220 also has this pretty handy feature that enables the speaker system to interact with any remote control you have. You just have to set aside about a minute to deal with the programming and you should be able to adjust the speaker’s settings. If the remote control doesn’t work, you can try other remotes as well including set-top box or DVD player remotes. The rest of the features focus on pushing the audio quality.
The ZVOX SoundBase 220 isn’t just a speaker that is different just for the sake of it. It actually has some nifty technologies under the hood. The ZVOX 220 uses its own proprietary technology called PhaseCue II. It is a type of virtual surround sound processing approach that does a pretty good job in simulating a 5.1-channel speaker system. The surround sound feature lacks punch but it can come in handy when watching Blu-ray movies or listening to lively music tracks.
The speaker also has a couple of volume optimization features starting with the Dialog Emphasis feature which adds a nice clarity to vocals. If you ever get surprised by loud sudden commercials, you can use the Output Leveling feature to automatically reduce the volume level if sudden volume increases are detected.
The ZVOX SoundBase 220 seems pretty awful if you compare it with some of the mainstream sound bars that have cool things like built-in Bluetooth. But the ZVOX 220 isn’t a $299 dollar speaker. The price of this speaker is just $199 and some stores may even sell it for cheaper. For its size and price, it is easy to get past the bland design and really appreciate the sound quality especially if you are fed up with your TV’s built-in speakers.
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