TVs have improved in picture quality and design significantly throughout the years. But on the audio quality side, it isn’t much unless you can tolerate the lack of range and sometimes clarity. The most common approach would be to set up a couple of speakers but that can require a great deal of work and planning especially if space is limited. Some more work may even need to be done if you want to conceal all the wires that are involved. But the ZVOX SoundBase 320 is one of the few exceptions because of its simple packaging and setup. At the same time, it strives to bring a surround sound experience for a fraction of the cost.
ZVOX SoundBase speakers maintain a consistent design across the entire product line. The main difference lies in the size which is important to take into consideration if you have a large TV. For instance, the ZVOX 320 is the second smallest of the ZVOX SoundBase speakers and it contributes to the low cost. According to the ZVOX website, the ZVOX SoundBase 320 best pairs with TVs between 27 and 42 inches.
As for the design of the front panel, it can either be very boring or refreshingly minimal depending on how you feel about a plain black grille covering the front panel. It isn’t exactly the type of speaker you would want to show off unlike some of the existing sound bars that match large HDTVs quite well. But you can set it up in such a way that it is hardly noticeable. From afar, the ZVOX 320 looks like a big black mystery box and you can use that to your advantage by putting it right under the TV or next to a matching piece of furniture or other home theater component.
The speaker’s cabinet isn’t made from plastic either. Instead the cabinet feels like wood although it is technically MDF. It doesn’t really contribute to the overall looks but it is an interesting material for an inexpensive sound system.
The front of the ZVOX SoundBase 320 doesn’t look like it has room for a display since it is entirely covered in grille. But the small display is actually beneath the grill on the right of the speaker and it really looks as if it comes out of nowhere when you do things like adjust the volume. You can perform simple operations right from the front panel including volume changes and input selection. Other features require the included remote control. The ZVOX 320 also features a front-panel 3.5mm jack right next to the input button. The back of the speaker features 2 analog stereo inputs and a single optical and coaxial digital input.
The feature set of the SoundBase 320 is more on the basic side as this speaker really intends to deliver good audio performance. You won’t find any wireless features like Bluetooth or Wi-Fi so smartphone connectivity is out of the question and you won’t be able to wirelessly stream music from a portable device either. The 3.5mm jack on the front does allow you to plug in a portable device such as an iPod so you can play music the old-fashioned way.
You can also operate the speaker using virtually any remote control you have in your house. This is useful if you quickly want to adjust the volume or mute it. However, you may need to use the remote the speaker comes with if you want to adjust the other settings like the Output Leveling and Dialog Emphasis.
The ZVOX 320 is equipped with a trio of 2-inch main speaker drivers and a 5.25-inch subwoofer. It is bi-amplified and the speakers use a long-throw design to produce an impressively wide range and results positively show when you watch high-definition movies. If you want to mimic the surround sound experience, you can do so by using the PhaseCue II technology. The 3-D sound is a bit more defined than the smaller ZVOX SoundBase 220 speaker. The bass doesn’t sound as good as sound bars that use external subwoofers but it is still one of the better sounding packages if you prefer to have all of the speaker components within a single cabinet.
You also won’t have to worry about sudden changes in volume level during transitions like commercial breaks because of the Output Leveling feature. If the vocals of music tracks and other programs need enhancement, you may also use the Dialog Emphasis feature.
The ZVOX 320 is a pretty impressive speaker with a plain design, few connectivity ports and practically no extra features that are quickly becoming the norm in competing sound bars. But the ZVOX SoundBase 320 doesn’t need extra features to warrant the $249 price tag because the audio performance truly delivers and it should provide the necessary range for 42-inch TVs and possibly beyond if you have a small living room.
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