Buying a sound bar if you have $300 to spare is no easy task. If you already have a fairly modern HDTV, a good start would be to check what speaker systems are available by the same manufacturer as the TV. Depending on the brand, you may find a ton of choices and they may even bring exclusive benefits to certain TV models of the same brand. But these benefits may not matter if the sound quality isn’t up to your standards. It may very well be a more sensible move to spend money on something that really focuses on the audio experience rather than feature bloat. Speaker systems like the ZVOX SoundBase 420 exist as a result and it is quite interesting for a lesser-known brand to take on some of the bigger brands that really focus on extra features.
The problem that many $300 sound bars face is its inability to provide decent sound reinforcement to larger screen TVs. 50-inch TVs and larger models look gorgeous and they are best suited for larger rooms so you can move the viewing area a bit further back to maximize the experience. But many of these TVs have mediocre speakers that don’t provide enough range. Sound bar manufacturers get around this by making cabinet wider so the drivers can cover more of the room and that also contributes to the cost. The ZVOX 420 addresses this problem by going for a smaller and thicker design that may not be so attractive but it makes sense on the performance side of things.
The ZVOX SoundBase 420 only consists of a single unit which contains the main controls, speakers and even the subwoofer. These components are also housed within a cabinet made of medium density fiberboard which helps push the performance envelope. Despite its short width, the ZVOX 420 has enough power to pair up with a 50-inch TV.
While the front of the SoundBase is pretty plain just like the other ZVOX speakers, it has a cool trick up its sleeve. ZVOX calls this the Disappearing Display because the entire speaker grille covering the front doesn’t look like it has a small display. Once turned on, you can see the 4-digit display on the right of the speaker and it shows the setting you are currently adjusting. There is also a small set of controls right below the display in case you want to power on or off the speaker, adjust the volume or change the input. It is also possible to hook up an iPod or just about any other portable media player to the front 3.5mm audio port. The rest of the ports are on the back and they are pretty standard (dual analog stereo inputs, optical input and coaxial input).
The lack of features really serves as the weak point of the ZVOX SoundBase 420 but only if they really matter. The lack of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth make the ZVOX 420 less versatile but you can still use the 3.5mm jack for portable devices. There are no HDMI inputs or outputs or even accessories that can potentially add some extra functions. All that the ZVOX SoundBase 420 has going for is the sound enhancements.
Adjusting certain settings can positively affect the audio quality in certain types of content. The Dialog Emphasis feature can be used to make the vocals a lot clearer making movies and lyrics more understandable. You can also use the speaker’s commercial taming technology to automatically reduce the volume of commercial breaks that may be much louder than the other content on the same channel. This is nice to have if your TV doesn’t support this feature.
The standard remote control that comes with the ZVOX 420 provides you with all the necessary buttons to adjust the extra settings. But if you just want to adjust the volume level, you can also use any other remote control with the speaker.
Thanks to the 5 2-inch main speaker drivers and 45-watt digital power supply, the ZVOX SoundBase 420 can pump out some serious noise with better range than ZVOX’s own cheaper SoundBase products. When watching live music, HD movies and news broadcasts, you can use a special 3-D sound effect called PhaseCue II which creates a virtual surround sound experience. The 5.25-inch subwoofer also helps with the bass although external subwoofers are still superior.
Because this is a $299 speaker that is pretty much in the sound bar class, the ZVOX 420 fails to stand high above the current competition. But it manages to succeed in creating a promising alternative for people that need the extra performance more than the extra features and aesthetics while still keeping the entire system compact and easy to setup. It is also one of the cheaper speakers to get if your large TV needs some sound reinforcement.
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