Speaker systems are not exactly a necessity for some consumers especially if they have small rooms. Modern HDTVs are quite capable of pushing out acceptable sounds and may even come with some software technologies by the likes of Dolby and DTS. But many TV manufacturers are fixated towards making TVs thinner making it even more difficult to provide an above-average audio experience for those that are not so satisfied with small speakers. A separate sound system is the solution here and generally, the more you pay, the better the audio performance you get. For small companies like ZVOX, it is all about paying for the best possible sound quality in a small and simple package. ZVOX’s high-end speakers like the ZVOX SoundBase 555 may not hold a candle to other $399 speaker systems but it could be your only decent option if you don’t want your sound system to consist of multiple components.
The ZVOX 555 is black and rectangular measuring about 28 inches wide. The design is plain and uninspired but it doesn’t need a fancy design as it is meant to just blend in with other home theater components. It is one of those kinds of components that you have to find a good place to install it and forget that it is even there. Perhaps the most ideal place to put it, if space is a concern, is right under the TV. The ZVOX SoundBase 555 is a bit larger than the cheaper ZVOX SoundBase models so it should be able to serve as a nice riser for any 55-inch TV or smaller providing that the base doesn’t measure any wider than 28 inches. The bad news is that you won’t be able to mount this speaker to the wall making the ZVOX SoundBase 555 less of a recommendation if your TV is already mounted to the wall.
Look at the TV from further away and you could easily mistake the speaker for a black wooden mystery block. That’s because the front of the ZVOX 555 is all grille and the four buttons on the bottom are fairly recognizable. Even the display hidden on the right of the speaker’s front isn’t noticeable until you turn the speaker on by flicking the switch on the back. The amber LED is very basic capable of shoring up to 4 alphanumeric characters. The front panel limits you to volume adjustment (including mute) and input selection. A 3.5mm input can also be found on the front. The back panel features 2 sets of stereo RCA inputs and the usual optical and coaxial audio inputs. Unlike the cheaper ZVOX models, a subwoofer output is also included as well as a remote control input.
Like other speaker systems of this class, a remote control is included so you won’t have to reach out to the front panel to make those basic adjustments. It is small, simple and cheaply made but it works. In addition to adjusting the standard controls found on the front panel, you can also adjust the bass and treble from the remote.
To put things bluntly, the ZVOX SoundBase 555 is not the kind of sound system to get if you want some extra bells and whistles. Many other sound bars from other manufacturers fit the bill although they sound a bit less impressive than the ZVOX 555. It doesn’t even have any wireless tech embedded within the system so you are stuck with a wired setup. Fortunately, the speaker itself counts as the sound system so you are all ready to go after plugging it the speaker to the wall and plugging the TV to the speaker using the included cables. If you want to connect a mobile device such as a smartphone or iPod, you have to settle with the 3.5mm input jack which can be subjected to crackling and distortion.
The performance of this speaker paints the ZVOX SoundBase 555 in a more positive light. Its bass levels surpass many of the other sound bars that have integrated subwoofers. This is a big deal if you can’t afford to set up an external subwoofer (although you are free to do so). The flat design contributes to this so you can crank up the bass levels and enjoy some heart-pounding effects coming from action movies or bass-heavy music tracks. The only advertised technology featured in the ZVOX 555 is the PhaseCue II and it merely provides a simulated surround sound effect which can produce some favorable results depending on the movie you are watching.
$399 is a bit more than the average if you are paying for sound bar especially if you need a powerful sound system. But you are not paying for raw power with the ZVOX SoundBase 555. Instead, you are paying for one of the best small package speaker systems that actually has acceptable bass but at the price of connectivity options.
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