Sound bar speakers vastly simplify home theater setup and installation, but their sound quality always falls short of bona fide 5.1-channel speaker-subwoofer-based systems. The single-box Zvox Z-Base575 get closer to that ideal than most.
The problem with sound bars is they're too small. Even pricey bars like Yamaha's YSP-3050 ($1,199 MSRP) can't generate full-blown home theater impact. And it's a bit bigger than average (31.5 inches wide by 6.1 inches high by 6 inches deep), but films like "Mission: Impossible III" sound tepid over the YSP-3050. The film's explosive effects lack the excitement you'd get from a 5.1 system. Yamaha's technology is amazing, but it can't produce high-impact sound from skinny cabinets. I'm not singling out Yamaha here; Denon, Marantz, Polk, Samsung, and Sony sound bars all--to varying degrees--squash dynamic range of movies.
Stepping up to the YSP-4000 ($1,600 MSRP) won't make that big a difference; in my CNET review I noted that it stumbled with big special effect-driven flicks like "Mission: Impossible III." The explosions fell flat, the bass was rumbly, and the Yamaha couldn't play loud at all. Hooking up an Acoustic Research HT60 subwoofer to add extra muscle helped a little, but the YSP-4000 still lacked punch.
Part of the problem is that almost all sound bar speakers are too small. Zvox's Z-Base575 is big and very, very deep. How deep is it? Sixteen inches! So unlike other surround bar speaker systems that can either be wall-mounted or set on a shelf, the Z-Base575 was designed to be used as a base under your TV. Don't worry, the sturdy medium-density fiberboard cabinet can support heavyweight displays. … Read more