I'm asked this question all the time: "Are there any great-sounding TV speakers?"
People want "something good," but they don't want hassles, and they sure as hell don't want to decipher techno-babble setup instructions. Nowadays there are plenty of single speaker systems to choose from, but most of them don't sound all that good, and setup--while way better than a bona fide multichannel system--is still more complicated than it ought to be.
Enter the sound bar; viewed from the side, it's not. The Z-Base 550 is 26 inches wide by 3.6 inches high by 14.5 inches deep. The Z-Base is a TV stand/base!Low-Profile Single Cabinet Surround Sound System ($500). From the front, it looks like just another
That extra dimension--depth, and the built-in 5.5-inch subwoofer--allow the Z-Base 550 to produce a fuller, bass-rich sound than any super svelte sound bar on the planet. Yes, you can hook up a powered sub, but you don't have to.
In keeping with Zvox's no-brainer, keep it simple mantra, the Z-Base 550 doesn't have any buttons or controls at all on its front or rear panels; you access volume and other controls via the small credit card-style remote. Connectivity covers just the bare basics: two stereo RCA analog inputs and a subwoofer output. That's it.
It's a solid performer--the "Mission Impossible III" Blu-ray instantly sounded like a slam-dunk win for the Z-Base 550. Not much surround, but dialog was impressively natural, and over the long run, that's crucial. More technically ambitious (and much more expensive) sound bars, such as Yamaha YSP models, aren't as clear.