Zvox's Z-Base 525: Above average sonics, unique design
CNET reviews the Zvox Z-Base 525, finding that the sound bar delivers better-than-average sonics and that its unique pedestal design will make you forget it's even there.
Surround sound and its accouterments tend to dominate a living room, requiring an AV receiver, several speakers, stands, and wires to make the whole thing work. That's why many people choose to skip surround sound, opting instead for the tinny acoustics of their TV speakers.
Single-speaker solutions like the Zvox Z-Base 525 represent a middle ground approach, promising much better audio than your TV without all the fuss. The Z-Base 525 is particularly fuss-free; its unique design makes it look like nothing more than a pedestal for your HDTV. Even better, the Z-Base sounds better than most sound bars do, although it doesn't have as much of the surround effect as other sound bars. (The step-up sounds even better, but it's larger and more expensive.)
Like any sound bar, it doesn't compare with a full 5.1 system, but if you can live with the compromises, the Z-Base 525 ($350) is one of the more affordable options with respectable sound and an outstanding design.