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Speakers

This just in: Big sound bases sound better than small sound bars

The new Zvox Soundbase.770 is a smart alternative to skinny sound bars, says the Audiophiliac.

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Zvox Soundbase.770 Zvox

Sound bars and sound bases have been big sellers for years, but Zvox was way ahead of the curve, and started making 'bases way back in 2003. The new Soundbase.770 is their best-ever speaker, and that's saying a lot.

I've reviewed hundreds of speakers, and here's one thing I've learned: bigger is usually better. The Soundbase.770 is big where it counts, it's 18 inches deep, most sound bars are 3- or 4-inches deep. The Soundbase.770's size advantage is in large part responsible for its deeper, more accurate bass than skinnier 'bars. The Soundbase.770's medium-density fiberboard cabinet weighs a hefty 32 pounds, and houses five 2-by-3-inch drivers arrayed across its front baffle, and there's three 5.25-inch subwoofers on the Soundbase.770's underside. The cabinet measures 42x18x3.5 inches.

Throw an action flick on the Soundbase.770 and it'll sound great. It does big really well, bass is deep, there's plenty of oomph. The Soundbase.770's AccuVoice processor increases dialogue intelligibility, at the cost of sound quality. Folks with hearing loss issues may find this feature useful.

Surround Modes, 1, 2, and 3 generate wide, wider, and widest soundstages, but only when you're directly centered, inline with the speaker. Move over to the left or right, and stage width shrinks, so most of the sound will appear to come from the Soundbase.770. I've heard similar shrinkage with most sound bars and bases when listening off-axis from the speakers.

The Soundbase.770's display located behind the speaker grille shows the current setting for volume, bass, treble, surround, mute, etc. for a few seconds after using the remote. The rear panel sports three digital inputs (two optical, one coaxial), Bluetooth aptX, three analog inputs including a front-mounted 3.5mm jack, a 3.5mm analog stereo output, and a RCA subwoofer output jack.

With the Rolling Stones' "From the Vault: Hampton Coliseum" concert Blu-ray the Soundbase.770 played nice and loud, louder than I've heard from most sound bars without sounding like it was working very hard. Peter Gabriel's "New Blood: Live in London" concert Blu-ray, with a full orchestra, demonstrated Soundbase.770's refinement. The purely acoustic music sounded natural and clear.

Listening to the Black Keys' "Attack & Release" CD the Soundbase.770 had plenty of power, volume and bass, but it can't fill my room as well as a pair of Chane A1rx-c bookshelf speakers can, paired with a NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier.

I know sound bars and bases are attractive alternatives to full-blown, five- or seven-speaker home theater systems, because they take up less room, and reduce clutter and wires, but the best of them can't match multichannel home theater for clarity, dynamics, loudness and the ability to fill a room with sound.

Then again, a stereo home theater, like the one I just suggested with two speakers and a stereo-integrated amp will sound better than most sound bars and bases for close to the same dollars.

The choice is yours to make.

The $700 Soundbase.770 is sold direct from the Zvox website with a 30-day money-back guarantee. Zvox prices start at $170 for the Soundbase.220.