Zvox SB500 review:

Zvox bar puts out grade-A sound

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good The Zvox SB500 sound bar offers great sound quality and a simple setup process. Bass is plentiful despite the lack of a subwoofer. Styling is chic and the unit seems well put together.

The Bad It doesn't include a wireless subwoofer, or subwoofer output jack. Deep bass can cause the soundfield to collapse into mono. The bar is taller than most and may block your TV's IR sensor if you're not wall-mounting.

The Bottom Line The SB500 sound bar is easily the best-looking and -sounding Zvox we've ever tested, and among the best for the money, period.

8.0 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Sound 8.0
  • Value 8.0

Despite practically inventing both the sound bar and the sound base, Zvox is still not a household name in the way that Bose or Yamaha are. But the SB500 could be the product that brings the brand to a wider audience.

Zvox founder Tom Hannaher told us at CES that he believed the $599 Zvox SB500 was the best sound bar you could buy. While that might sound like a baseless boast, it could have some truth to it. The SB500 does produce very sound good indeed, and better value for money than most sound bars we've tested.

The lack of subwoofer can be a problem, especially on bass reproduction during music playback, but the unit produces plenty of bass for watching blockbuster movies. Most sound bars exhibit some form of compromise, but the SB500's strengths far outweigh its weaknesses. This is definitely Zvox's best-sounding unit yet, and if you're looking for a performance-first bar that will trounce most of the skinny, style-centric competition, it belongs on your short list.

Australian and UK pricing and availability have yet to be announced, but $599 converts to around £415 or AU$780.

Design and features

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Zvox's new sound bar, the SB500.

Sarah Tew/CNET

This is no plastic cabinet with a sagging cloth cover. No, this is a tall brushed-aluminum box with a solid metal grille. Each end of the bar is covered in an attractive rubberized plastic, with one side containing the controls and the other a bass port which is supposed to prevent boominess when the unit is wall-mounted.

zvox-sb500-20.jpg
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Like Zvox's sound bases, the SB500 are 3-channel systems with a trio of 2-inch left, right and center drivers in addition to a pair of 4-inch bass woofers. Interestingly the drivers don't extend along the width of the cabinet, stopping instead at the quarter mark on either side.

zvox-sb500-20.jpg
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Sarah Tew/CNET

On the right-hand side of the speaker lives an orange four-character display, which offers information on volume or input selection.

Processing features include Intellivoice for better dialog for the hearing-impaired, as well as a bass-limiting circuit which promises to give full bass without distorting at high volumes. We were surprised to note the SB500 lacks a subwoofer output jack, so you can't add a powered sub to the system.

zvox-sb500-20.jpg
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Sarah Tew/CNET

Inputs are a little stingy for a $600 sound bar, with a single digital connection (either coaxial or optical, but not both), a stereo analog input and Bluetooth.

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