CNET también está disponible en español.

Ir a español

Don't show this again

HolidayBuyer's Guide

Zvox Z-Base 575 review:

Zvox Z-Base 575

The Zvox's connectivity options are simple: there are two analog stereo RCA inputs inputs on the back. This is certainly on the skimpy side, especially considering the Z-Base 575's $700 list price. The Sony HT-CT100 ($300 street price) offers three HDMI inputs, but has less powerful sound; the Yamaha YSP-3000 ($800 street price) has two HDMI inputs and does a better job of creating a surround effect.

Zvox did make a strange design decision with its audio inputs: the second audio input is described as a "mixing" input, which means you'll hear sound from two connected devices if they're playing audio. That's not a problem for most devices, which are turned off after use, but if you have an always-on DVR, it will be constantly feeding audio to your Zvox. We're guessing Zvox wanted to keep things simple by not offering the capability to truly change inputs, but it seems like an oversight when DVRs are so prevalent.

(There are a few ways around the problem. If your HDTV has stereo analog outputs, you can use it as a "switcher," which also may allow you to connect more than two devices. Secondly, if your DVR has a dedicated mute button or volume control--separate from that of the TV--you can manually lower it each time you're done watching TV.)

The Z-Base 575 definitely sounds bigger and more powerful than any self-powered sound bar speaker without a subwoofer we've ever tested. With the Z-Base 575 you'll feel every bass thump.

Zvox's Phase Cue is capable of generating very wide stereo imaging, although it doesn't quite handle surround effects as well as some competitors can. We did appreciate its adjustability, however, as Phase Cue is adjustable over a nine-step range. The Z-Base 575 produced a much larger, wall-to-wall sound field than Atlantic Technology's FS-7.0 sound bar speaker.

In a shoot-out between those two speakers using the naval battle scenes on the "Master and Commander" Blu-ray as test material, both speakers did very well. The explosive shocks of cannon fire were a bit more dynamically alive over the FS-7.0 partnered with the SB-800 sub, but the Z-Base 575 was easily the most dynamic sound bar sans subwoofer we've tested. Its bass quality and power are at least on par with most self-powered sound bars that come with subs.

The FS-7.0's overall sound quality was a little clearer than the Z-Base 575's, but the FS-7.0 was being used with an Onkyo HT-RC180 receiver, so between that and the SB-800 sub, it's a far more expensive setup than the Z-Base 575. Adding the Atlantic Technology SB-800 sub made for a fairly subtle improvement to the Z-Base575's sound; most buyers won't need to add a sub.

It's worth reiterating that the Z-Base 575's adjustability is a major reason why we liked the sound. Between its treble, subwoofer, and Phase Cue controls, we could easily tweak the sound to our liking with each Blu-ray, DVD, and CD we played. No other manufacturers' sound bars are as adaptable.

Dialog was naturally balanced, but intelligibility suffered in the noisy battle scenes of "Master and Commander." Turning down Phase Cue helped alleviate that problem to a degree. The Z-Base 575's size advantages let it play louder without getting distorted than any self-powered sound bar we can think of. Listening to CDs was a mixed bag. They sounded perfectly fine for background listening, but cranking Bruce Springsteen, the Z-Base 575 sounded like a large (and powerful) table radio, and nothing like a good quality satellite-subwoofer system.

Zvox's smaller Z-Base 525 goes for half the Z-Base 575's price, and gets you roughly 75 percent of the sound. That is, they sound very similar overall, but the smaller model produces less bass and can't play as loud. Whether you need the extra oomph of the Z-Base 575 depends on your preferences and the size of your room.

What you'll pay

    Visit manufacturer site for details.

    Hot Products

    This week on CNET News

    Discuss Zvox Z-Base 575