|ZVOX Mini Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Matthew Evert|
|Thursday, 01 June 2006|
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Music and Movies
Using the setup of the iPod mentioned earlier, I began to run some music through the Zvox to evaluate its sound quality. The Ceremony (Beggars UK) album from The Cult features a myriad of alternative rock songs, so it was an obvious choice for use with the Zvox. “White” begins a with an acoustic guitar segment that immediately lets the listener know that these musicians are for real and are ready to rock. The strums of the guitar were sweet-sounding as they danced about the midrange frequencies. The gradual merging of the bass drum, electric guitar and vocal accompaniment did not wash out the presence of the acoustic guitar at any point during the track. Again, I followed my ear’s request to leave the PhaseCue dial setting at about a quarter turn from the left extreme to avoid hearing a thin-sounding soundstage. In “Heart of Soul,” my attention was focused on frontman Ian Ashbury’s powerful vocals surrounding my ears with bliss. If the mesmerizing cries of his voice do not make you want to take singing lessons, then your senses must be numb. The details of Ashbury’s vocals were not restricted by the small cabinet of the Zvox. Deep, throaty cries and the bass-rich hums alike were all delivered without any apparent grain.
The Fugees’ Greatest Hits album (Sony) offered the bass-heavy hip hop sound I was looking for to test the bump capabilities of the Zvox. “Killing Me Softly” features the soulful vocals of R&B diva Lauren Hill. Her voice and those of the backup singers sounded warm, but had a slight echo to them, as if they were being sung in a church or large hall. The heavy bass of the drums and bass guitar had ample punch, but did not distract me from the singers’ vocals. I did turn the subwoofer volume down a little from my original one o’clock position to avoid some of the clipping I encountered. I think this was due to the recording being less that ideal, since I heard the same thing on another receiver. Once I made the adjustment, there was plenty of clean low-frequency bump hitting my chest without it sounding distorted. The track “Ready or Not” went more smoothly and had the added benefit of Wyclef Jean’s smooth vocals. The midranges, such as Jean’s raps, were noticeably clean. Some of the higher frequencies, such as the high hat were a little rolled off and missing some of the finer details I have heard from my reference system. The feeling of openness with the soundstage was not as prominent with the Zvox either. That said, the compact size and budget price of Zvox more than makes a solid case for its legitimacy.
“Transporter 2” (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) is the sequel to one of my favorite demo flicks for visitors to my home theater system. Although the acting is wretched and the plot is mostly focused on making actor Jason Statham look like Bruce Lee Bond, there are excellent sound effects. There is a scene where Jason drives his Audi off one multi-story parking complex onto another adjacent one. The adjacent parking complex is still under construction, so there are thin support bars still scattered throughout the floor of the second building. As the car landed and spun out across the floor of the parking structure, I heard the pinging noises of the support bars snapping apart all around me. The effects were more focused towards the front of the soundstage vs. the 360-degree sound that I heard from my reference system. Still, for a small cabinet with just a couple speakers, it was impressive to hear the level of surround sound that I experienced. Fans of the first “Transporter” movie won’t be disappointed: there are lots of explosions. Even several feet from the nearest wall, the Zvox’s built-in subwoofer was able to provide impact to the explosions. If you feel you need more thump, just move the cabinet closer to a wall or turn up the subwoofer volume a bit. Be careful to allow at least two inches between the back of the Zvox cabinet and the wall to ensure proper ventilation and bass reproduction.
Connecting the Zvox to my DirecTV satellite receiver would have been easier if the Zvox had digital inputs, but unfortunately the receiver had only RCA outputs. The absence of digital inputs was a bummer to me at first, but after further thought, the additional cost of adding them would have not been worth it. Once connected, I quickly tuned into one of my favorite programs, “Monster Garage” (Discovery HD). In this particular episode, Jesse James is challenged to build a flying car out of a $100,000 sports car and $5,000 worth of parts. The Wright brothers were probably spinning in their graves, knowing that they were being referenced on a reality TV show. The whizzing of the band saws slicing up sheet metal and the buzzing of the sanders brought the construction project into my lap. The build crew had a particular obsession with breaking glass during this project, so I paid particular attention to whether the Zvox ever sounded brittle. Zvox had no trouble handling the frequent crashing sounds and maintained its composure. I think the furthest the car actually got off the ground was a couple of feet, so the Wright brothers’ place in history is secure for the moment or at least until the next episode of “Monster Garage.”