|ZVOX Z-Base 550 Speaker System|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Todd Whitesel|
|Friday, 31 July 2009|
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The home theater craze has ushered in the development of associated products nearly unimaginable 30 years ago. For those of us who grew up on two-channel stereo and terrible TV sound, the advent of video formats such as Betamax and VHS were our introduction to home theater. Those days now seem like ancient history, and even the most devout advocate of vintage gear would admit that the DVD format is superior in every way to the old tape cartridges. And without the DVD, our home “movie theater experiences” would be pretty dull.
The Z-Base 550 (MSRP $499.99) stands less than 4 inches high, so its space requirements are minimal. It measures 28 inches wide and 14.5 inches deep and can be used to support most flat-panel TVs from 26 to 50 inches wide and weighing up to 90 pounds. Rather than take chances on scratching the unit's top, I opted to place it on the shelf rack just below my TV, where it still could provide unimpeded sound. The cabinet is constructed from medium-density fiberboard and features lacquered side panels dressed in high glossy black. The unit weighs 20 pounds and feels solidly built. It needs to be, as the cabinet contains the amplifier, speakers, powered woofer and all circuitry to give it “surround-sound” sound.
The only additional step is coordinating your TV's remote – setting it to “variable” under the “audio” sub-screen menu – which can then be used to control the Z-Base. Barring that option, the Z-Base is easily controlled with the remote control. The tiny unit has four pairs of buttons to control volume, phasecue (virtual surround), subwoofer and treble. A blue LED, located under the Z-Base's front grille, blinks when any adjustments are made. There are nine levels each of phasecue, subwoofer and treble control. When the maximum setting is reached, the light stops blinking. Although the manual suggests that many owners find a treble setting he or she likes and leave it there, I found that the best performance was achieved by tweaking each setting for whatever I was listening to, be it a TV program, DVD or CD.
Although you could run the unit through a DVD player and then into the TV, ZVOX's president and product developer Tom Hannaher advocates video switching in the TV instead of running a digital video signal through a soundbar, noting, “ZVOX has always championed an analog-based virtual surround technology because it sounds more natural, more musical than digital counterparts."