ZVOX SoundBase 670
Home Theatre & Bluetooth
The ZVOX SoundBase 670 soundbar throws big, broad, full-bodied sound all over even a large room.
The SoundBase 670 is much more than just a soundbar; it's a big speaker with a built-in subwoofer that just happens to be only 3½" tall. It's a foot and a half deep and three feet wide and werighs 26 pounds. You put this on your shelf and sit your TV on top of it. It's a big speaker with big speaker sound, but looks tiny because you only see the 3½" tall front.
It's much bigger and better than most Bluetooth-only speakers and still competitively priced; so also consider it if all you want is a great music speaker.
This one small box packs its own internal subwoofers, so plug in one cable and voilà, you're all done. Its sound is a huge improvement over the tinny speakers in any modern TV.
It uses phase trickery to make sound appear to come from all over even a large room. In my home, sound spreads smoothly across my 20-foot (6 meter) home theatre, even if sitting 25 feet (8 meters) back — but you have to be sitting along the centerline for the best effect.
This model 670 has three 2×3" center speakers, two more 2×3" speakers for left and right, and three 5¼" woofers (most people call them subwoofers) on the bottom. The wood (vinyl-clad MDF) box is really the vented enclosure for the bottom-firing subwoofers.
As I test it, it's solid down to 41 Hz and has output to 32 Hz, so unless you're a dweeb who only listens to sound effects instead of real movies, there's no need for another subwoofer. It has a mono RCA subwoofer output if the built-ins aren't enough to annoy your neighbors, as well as a 3.5mm stereo output.
Not only is it trivially simple to hook-up to your TV or home theatre system, it also has regular RCA Hi-Fi and Bluetooth inputs so the whole family can play music on it from anything.
It has just about every input you might want: (1) SPDIF RCA, (2) optical TOSLINK, (2) analog RCA pairs, Bluetooth — and a front-panel 3.5mm jack.
It switches itself off automatically.
It has its own dedicated remote control, and you can program it to respond from your existing remote control.
ZVOX SoundBase 670 remote control.
Two clever features, AccuVoice and Output Levelling, are easy to turn on and off from the remote.
AccuVoice focuses the sound to make voices much clearer. This is a huge help if you're having problems understanding dialog, and it really works. AccuVoice even works along with surround.
Output Leveling simply keeps the levels constant so you don't have to ride gain (change the volume) as the program changes.
Five 2×3" front drivers (one left, three center, one right)
Three 5¼" woofers (subwoofers).
Bottom showing subwoofers, ZVOX SoundBase 670. bigger.
Total 105 watts.
Bluetooth: blue giga aptX.
(1) SPDIF RCA digital.
(2) optical TOSLINK digital. Each input has a spring-loaded cover to keep out dust when not used.
(2) analog RCA pairs.
One mono RCA subwoofer output.
One stereo 3.5mm output jack.
3½ × 36 × 16½" HWD.
26 pounds (11.8 kg).
Universal 100~240 VAC, 50/60 cycles.
Only draws about ½ watt in standby.
Vinyl-clad MDF particle-board case (not plastic).
Made in China.
Stereo RCA to stereo RCA connecting cable.
Optical digital (TOSLINK) cable.
Remote control with power on/off, volume up/down, mute, PhaseCue (three level settings), bass up/down and treble up/down, input selection, Output Leveling (OL), AccuVoice (ACCU).
One-sheet safety instructions and operations manual, fast setup sheet and remote control programming instruction sheet.
Fall, 2015: about $399.
It really works. The stereo effect is best in the center, and if you're in the center, sound really does come from all over the room. The built-in woofers eliminate the need for any more speakers, so with this one speaker, you're done.
This gives outstanding stereo effect when you're on a line straight back from it, but the effect collapses if you're off-center. It's a huge improvement to any TV, but of course for the best multichannel effects for everyone in the room, a hard-wired multispeaker system is better.
It's a very intelligent American design, done not far from Bose in Massachusetts. Some of the best talent from classic companies like Advent are now working at ZVOX. Not only is the sound much better than you'd expect, just as importantly it's easy to figure out and get it to go. It is much more straightforward to install and operate than anything designed in the Orient.
This little box really does fill large rooms and theatres with big, full sound.
Better than the sound systems in $100,000 Mercedes like the GL550, the SoundBase 670's sound is well-balanced right out of the box. There's no need to adjust its bass and treble controls.
The ZVOX SoundBase 670 sounds smooth, natural and articulate.
Not only is it great for movies and TV, it's even good enough for enjoying music for hours on end.
The 670's three 5¼" woofers have the combined output of a single 9" subwoofer.
The box volume and these three drivers give it the same output as any other typical consumer subwoofer.
It has strong output to 41 Hz (about the lowest E on a standard bass violin or guitar), and has clean output as low as 32 Hz, a 16-foot pedal C on a pipe organ. It's mostly doubling below that.
At least in my theatre, it's a little boosted in the lower midrange/upper bass around 100 ~ 200 Hz, which makes it sound bigger and warmer. This is swell for music and great for movies.
The bass is very convincing; for normal people there's no need for any additional subwoofers.
Of course if you prefer sound effects and annoying your neighbors over actually enjoying a movie or music, pick up several pairs of professional 18" JBL subwoofers and some Crown Amplifiers to drive them as we use in commercial theatres and have at it.
It really works!
It throws up wall-to-wall sound that fills the room — and my theatre is 20 feet (6 meters) wide.
Even sitting 25 feet (8 meters) back, the stereo image fills the complete width of the room.
The stereo effect isn't fuzzy; it's actually quite precise. Instruments and sounds all occupy well defined positions on the stage.
While all these positions are quite precise, they aren't particularly accurate. Each sound has a clear and exact location, but each note or sound has a different, random location. While each note will have a precise location, different notes come from different directions.
Most people will never notice this, since few people listen with their eyes closed as I do, but if you're a careful listener you'll notice that the sound field is more like what we get from a good mono-to-stereo synthesizer: a big, broad image with everything precisely placed, but everything is placed in different, random locations.
It really does throw up a full symphony orchestra just fine, although if you know where all the instruments sit, they're all in different places as heard through a soundbar. In pop music or movies, something panned from left to right won't necessarily sound that way. Of course most people listen with their eyes open, in which case the sound does come from all over and the picture tells us the direction. This is a limitation of all sound bars.
There is another gotcha to the trick of making all this big sound come out of a small box. It's not really "throwing" sound all over the room; these systems are simply tricking our ears into thinking the sound is coming from all over the room.
In order for these tricks to work best, you have to be sitting anywhere on an imaginary line that goes out from the center of the speaker. Even if you're 25 feet away, so long as you're sitting in the center, the stereo effect is big and broad.
However, the stereo effect starts to collapse as you sit away from the center. If this goes in your home theatre, be sure to sit in the precise center of any row and it works great. As you start to sit off center, the stereo effect becomes much narrower, and if you're 45º off center, it sounds pretty much like any other mono or Bluetooth speaker.
No soundbar actually directs or shoots sound around; instead they broadcast sneaky phase and frequency cues to trick our ears into hearing the full stereo effect — but sit off center and these cues get mutilated and the sound becomes much narrower.
The stereophonic effect of a soundbar is just like a rainbow: it's broad, colorful and seems to have two definite ends, but if you actually try to go to either end you won't find anything there. It's all in our heads.
Front controls, ZVOX SoundBase 670.
This is an American design, like the iPhone. Everything is simple and to the point, so we can stop fiddling and start enjoying immediately. There are no endless menus of dopey settings; it has exactly what we need.
The 4-digit LED display hides behind the perforated metal grille that spans the entire front.
The LEDs only turn on as needed, once you've changed a setting, they turn off again.
The amber LEDs are very nice; they remind me of 1970s Sperry gas-discharge neon planar 7-segment digital displays.
The remote has to be pointed deliberately at the 670; at least in my theater I can't bounce it off my dark fabric soundproof walls.
Flat TVs have no internal air volume to let their tiny speakers develop any bass response.
Unlike big CRT TVs, modern flat TVs have horrible sound because the speakers are just too tiny and have to fire out the back of the box.
The 670 easily sounds much better than any modern TV. All its speakers fire directly into your room, and its three subwoofers fill the room with bass, firing out the bottom of what is actually a large, flat, wide subwoofer box.
This is much bigger than a normal Bluetooth speaker, and Bluetooth speakers lack the 670's magic stereo synthesis.
Therefore this 670 makes other Bluetooth speakers sound tiny by comparison. The 670 has triple subwoofers, so if you sit on-center even far away, it projects a huge stereo soundstage where other Bluetooth speakers sound like mono from more than a foot away.
This 670 is a zillion times better than regular Bluetooth speakers.
If you sit along the centerline, the SoundBase 670's sound, bass and stereo effect is very good. The reason you might want to consider a more complex multispeaker system is if you want to have many guests over to enjoy the same stereo effect from all over the room.
A wired multi-speaker system will probably have a better and more accurate stereo and multichannel effects.
The point of this speaker is to save you all the wiring and mounting. Even if you think you're going to use "wireless" speakers for your home, you still need to run power cords to them!
I directly compared it to a wired Bose Cinemate (2.1) system in my theatre, and to my surprise, the ZVOX 670 has cleaner, wider and more focused sound than the Cinemate!
Yes, if you're on-center, the 670 has a much bigger and better sound than the discrete speakers of the Cinemate, and I place the Cinemate speakers ten feet apart!
The 670 also has much smoother sound, making it much better for enjoying music. The Cinemate uses some tricks to improve movie sound that make music sound rougher.
If you sit on the center line, this 670 sounds much better and costs less. If you and your guests want to move all over the room, then the spread speakers of the Cinemate system will offer a better stereo effect to all listeners.
Program your current remote to control the SoundBase 670 and you can have its power and volume controlled from your existing remote. This way you can ignore the 670's remote after you set it up to taste.
Leave the 670 switched on all the time. You never have to turn it off; it turns itself into standby mode automatically and draws essentially no power when ignored. Don't turn off the rear switch or connect this to a switched outlet because it may forget your saved settings; just let it go into standby mode by itself.
If you want to force it into standby mode, use the Power button on the remote, or hold the front panel MUTE button for 4 seconds.
The manuals explain how to remove unused inputs from the input selection rotation. This helps you get to your desired input faster, if you use extra inputs like Bluetooth.
ZVOX SoundBase 670 remote control.
The 670 offers several surround modes of varying strengths: Sd-1, Sd-2 and Sd-3.
Press the SURROUND button on the remote to try the few different synthesized surround modes.
Sd-1 is the weakest.
I prefer Sd-2 for music. For music, Sd-3 tends to sound too echoey.
I prefer Sd-3 for movies
Of course things will be different in different rooms, try them and see for yourself.
This a trivially easy way to get very satisfying sound. Just be sure to sit near the center line for the widest stereo effect.
This is a fantastic Bluetooth speaker. It's the best I've heard by a large margin, mostly because it can project a stereo image while the others simply go mono unless you stick your head into them.
For not much more money than a normal Bluetooth speaker, this 670 sounds HUGE by comparison.
Dedicated conventional stereo speakers always win, but if you're considering other Bluetooth speakers primarily to enjoy music at home, forget them and get one of these.
If you or the wife wants to add great sound to any TV with almost zero effort, this is a great way to do it.
You don't even have to add or wire a subwoofer; just plug the SoundBase 670 into the wall and plug one audio cable from your TV or receiver, and you're done.
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12 November 2015