The Zvox Z-Base 580 is a low-profile, single-cabinet, surround sound system and at $599.99 is a bargain in today's audio world. Zvox is quite capable of improving your existing HDTV and movie audio but is it enough for audiophiles? Or is it just a solution for those who want to upgrade from their afterthought HDTV speakers? Or is it for those who don't want to set up a traditional home theater with two to five speakers and all the cables that come along with it?
The Zvox Z-Base 580 weighs 33 pounds and is 36 inches wide by 16.5 inches deep by five inches high and unlike most soundbars, for its size, it is quite large. You may be wondering why the Zvox is so big for a soundbar? Well, the Zvox Incredibase 580 can be used as a platform for your television, which makes it quite practical so I decided to place it under my Samsung 58 inch plasma because it was too wide for my center channel location. The height is something to keep in mind because it does increase the viewing height by almost half a foot. The Zvox ships with a two-meter RCA to RCA cable and my review shipped with an optical cable. The Zvox Incredibase 580 has two analog inputs, one optical (Toslink) digital input, one coaxial digital input including a front panel three and half-millimeter analog stereo input which makes connecting an iPod easy. The Z-Base 580 also has a subwoofer output jack, which is a cool option if you want to add a separate subwoofer to attain extra bass. The Zvox 580 does not disappoint when it comes to input options, with the exception of not being compatible with DTS while using the digital inputs. The Z-Base 580 also comes with a remote control, which is small and quite basic but it does the job. The volume and mute buttons are large but most other buttons are hard to distinguish by touch. The Z-Base does have front panel buttons along the right edge and a four-digit disappearing display behind the speaker screen. Only the essential buttons are available on the front panel. This has to be one of the easiest setups in the history of audio and video equipment for all it took was a power cord and the optical cable.
The Zvox 580 houses the speakers, amplifier, powered subwoofers and the proprietary PhaseCue II virtual surround sound all in one fairly slim cabinet. The reported frequency response is 24Hz to 20kHZ. The Zvox 580 has five, three and a quarter inch high performance speakers and incorporates dual six and a half inch powered subwoofers in a ported enclosure. The class D amplifier pumps out 120 Watts, making the Zvox 580 extremely efficient and therefore a "green" technology. One of my favorite features is the "DE" button on the remote that stands for dialogue emphasis and was so helpful when the dialogue would get drowned out. The Incredibase 580 has three surround sound options. The Zvox Incredibase 580 uses an MDF (medium density fiberboard) wood cabinet instead of molded plastic and it shows the level of quality Zvox has put into this product. Zvox also has an output-leveling (OL) button that activates a compression system to reduce the audio highs and increases audio lows for a more balanced listening experience.
The overall sound from the Zvox is quite impressive considering everything is in one box. If you are a discerning audiophile the Zvox will not satisfy your ears in the quite the same way a traditional two or multi-channel setup would, but for the sake of convenience and clutter - the Zvox rocks. The soundstage is good due to the Incredibase 580's width but the further you venture past its horizontal limits the less accurate it becomes. I loved how loud the Zvox was able to play within my medium-sized living room and the options of dialogue enhancement and surround sound are a nice touch. Zvox's proprietary PhaseCue II creates the virtual surround sound processing and this helps with creating 3D-like surround sound. I listened to Bob Marley's Legend (Island Record) and the bass performance did not disappoint, which one might think could happen from such a small speaker. In fact, the Zvox 580's bass was shockingly good. Additionally, I watched Pulp Fiction (A Band Apart) and the witty dialogue on the Zvox Incredibase 580 was crisp, detailed and easy to hear. Think: many times better than TV speakers even from the best HDTV sets.
Read about the high points and low points of the ZVOX Z-Base 580 on Page 2.High Points
• The Zvox Z-Base 580's size allows it to act as a pedestal or platform for your television.
• The Zvox 580 is extremely easy to setup, needing only a few cables, which allow for a clean and clutter-free look.
• The Z-Base 580 provides great sound for the money.
• The Incredibase 580 is quiet and energy efficient based on the class D amplifiers they employ
• Zvox's PhaseCue II is a wonderful proprietary technology and it allows the sound to seem 3D-like.
Although the Zvox Incredibase 580 sound is really good, it may not be
enough for the discerning audiophile. If you are looking for more sound -
expect to spend more money.
• You'll have to consider the placement
for the Zvox 580 because it raises the viewing height by almost half a
foot when placed under your television and may be too wide to fit into
your cabinet's center channel location. Also, placement of the Zvox 580
may affect the sound it produces, namely the bass, for the subwoofers
are down firing.
• Hopefully, Zvox will include HDMI inputs and an
HDMI pass-through output on future models. This would allow access to
Dolby TrueHD, DTS-Master Audio and help when connecting Blu-ray players
by reducing clutter and using fewer cables.
• The Zvox Incredibase
580 does have its limits when it comes to the soundstage for the further
out you go the less accurate the audio becomes.
Competition and Comparison
Zvox Z-Base 580 at $599 has several competitors in a market that is
quite competitive. Luckily, Zvox serves a certain niche leaning more
towards audiophiles with space constraints and on a budget. The Polk
Audio SurroundBar 6000 sells direct for $499 and can pair with a separate subwoofer. The
Aperion SLIMstage 30 by SoundMatters retails for $799 and also has a separate subwoofer. Going up
pricewise is Yamaha's YSP-4000 Digital Sound Projector which sells for $1,800, and Bowers and Wilkins Panorama Soundbar for $2,200, but the Zvox more than holds its own against these
For more on soundbars like the Zvox
please visit Home Theater Review's Soundbar page.
Zvox Z-Base 580 is unlike most traditional soundbars and in the end
this is a good thing. The Zvox 580 is easy to set up, easy to use, is a
great value for the money and is well made. The Zvox 580's large size
allows it to double as a television platform and the cabinet size makes
it one of the better audio "soundbars" out there. For $600 you get five
speakers, a 120-Watt digital amplifier and two subwoofers all in one
low profile cabinet. The Zvox 580 is perfect if you want a no-hassle
HDTV or home theater upgrade. The audio performance is above par and
unless you're a hardcore audiophile the Zvox Incredibase 580 may be all
you need to better enjoy your HDTV experience.