Zvox AV357 soundbar review: Premium dialogue, but not the best value

Are you placing up with indecipherable dialogue in your TV? There are quite a few solutions to countering poor sound, but shopping for a brand new soundbar is an effective place to begin. Massachusetts-based firm Zvox just about invented the soundbar, and it has been refining its designs in the nearly 20 years since. After a detour into hearing aids, the firm has been utilizing what it realized to develop its line of AccuVoice speakers, which incorporates every part from the entry-level ZV100 ($100) to this new flagship AV357 soundbar — which lists for $350 but is on sale proper now at $300. 


  • Plenty of voice modes and EQ customizations
  • Voices sound pure and extra comprehensible
  • Convincing quantities of bass for music

Don’t Like

  • Paying a premium for wooden over aluminum
  • Less options than the step-down
  • Limited inputs
  • Costly

With its MDF development (that is engineered wooden for these unfamiliar with the acronym), the AV357 is each bigger and extra enticing than step-down fashions. Features are pretty sparse — there is not Bluetooth streaming — but its efficiency is above and past what you’d count on from the measurement.

That stated, in comparison with different soundbars at this value level, the Zvox lacks a variety of options. Competitors beat it handsomely for must-haves like superior connectivity and usefulness — as does the Zvox AV257, which is at the moment out of inventory. But at the finish of the day, the AV357 is well-built and makes TV dialogue and music sound higher than any tv alone.

What is it?

Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Zvox AV357 is a single, 24-inch soundbar designed to enhance dialogue out of your TV. It does not provide Bluetooth, HDMI or different normal fripperies but it does have 12 ranges of voice enhancement. Some soundbars have a single dialogue mode, in the event that they’re fortunate, so this implies the AV357 is very configurable compared.

The unit provides six levels of AccuVoice enhance, plus a further six levels of SuperVoice accessed by way of the distant’s AccuVoice button. SuperVoice is designed to cut back background sounds and enhance dialogue even additional. Other sound modes embody a quantity leveling mode (for loud commercials), PhaseCue digital encompass and bass and treble controls.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

The Zvox has simply two inputs: an analog and an optical digital. The analog enter permits customers to attach a TV or an Amazon Echo for automated muting when issuing instructions. The bar itself is roofed in a comparatively enticing black ash veneer and measures 23.75 inches large, 4.19 inches deep and a pair of.75 inches excessive. I used to be utilizing a reasonably low-slung Westinghouse TV throughout my testing and located that the soundbar did block its IR port. If that is an issue for you, there sadly is not a wall-mounting choice (although you possibly can in all probability discover a third-party resolution.


Ty Pendlebury/CNET

You can program your TV’s distant to regulate the speaker’s quantity ranges or use the included distant, which has a pleasant premium really feel to it and enormous buttons to help individuals with low imaginative and prescient. (It means that you can entry the speaker’s further options, although it could have been nice so as to add a SuperVoice button as a result of this is not apparent with out consulting the guide.) Alas, in contrast to different Zvox audio system I’ve examined, the AV357 does not have controls on the unit. This could possibly be a problem if, like me, you misplace the distant and want to show down the sound in a rush.

The soundbar is powered by a 24-watt Class D digital amplifier — similar to the AV257 — and a complement of 3-inch, full-range audio system. If you need extra bass oomph, there’s a mixed headphone and subwoofer output.

Personally, I choose the options of the AV257 to the AV357 because it provides each the further optical-analog enter and has controls on the unit. It’s additionally $80 cheaper. While I have never heard the AV257, the different essential variations are the AV357 is way wider and it options wooden development. The elevated bodily quantity almost certainly contributes to the bass weight that I heard. But might I inform the soundbar was wooden and not aluminum by it? Not actually. It was a black blob in entrance of the TV. I really choose the distinctive, brushed look of Zvox’s aluminum soundbars to the AV357’s considerably pedestrian black ash.

How does it carry out?

When establishing the AV357, I wanted to tweak the sound to get it precisely how I wished. It wasn’t fairly able to exit of the field — in all probability because of it utilizing an analog TV supply as an alternative of digital. For occasion, I wanted to cut back ‘Lo’ by 2, or bass drums sounded unfastened and floppy. Additionally, AccuVoice settings 2 and above have been loud and too ahead and vibrant — not good for music. Finally, when set in SD 3 (Surround 3) mode, the soundbar was able to a large sufficient soundstage and bass for music. 

In my earlier experiences with Zvox soundbars, certainly one of the firm’s constant strengths — along with nice dialogue — has been the quantity of bass the model can squeeze out of a compact cupboard. Of course, this implies a variety of behind-the-scenes sign processing, and I discovered this might result in some bizarre habits. Bass-heavy music might pulse out and in to the beat, for instance. 

Luckily, this was much less of a problem with the AV357. While I did discover delicate fading results on the sparse spoken-word interlude of Fucked Up’s Year of the Horse Act 1, I solely heard it as soon as throughout my week with the speaker. Even Alt-J’s notoriously speaker-destroying 3WW did not overload the cupboard with its deep bass mattress — not less than, not after pulling again the bass management beforehand.

With additional music listening I discovered Foals’ What Went Down was particularly pleasant. It’s a cliche, but I actually did verify to see if the Vizio V21 was on as the bass appeared too deep, too tuneful to be from the Zvox’s small enclosure.

As you’d count on, given the firm’s essential pitch, the Zvox was higher with voices than the Vizio V21 (our present finances favourite). The AV357 provided enhanced element, reminding me of audiophile-grade loudspeakers, and it was particularly able to deciphering gritty British cop reveals like Lone of Duty. 

The AV357 provides so many tailor-made choices that it encourages tweaking, but these may be taken too far. Depending on the mode, chances are you’ll discover that mid-range heavy sounds develop into unnatural (ex., Supermode 2 and three accentuated turning bedsheets in John Wick), making them sound like they’d been sitting out in the frost in a single day. Also, at Accusound’s highest ranges the brighter sound could possibly be uncomfortable for relations who do not want a lot help with listening to voices.

As you’d count on, the Vizio ran rings round the Zvox for residence theater pleasure. During Avatar’s thanator chase scene, the thump of the Vizio’s wi-fi sub enhanced the drama. Meanwhile, the Zvox got here off slightly skinny; clear, but skinny. What I did not count on was the Zvox’s dynamics. It might not have the ability to pump out bass, but should you do not use the quantity leveling characteristic, the AV357 handles dynamic shifts properly — like the quiet jungle sounds of Pandora damaged by gunfire.

Should you buy it?

Zvox is not the solely firm making dialogue-improving soundbars: Polk, Samsung and Vizio all provide fashions with voice enhancement, although they provide little in the means of customized configuration. The Zvox AV357’s six ranges of voice management are one thing no different soundbar firm can provide. But if you really want AccuVoice, there are cheaper Zvox soundbars that additionally embody it, together with the aforementioned $100 AV100. 

The costlier SB500 and SB700 additionally embody AccuVoice along with Bluetooth, and the SB500 is way bigger (making it value the further $80). It additionally has a collection of onboard controls if you cannot discover the distant. 

Features and development apart, the AV357’s essential attraction is its audio efficiency: It’s certainly one of the clearest, most dynamic soundbars you may discover in a small enclosure. Its efficiency belies its measurement, as it’s able to wonderful readability and a deceptively deep bass. It’s additionally surprisingly good with music. Being manufactured from wooden is certainly one of its least fascinating qualities.

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