Sound bars are multiplying like a bunch of crazy rabbits. If you went to this year’s CES you would have noticed that nearly every major manufacturer has thrown their hat into the sound bar arena. Because of today’s technology, TVs have gotten lighter and thinner. Anyone that’s helped a friend move a hundred+ pound floor model tube TV knows that today’s lighter and thinner TVs are a god send. However, this reduction in size comes at a price. While TV picture quality has improved exponentially, the sound quality of today’s TVs has also degraded nearly as much. Sound bars help to improve your everyday listening experience. Most sound bars are designed to either fit above or below your TV and can be hung on the wall or placed on your TV stand. While most speaker bars offer a superior listening experience over your average TV speaker, their small size also limits their overall sound quality. Because of this, the next evolution of the sound bar may be upon us. The Zvox 555 Soundbase (with a suggested MSRP of $399) utilizes a pedestal design that allows you to rest your TV directly on top of the unit.

ZVOX 555 Low-Profile Single-Cabinet Surround Sound System with Optical and Coaxial Digital Inputs

Price: $175.00

4.3 out of 5 stars (422 customer reviews)

5 used & new available from $175.00

 

Zvox isn’t the only manufacturer to adopt the pedestal design. Bose has also released a pedestal designed speaker and recently samsung announced their pedestal designed speaker, the samsung sound base HW-H600. A frequent problem with speaker bars is that their diminutive frames don’t have enough volume to allow the sound to resonate within the cabinet. Pedestal designed speakers like the Zvox 555 have more cabinet volume which solves this problem.

 

Zvox 555 Soundbase Appearance and Design

Zvox 555 Soundbase

The Zvox Soundbase 555 measures 28″W x 14 1/2″D x 3 3/8″H and weighs about 17lbs. The Zvox is designed to support TVs that are 27″ – 50″ in size and which weigh up to 110lbs. The 555 has an unassuming design. At first glance, the Zvox 555 appears to be just a large rectangular black box. However, tap on the side and you’ll notice that the box is actually made of speaker grade MDF. The front LED display panel is hidden behind the speaker grill and below the display are 4 buttons; Mute, Volume Up and Down, and Input. Below the function buttons the 555 also has a 3.5mm jack so that you can connect a mobile device. The 555 has an OK amount of inputs however, it does lack an HDMI input. This won’t be a big deal though since you generally won’t see any type of aural improvement with an HDMI connection with this type of set-up. Connecting the unit to your TV is pretty straightforward. Either you’ll need to run a cable directly from your TV and into the unit or you’ll need to connect each of your components directly into the Zvox 555 Soundbase via one of the available inputs.

Connectivity

Zvox 555 Soundbase Connections

 

The Zvox 555’s included remote is serviceable. It’s slightly larger than a credit card and has all of the buttons you’d expect with the volume buttons being slightly larger than the others which makes them pretty easy to identify.

 

Behind the grill you’ll find (5) 2″ speaker drivers that the Zvox relies upon to produce high and mid frequency sounds. Flip the unit over and you’ll be greeted by a 5.25″ subwoofer. Unlike most sound bars the 555 does not have subwoofer bundled with the unit and instead it relies upon this 5.25″ subwoofer to produce low frequencies. This is possible because of it’s large cabinet. If you’re a bassaholic the Zvox 555 Soundbase does have a subwoofer output so you could attach an external subwoofer if desired.

 

Zvox 555 Soundbase Performance

The performance of the Zvox 555 Soundbase is where you’ll really hear the difference between this and other sound bars. Without an accompanying subwoofer you’d expect the bass response of the 555 to not be very good however, you’d be wrong. Because of the volumetric cabinet, sound waves have a good amount of space to resonate.

 

Listening tests of the 555 were mostly positive however, the unit does have a few weaknesses. We tested out the 555 with Pacific Rim and Transformers to test the dynamics of the Zvox 555 and it exceeded our expectations.  Considering it’s lack of a separate subwoofer, bass output of the unit was extremely good for an all in one sound system. Was it as good as a true 5.1 surround system with a separate subwoofer? No. But, this type of audio solution isn’t targeted towards Audiophiles.

 

Both of our test movies are heavy on action so we got to get a taste of how agile the 555 is. The scenes in Pacific Rim with the giant Jaegers battling the Kaiju provided copious amounts of thunderous bass. Although the bass wasn’t wall shaking, it still provided a nice thump. The Zvox 555 also sounded very clear and precise. Our initial opinion on it when we first hooked it up was that it sounded a little bright. However, after a break in period it’s tonal quality evened out. One thing we did notice is that the volume level was a little un-even in our sound tests with some explosions in both movies being overwhelmingly loud. However, Zvox’s Output Leveling (dynamic range compression) feature minimized these and made our listening experience less jarring and very enjoyable. The 555 also utilizes what it calls PhaseCue II technology. This essentially creates a virtual surround sound field. While Zvox admits that this is no replacement for a good surround sound system, in our listening test it did widen the sound field which provided a more enveloping experience.

 

For movies, the Zvox 555 Soundbase is great. Where it stumbles is with music. When using the Zvox for music, the sound had a thin quality to it and the bass lacked the necessary detail needed for accurate music playback. Truthfully, we feel this is a minor issue though. The primary focus of the 555 is home theater use not music playback.

 

Conclusion

The Zvox 555 Soundbase is a great sounding unit. For movies and television it sounds great and for a unit that doesn’t have a separate subwoofer it sounds surprisingly detailed and thumpy. The 555 does stumble a little when it comes to music playback. If you’re looking for a compact all in one system that sounds great for TV and movies then you should give the Zvox 555 a strong look.

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ZVOX 555 Low-Profile Single-Cabinet Surround Sound System with Optical and Coaxial Digital Inputs

Price: $175.00

4.3 out of 5 stars (422 customer reviews)

5 used & new available from $175.00

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