The Zvox SoundBase 580 is Zvox’s top tier pedestal speaker and it has a lot to like. It has a variety of inputs and a great front panel display. It’s low profile means that it can fit snugly under most TVs without being noticed. The 580 also delivers quality sound. Being the biggest SoundBase in Zvox’s line-up, the 580 can go louder than it’s smaller brethren and it’s dual powered subwoofers also mean it can go deeper. However, its not perfect. The Zvox SoundBase 580 probably won’t please an audiophile, but most people who are just looking to upgrade their feeble TV speakers will be very pleased with what they hear.

 

ZVOX 580 Low-Profile Single-Cabinet Surround Sound System with Optical and Coaxial Digital Inputs

Price: $269.00

4.2 out of 5 stars (266 customer reviews)

2 used & new available from $169.00

 

Zvox SoundBase 580 Design and Appearance

The pedestal design of the Zvox SoundBase 580 represents an evolutionary step in the sound bar arena. More manufacturers like Bose are picking up on this. When sound bars first arrived on the market manufacturers may have mistakenly assumed that most people were going to hang their nice shiny flat panel TVs on their walls. Therefore they could hang a slender speaker directly underneath or above the TV. However, the reality is that most don’t hang their TVs on a wall and in fact most TVs are indeed setting on some sort of TV stand. The traditional speaker bar unfortunately usually sets in front of the TV which means it also blocks the IR receiver on the TV which causes users to contort their bodies and aim the remote in an effort to control their TV. On top of this, the diminutive size of most traditional speaker bars also means their sound quality is lacking. The pedestal design of the Zvox 580 addresses all of these issues.

 

The 580 is roughly 36″ wide x 16.5″ deep x 5″ high which means the cabinet has quite a bit of volume. This is important because the Zvox SoundBase 580 also houses dual 6.5 inch subwoofers. A quick knock on the cabinet also reveals something else about the 580. While most speaker bars are comprised of plastic, the Zvox 580 eschews this trend and instead uses speaker grade MDF. The side panels are hand lacquered and have a high gloss appearance which makes the Zvox 580 look like a piece of furniture.

Zvox 580 Soundbase

As previously mentioned, the Zvox SoundBase 580 is meant to set underneath your TV and can support a TV weighing as much as 160 lbs. The metal grill on the front houses five 3.25 inch long throw drivers. The metal grill also conceals the front panel of the unit which at first glance goes unnoticed. The front panel only glows when an input on the remote is selected and after a second or two fades away. The included remote with the Zvox 580 is serviceable. It’s small, but it does everything it needs to do. A minor thing we did notice with the remote is that sometimes the Zvox was a little slow to respond to the remote which resulted in us having to press a remote input more than once.

 

The Zvox SoundBase 580 Has Connections

Zvox SoundBase 580 Rear

 

The Zvox 580 has an ample amount of connectivity options. The front has one 3.5 mm  stereo input. On the rear you’ll find 2 analog audio inputs, one optical and one digital input. The Zvox SoundBase 580 does lack an HDMI input, but it’s doubtful an HDMI input would offer any aural advantages. One feature that is missing on the 580 is bluetooth. Many competing soundbars offer built-in bluetooth so it’s unfortunate that the 580 doesn’t. Zvox does point out on their web site that bluetooth can be added but at the sacrifice of one of the inputs.

 

 

Zvox 580 Performance and Sound

The Zvox 580 has a feature it calls Output leveling. When activated this makes loud sounds softer and soft sounds louder. This works great for television watching and greatly softens the sound of jarring TV commercials. For movie watching we preferred to deactivate this feature since the compression Zvox uses seemed to downgrade blu-ray audio quality slightly. The Zvox also has a Dialog Enhancement feature that focuses and emphasizes human voices while softening other sound frequencies. When activated there is a noticeable increase in the vocal clarity of whatever source material your listening too. It’s a nice feature for anyone hard of hearing and also works well for parts in movies or TV shows where special effect sounds may drown out the vocals.

 

Zvox 580 Virtual Surround

The Zvox SoundBase 580 uses what it calls PhaseCue technology to emulate a surround sound experience.  The 580 gives you 3 settings to choose from: “Sd 1” which emphasizes vocal clarity, “Sd 2” which puts slightly more emphasis on surround effects, and “Sd 3” which greatly widens the sound field to create a virtual surround sound experience. In our subjective tests “Sd 1” and “Sd 2” sounded virtually identical although we found ourselves gravitating to “Sd 1” for most television watching. “Sd 3” provided a notable wider sound stage. While it wasn’t capable of emulating a true 5.1 system (Zvox admits this by the way), it still gave movies a more enveloping sound that was less directional.

 

For our movie testing we used Pacific Rim, Thor 2 and Transformers 2. All of these movies are heavy on action so they usually provide a good test for most speakers. The Zvox 580 didn’t disappoint. It handled all movies extremely well. Directional sounds swept seamlessly from left to right and using the “Sd 3” surround setting generated a wider than expected sound field. The two 6.5 inch subwoofers inside the 580 provided nice detailed bass. It won’t shake the walls, but low frequencies have a nice weight to them. High frequencies were also represented well. When we tested the Zvox’s smaller brother, the 555, we felt it sounded a bit bright initially. The 580 didn’t seem to have the same brightness and in fact sounded good right out of the box.

 

One peculiar thing we did note in our testing was how the Zvox SoundBase 580 handles Bitstream audio. Our Panasonic Blu-Ray player by default was set to send Bitstream audio to the 580. The 580 has a built-in Dolby Digital audio converter that can handle Dolby Bitstream audio however, one of our discs was encoded with DTS HD audio. When initially attempting to play this disc through the Zvox 580 we didn’t have any audio output. After going into the settings of our blu-ray player and changing the audio output from Bitstream to PCM the 580 worked fine. After conversing with Zvox’s tech support we were able to verify that this was the problem. This isn’t a major flaw, but this is something to look out for if you decide to purchase a Zvox 580.

 

Conclusion

The Zvox SoundBase 580 is a great investment for someone looking for an upgrade over their TV speakers. The dialogue enhancement features make it great for anyone hard of hearing. The surround settings while providing a wider sound field, are no replacement for a good 5.1 surround system. However, it’s small form factor and it’s detailed and thumpy bass output make movie watching more engaging and is a definite improvement over TV speakers.

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ZVOX 580 Low-Profile Single-Cabinet Surround Sound System with Optical and Coaxial Digital Inputs

Price: $269.00

4.2 out of 5 stars (266 customer reviews)

2 used & new available from $169.00

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