ZVOX SB500 Review
Pros: Good sound, lots of availbale sound customization
Cons: Quite large, works best with 50"+ TVs
Our Analysis and Test Results
The ZVOX SB500 is well-designed and offers good all-around performance. If you have a large TV stand that can accommodate a 43" soundbar, and you can find it on sale, it is definitely a worthwhile purchase.
The ZVOX SB500 was a good but not quite top-notch performer in our testing. You can hear more about its performance in each of our individual tests below.
The ZVOX was right behind the top scorers in our sound quality testing, earning an above average score of 7 out of 10. We found its bass to be quite deep and resonant, about on par with that of the Bose SoundTouch 300 and slightly more powerful than the Sonos Playbar. However, that bass could sometimes sound a bit muffled, especially when we played around with the EQ settings. The bass seems to like the preset sound modes better than customized EQ settings.
Where the ZVOX fell slightly short of the top scorers was its dynamic range and overall clarity. We found its dynamic range to be just a bit narrower than what the Bose and Sonos could produce. It was also not quite as clear as those top models. The overall sound was still quite good, but it lacked that crystal clarity that really put the top models in a league of their own. In its AccuVoice mode, vocals and voices sound perfectly clear but this tends to drown out instruments when playing music.
Ease of Use
The ZVOX was one of the top scorers in our ease of use testing, falling behind only the Yamaha YAS-108 with a score of 8 out of 10. It has a nice, large remote for scrolling through the various sound settings it offers. There are also basic controls on the soundbar itself in case you misplace the remote. We found the setup to be very straightforward, requiring less than 5 minutes of effort before we were enjoying big sound from our testing TV. The only thing the ZVOX lacks is a compatible app. This won't be a big deal for most users, but there is something to be said for being able to just grab your phone out of your pocket if you want to adjust a certain setting.
The ZVOX is the king of sound customization, earning a top score of 9 out of 10 in our testing. It allows users to make general EQ adjustments and offers a plethora of different sound modes for different uses. For example, you can choose between setting that optimizes the sound based on the soundbar's positioning (whether it is facing forward or up, and whether it's on a stand below the TV or on a wall mount). You can also choose the level of virtual surround sound effects the soundbar uses, and choose from many different presets optimized for music, movies, clear voices, no loud noises, etc. The only reason we didn't award the ZVOX a perfect score in this metric is because we found that adjusting the bass EQ setting made the bass sound a bit muffled, so that feature did not feel particularly useful.
The ZVOX opts for a simple and streamlined look, with an all black body and right angles. The construction also looks of a high quality. The only thing that is conspicuous about this soundbar is its size. It is 43" long, which is a good 6"-10" longer than most average soundbars. If you're going to place this on a TV stand, you'll want to make sure the stand is long enough. Also, be aware that if your TV is smaller than 50" this soundbar will likely be wider than the TV, an aesthetic that some people may not like.
The ZVOX SB500 lists for $500. At that price we feel it is a poor value, seeing as you need to make only a small sacrifice in sound quality to get the $200 Yamaha YAS-108. However, at the time of this writing, we've seen the ZVOX selling for upwards of $150 less than its list price. At that price point, we feel the ZVOX is quite a good value and a worthy purchase.
The ZVOX SB500 was an above average performer in all of our tests. If you can find it on sale and have room to accommodate its 43" length, it is a good choice. If you want to save some money or need something smaller, the Yamaha YAS-108 will likely serve you better.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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