ZVOX 425 High-Performance Single-Cabinet Surround Sound System

ZVOX 425 High-Performance Single-Cabinet Surround Sound System

October 11, in Hi-Fi Systems Reviews

Specifications:

  • Dimensions; 36.5”w x 5 3/4”d x 7 3/4”h Weight: 25 pounds. With box and packing: 33 pounds.
  • Amplifier: The 425 uses a 133 watt amplifier. Inputs: Two rear “mixing” inputs (if two devices are connected and playing, you will hear both devices): dual RCA jack inputs. One front-panel mini-jack input (3.5mm) for use with portable audio devices (portable CD player, iPod, etc.). When any device is plugged into the front panel input, both rear inputs are automatically muted.
  • Frequency range: 35 Hz – 20 kHz. The 425 is bi-amplified
  • Uses dual 4” side-firing subwoofers Five 3.25″ main speaker drivers PhaseCue virtual surround sound system
  • The new ZVOX S.A.N.E. (Sudden Audio Noise Eliminator) circuit

ZVOX is an online Internet company specializing in a one-box solution to home theatre sound for use with all kinds of TV’s, whether tube, LCD, Plasma, or even the rear projection type. Retail price of the ZVOX 425 is $699.99. During my review period there was a special that included the DLO HomeDock Music Remote which allowed you to both charge and play your Ipod through the ZVOX music system, at no additional cost. The standard warranty that is included with your purchase is two years limited parts and labor.

Winslow Burhoe, the founder of EPI loudspeakers, and former employee of such prestigious companies as AR, KLH and Boston Acoustics created all the ZVOX systems. As you can see ZVOX is built on a strong foundation from someone who knows speakers and other quality audio equipment. While using some digital circuitry, for the most part the ZVOX uses an analog design. Below is a quote from their WebPages explaining their use of analog a little further.

“We believe that analog systems generally have a more musically accurate character. A well-designed analog system sounds natural – with none of the “digital weirdness” we hear in many digital surround sound systems (some stuff just doesn’t sound right).
Also analog is simple. We have yet to encounter a digital audio product whose user’s manual is under 18 pages. Digital, for the most part, is complicated. And life, let’s face it, is already way too complicated. So we like analog.”

ZVOX 425 review

What was also nice to see was the company’s use of wood (medium density fiberboard) instead of plastic. This gives the ZVOX a more solid weighty feel to it as well as helping to prevent vibration. As we all know vibration and heat are two big enemies to the audio world. Perhaps its use of wood is one reason the ZVOX can reproduce the human voice with such accuracy and clarity.

ZVOX 425 review

Setting up the ZVOX was simple. Remove it from its box, attach the power cord, hook up the audio from ZVOX to TV, plug the power cord into an outlet and turn the unit on. Complete detailed instructions can be found in the one page two sided owners manual that is of course more thorough and should always be read before attempting to use the ZVOX. If you want to control the sound from your TVs remote that can easily be programmed as well. All functions though, such as subwoofer, Phasecue, and treble can only be adjusted with the use of the ZVOX supplied remote control. The ZVOX can also be used with a separate subwoofer if one so desires, but now we are getting into a higher pricing category and I wanted to test this unit with its own built in subwoofers and without the aid of other more expensive pieces. If however you are so tempted there is a subwoofer output jack located in the rear of the unit for such purposes. As for the remote it is small and thin so that having another remote around is not an annoyance.

ZVOX 425 remote

The ZVOX’s remote control has a muting and power button as well as one labeled auto on/off. Normally the ZVOX will go into standby mode if it stops receiving an audio signal for between 5-8 minutes. If you switch the auto to ON it will by pass this feature and leave the unit powered up for as long as you like. Other features found on the remote are the standard volume control as well as the Phasecue, subwoofer and treble controls. Phasecue needs a little explanation here, while the other two are self-explanatory. This Phasecue button controls the systems ability to sound more spacious. There are nine levels of Phasecue and I found that level 5 or 6 more to my liking as the overall sound seemed fuller with the ZVOX set at that level. It had a tendency to sound too bright turned all the way up but this is a very subjective difference and that is why you can adjust it to your own preference. Either way I am glad it had this feature. Not found on the remote but only on the unit itself is a switch labeled S.A.N.E., which stands for sudden audio noise eliminator. It is used to minimize the sound from sudden noises found in movies, such as explosions, from disturbing others in the house with their sudden rise in volume. This is an interesting feature which I can see useful when watching an action movie where in between dialog you have explosive high volume action. It helps prevents you from having to keep reaching for the volume control on the remote when you are watching late at night while others are sleeping. Remember the ZVOX can play loud and it can really rock the room if you allow it too.

The ZVOX 425 is bi-amplified and uses five 3.25” speakers (facing the front), a 133-watt amplifier and the PhaseCue virtual surround sound system located within a cabinet measuring 36.5”w x 5 3/4”d x 7 3/4”h. It’s two powered 4” subwoofers which are high-mass long-throwing are located in a ported enclosure. Both subwoofers are side firing in design. The ZVOX has a Frequency range of 35 Hz – 20 kHz.

I tested the ZVOX 425 with four different formats; regular broadcast TV, DVD movies, its own IPOD adaptor and a Sony Playstation 3 where my sons played video games. I started out with normal TV broadcasts while listening to sitcoms, the news channel and made for TV movies. In every case the ZVOX would better the sound coming from both my 40” Samsung LN-S4095D LCD HDTV TV or my 32” Sharp Aquos LD-32GP1U LCD HDTV. Now that is of course to be expected, as LCD TV’s in general do not have tremendous sound systems built in. Both their amps and speakers are smaller as well as the amount of speakers that each TV uses. These TV’s are really built for quality pictures, which they deliver in abundance, rather than audiophile quality sound or volume.

While watching broadcast TV programs the ZVOX was of course much preferred over the stock TV system as it produced much deeper bass, sounded more spacious and of course played louder without distorting. When using sitcoms and news shows the ZVOX did not really get a chance to display its true talent as the scope of the stereo imaging and depth of sound was minimal to begin with.

The place where the ZVOX really strut its stuff though was with DVD movies. I had on hand two great such DVD’s in “Gladiator” and “Star Wars The Phantom Menace”. Of course if you own “Gladiator” you must listen to the scene entitle, “Hell Unleased” which is an audiophiles delight, as there are many sounds ranging from the lower bass octaves of drums all the way up to high-pitched arrows zipping through the air. First listen to it with the ZVOX 425 than try it without. You really do not know what you are missing until you hear it with the ZVOX, afterwards you just might find it difficult to go back to standard TV listening. Having a rear-projection TV though does even up the playing field a little as there is more space for amplifiers and speakers to be built in. Still I found the spaciousness of the side-firing subwoofers to be more to my liking. It bested my rear-projection TV in its ability to deliver quality bass as well as to play loud and deliver dialog with clarity. I also liked the way I could move it from room to room with ease When I needed my bedroom back from the kids I just unplugged the ZVOX and brought it to another room to attach it to a different LCD TV. Of sure they complained that my TV was a little bigger but not one of them said the sound had changed, because it didn’t. The great thing about this is that you can put it with a small LCD TV and yet get big TV sound, you don.t need to buy a bigger TV to look for better sound quality. Moving the ZVOX was easy, try that with your rear-projection TV or dedicated home theatre set-up and see how long it takes to move them from room to room or up or down the stairs. The first Roman Coliseum scene from “Gladiator” with the thunderous sound of horse drawn chariots circling assumingly helpless gladiators was spectacular. Then of course there was “Star Wars The Phantom Menace”, with its many star ships powering up and flying various places as well as the famous land battle scene in the end. George Lucas always does a great job of matching his movies visual effects to incredible sound tracks making this movie a pleasure to listen to with the aid of the ZVOX.

ZVOX 425 speaker system

My next task was to listen to my son’s Ipod with the DLO HomeDock Music Remote attacked to the ZVOX. I first played “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield and his voice sounded great through this all in one system. Guitar rifts were clear and the drumbeat was nice and strong. “Maria, Maria” features the vocal work of Product G & B as well as Santana on guitar. Bass was enormous, as is always the case with this song, and their vocals nice and smooth. Finally moving onto Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin”(one of my favorites), I again could feel the drum performance with its powerful bass and Tom Petty’s vocal presentation was quite accurate. One note here, with the Ipod attached it sounded better when I changed all the settings that were previously used for listening with any of the other sources. Since there is no way to save settings for various devices you just have to play around with or remember the way you liked to listen to either when you switch back. Doing so was quite simple really and not a problem for me.

My final examination of the ZVOX came from having my sons play video games through it. With our Sony Playstation 3 there was no way to hook up the ZVOX directly because there are no digital connections on it. Instead I ran the Sony through the TV and then the TV through the ZVOX. Playing video games was further enhanced with that extra weighty felt in all aspects of the sound in general and expansiveness of the soundstage made possible by the PhaseCue virtual surround sound system. My two boys really seemed to get into their gaming mode when experiencing auto-racing games through the ZVOX. War games were enhanced from that extra impact when bombs exploded or machine guns fired. The ZVOX really enhanced the experience giving that you are there feeling. I can see I am going to be meet with a lot of resistance when I try to return this particular review sample.

ZVOX 425 rear inputs

There are things that the ZVOX 425 can do well and others that it just was not designed for. It is a big step up from your standard TV sound quality. No question that it throws off a more spacious soundstage, will play louder, produce deeper bass and sound clearer when reproducing dialog. It sounds especially good in mid-sized to large rooms where there is enough space to make it feel like you are listening to more than one speaker. Still though it cannot be made to sound like a dedicated five or six-channel setup. That would be asking way too much for an all in one system retailing for only $699.99. My own specialized home theatre system has five full sized speakers, a separate powered subwoofer and full sized receiver costing far more than the ZVOX, so yes it does sound more three-dimensional and reproduces music better than an all in one box system. If you want to hear sounds coming from behind you and going from one ear through to the next then a more complex and expensive system will be your choice. The ZVOX though was not meant to compete with that and for what it is the ZVOX is excellent. One other point that deserves mentioning is placement. You would of course want to place it below or above the TV for proper audio effects, but also must decide whether to wall mount or not. A wall-mounting bracket is optional and may be purchase separately from ZVOX if desired. For this review I did not wall mount mine but keep it below the TV.

ZVOX 425

If you have a young student going off to college and you attach it to a small space saving LCD TV they should love it. Small picture, big spacious sound, easy to move around, how can they not smile when mom and dad make his/her dorm room “the” place to watch movies. My wife does not want a surround sound system in our bedroom and for us this is a great alternative to just having the standard speakers/amplifier that were built into our LCD TV. With the ZVOX there are less wires, speakers, subwoofers and receivers all over the place and that met with my wife’s approval as well as the superior sound that she enjoyed. The ZVOX is a simple and neat solution to what some view as a complex maze of audio madness. This is really a great alternative for bedroom use. It is a much cheaper, simpler and cleaner solution for those on a budget both price and space wise. Do the children’s grandparents want a surround sound system without all the mess and expertise needed to set it up properly, or is someone hard of hearing and just need that extra output, well the ZVOX just might be the solution. If the ZVOX 425 is too large in size or too much money they have other products such as the 415 ($499.99), 408 ($299.99), 325 ($349.99), 315 ($199.99) or the ZVOX Audio Mini for only $249.99. It seems that ZVOX might have something for your size and budget so give them a call and check it out. I certainly did enjoy my time with the 425 and found it definitely to my liking, as did the other family members in my household. Perhaps the biggest problem I had with it for this review was who got to keep it in their room. The simple solution to this could be to buy more than one ZVOX product.

from affordableaudio, By Anthony Nicosia

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