Customer Reviews: ZVOX 4004201 Audio Z-Base 420 Low-Profile Single Cabinet Sound System
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on January 21, 2012
I got the ZVOX 420 this week!

The 420 is nicely boxed, with a minimum of extra packaging. It's very easy to unbox, and the "quick setup" brochure comes on top and outside the packaging. Best part: there's no "extended setup," the setup really is so simple a child could do it.

After unboxing the 420 I found it came with a remote (no batteries, needed two AAs), the 420 itself, an optical sound cable, and a cable to plug an MP3 player into the 420's headphone jack. The 420 comes with a laptop sized power brick, which uses a standard PC power cable. There are additional directions with it to describe the different surround sound options (3 settings) and explain how to program the 420 to obey your remote of choice.

The enclosure is MDF, mostly flattish-black, has a black front metal grill, and nice and solid. There is one port, rear firing, for the bass. It has 4 round feet with plastic "footies" to stand on and not scratch whatever surface you set this on.

I chose to put my TV on top of the 420, which was the hardest part of the setup, as my LCD TV isn't the lightest thing ever. Once the TV was out of the way, I cleaned up some dust, placed the 420, plugged in its power cable, and plugged in the optical cable. Once done, I set the TV back on top.

Sitting under the TV, the 420 basically disappears. Honestly, if you're not looking for it, it's just going to melt into the background. When turning up or down the volume, there is a nice orange numeric display to show the volume level, and then it's gone a second later. When muted, it flashes -00- until you unmute it. I love the appearance of this 420, as it's exactly what I wanted - subtle and no fuss.

I have a Toshiba TV that has a fixed-volume optical pass through, which is how I chose to send sound to the 420. I plugged in the optical cable to my TV's optical out, cleaned up some cabling, then turned it all on.
Like I said, a child could do the setup...after the TV, cable box, and 420 were all on, I had to hit "input" on the 420's remote to select optical in. Then sound came out. Yay!

I played with the bass, treble, dialogue enhancement, and surround settings for a minute, then decided to train the 420 to use my remote. This is also very simple. One hits two buttons on the front of the 420, holds them, and the screen says LRN1. You press the volume up button on the remote you want to use, and the ZVOX box learns it. You do this for volume up, down, mute, and power. There's no way it took more than 3 minutes to train the 420 to respond to our U-verse remote. Having done that, setup was complete. The box comes on, turns off, and goes up and down in volume all from one remote.
Now - how's the sound?

The sound is pretty darn good!

I'm not going to compare this system to a 5.1 or x.1 system, because that would be unfair to the ZVOX 420. I think the fairest comparison is to a soundbar + sub setup.
So far as wires and setup go, I think the 420 did exactly what I wanted. I didn't have to find space to mount it, or a place to put a sub. The 420 simply went under the TV. Things don't get easier than that, so I think a soundbar is beat here.

Sound quality is fantastic. The reproduction of voices and dialogue is clear, easy to understand, and far outshines any TV's built in speakers. Also, compared to other systems I've heard with a center channel, the 420 stands proud, as voices come clearly from the center of the soundstage. The 420 is better at midrange than I would have thought, given that it uses five 2" drivers. They faithfully and clearly reproduce mids and highs really well.

The front drivers are solely responsible for the 420's ability to produce "surround sound" and they work pretty well doing it. There are three drivers clustered in the middle of the 420, and the other two take up positions at the left and right ends. There are 3 surround settings, each one emphasizing "surround" more than the previous. All of them work fairly well; watching some action films we got a few sound effects clearly coming from the "left," traversing the soundstage, and moving "right." That said, it's not as good as a 5.1 system, which I already said isn't a fair comparison.

Compared to the few soundbars I've heard, this ZVOX 420 is better than most. So far as I expected a single set of front mounted speakers to fake surround sound, they are better than I figured it'd be - so I'm a happy guy. Now onto bass...

The 5.25 inch sub is downward firing, and covered in a nice grill. The sub does exactly what you'd figure a 5.25 inch sub does. It produces a nice, solid, bottom end to the sound. The bass and low-mids are tight, loud, and solid. There is little "boom" or uncontrolled bass from this box; it's just excellent sounding. If you're wanting earth shattering, earthquake levels of bass, this is not your box. Get a separate sub for that. If you're up for a complete sound experience, with enough bass to surprise you, and scare the cat, this will do nicely.

The volume goes up to 30, and playing music from some MTV-clone channel I switched to was plenty loud. It wasn't "house party call the cops" loud, but it was PLENTY loud enough to wake the kids upstairs, and be heard through the house. At full volume there was ZERO distortion anywhere in the sound range, and the cabinet never rattled one bit. I'd say there's a really good amp behind all this sound.

If you're up for a great fountain of clearly reproduced sounds coming from your TV, with no fuss, no muss no extra wires, and a great appearance in the cabinet, then this ZVOX 420 is seriously worth checking out.
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on September 6, 2012
I've been reading glowing reviews of ZVOX "sound bars" for several years and finally took the plunge last week by purchasing the model 420. I was in the market for an inexpensive way to improve my 37" Sony's poor sound on normal TV viewing, as well as giving me something of a home theater experience while watching DVD's. After a week of getting used to the 420 and playing around with the various settings I here to's a keeper, although nothing close to a 5.1 set-up.

The 420 is basically 5 small front facing drivers and a down firing sub enclosed in an attractive, unobtrusive and solidly built wooden case. The unit is much deeper than a normal sound bar (it's closer to a pizza box than a sound bar) so if you're considering it, make sure you have the room. The front drivers are completely hidden, and the LED display, which lights up the volume and other settings, is only visible while making adjustments - in other words, you'll soon forget the 420 is even there.

Set-up is simple, although there was some initial frustration and I had to do some Googling to figure out why it wouldn't work with the supplied optical digital cable. It seems that the unit IS NOT Dolby Digital compatible (a fact that is not covered at all in the manual). My primary content source is Netflix via an Apple TV, and it turns out in order to use the optical cable I had to turn off the Dolby Digital On/Off setting on my Apple TV. According to the ZVOX help forums, DD is too expensive to license so all sources are converted to analog. My instinct was to set-up the 420 with the optical cable for the best sound, but ZVOX insists that all sound is converted to analog so there is absolutely no difference in quality regardless of what type of cable you use (digital optical or standard red & white RCA cables). Bottom line is took less than 5 minutes to come up with the solution via the internet, and then only a minute to get the 420 woking with Netflix after that. No problem for me, but a lot of people like my Mom wouldn't have been able to figure it out. ZVOX needs to come clean about the Dolby Digital issue in the supplied literature and include more specific step-by-step installation and problem solving solutions.

OK. So it's hooked up. Now how does it sound? The first test was "Batman Begins" on standard DVD and while it didn't blow me away, it was pretty darn impressive. The rich, full, and undistorted bass was beyond expectations. Dialog was clear. Stereo separation was present, and you could hear the depth of immersion increase with the 3 Surround Sound settings on the 420's remote, but overall the stereo/surround experience was a little disappointing. Still, if you have realistic expectations for a $225* 1 piece sound bar, it kicks butt on action movies and other well recorded DVD's. I cranked it up to louder than I'd ever listen normally and it filled the living room without a hint of distortion.

Normal TV viewing, on the other hand, is less impressive. Of course, when the source is an old episode of "Frasier" or some 80's movie via Netflix I don't expect it to engulf me in the surround experience, but I was hoping for slightly better performance in the dialog enhancement department. Yes, the 420 does improve the clarity of the dialog versus my TV's built in speakers (big deal), but it also seems to amplify the problematic difference between loud and quiet segments. That's always been an issue for me, but I was hoping the 420's "Dialog Enhancement" and "Output Leveling" options would make a significant improvement - they don't on most shows. Loud passages of dialog were generally crisp and clear, but quiet passages were whisper quiet, regardless of the DE or OL settings. So watching a show with the entire family is fine as I can just turn it up nice and loud and we can hear every word. But watching at night when others are trying to sleep is an issue as I can't hear half the dialog and the 420 doesn't help at all on any setting. Additionally, many TV shows sounded hollow and echoey - certainly the result of the source material, but again, not really improved (and often seemingly amplified by) the ZVOX.

The 420 comes with a 30 day return policy which is awesome. I'm keeping mine. I may even end up unhooking the ZVOX from TV sound and simply using it for watching movies on DVD. While it's not the ultimate home theater listening experience, what it does for the sound quality of DVD's for the price is undeniable. It's good looks, ease of use, and solid build quality make the ZVOX 420 a great value in the sound bar market (yes, I've tried others and returned them) and a purchase I'm very happy with.

* [I got my 420 used for $225 (no shipping charge) directly from ZVOX thru Amazon Marketplace. The unit took about 10 days to arrive, but for me it was worth the 25% savings off the $299 price of a new one. Still comes with the full warranty and 30 return policy.]
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on January 28, 2013
This was one of the best purchases I made in the past year. I have a 46 inch Samsung UN46B6000 slim LED TV. It's a great TV, but one of it's known weaknesses is that is has very poor speakers and a real lack of bass, all due to it's super slim design. After watching the movie "The Dark Knight Rises", during which I had to alternately have the volume at "100" to hear dialogue clearly (and it wasn't even enough), and then have to scramble to lower it to 75 when stuff in the movie started exploding, I decided to finally do something.

My number one criteria is that the solution had to have a high "WAF" (Wife Acceptance Factor"). There is no way she would go for any solution which involved turning on a bunch of extra equipment, switching inputs, etc. She would also not appreciate running wires everywhere for surround speakers, subwoofer etc, which my current TV setup kind of precluded anyway. So an "all in one solution" was in order.

I cross-shopped the bose Solo, and the SpeakerCraft CS3. The solo was out of the running because it would not support the weight of my TV, and the Speakercraft was nearly double the price, which left the ZVOX 420. Cnet has a good comparison of the 3, but even if I were able to purchase either of the other choices, I still would have chosen the ZVOX.

The unit has a very high quality feel since it's made of mdf and not plastic. As other reviews have stated, setup couldn't be simpler. I was done in 15 minutes. Connect the optical audio cable from your TV, connect the power, train the remote, and shut off the internal speakers on TV and you are done. Unless you want to change the surround sound quality, or tune the bass/treble, you can put the zvox remote away in the drawer and forget about it. The ZVOX sits in a "sleep" state until you turn on your TV and it senses input, at which time it automatically turns on. There's absolutely nothing to fiddle with. It just works, every time.

The sound is a thousand times better than the built in sound of my TV. Yeah, a system with a large external subwoofer might sound better, but this gives me all the sound I need in my small living room and unless you are an audiophile or doing an A/B comparison, nobody will ever know. I've even hooked up my iphone/ipad to the line-in and it sounds great.

So if you're on the fence, go for it, you won't be disappointed!
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on January 25, 2012
I really can't add anything beyond what has been said by previous reviewers. You open the nicely packaged box, follow the 3-4 step setup process and you are done.

The training of my Uverse remote was a snap--no looking up strange numbers, just press the respective buttons on command and this box learns the settings--one minute at most.

I bought this because the dialog from my Sharp Aquos was frequently "mushy", maybe due to my advancing age. The ZVOX has a special setting for dialog emphasis which solved my problem.

The box is bigger than I had anticipated but it fits quite nicely under our 42" LCD.
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on June 24, 2013
This is a great upgrade for most TV's sound. As TV's have become so thin, many lack the speakers to produce deep, rich sound. Also, as TV's have become cheaper in price, materials have suffered to some degree, and many manufacturers reduce sound before they degrade picture quality. The irony of that is, that people will pay four hundred dollars for a sound bar or pedastal to improve the sound quality.

The ZVOX 420 is a solid piece of equipment. It came in a large box, and in fact, seemed much larger than I expected even though I had seen the measurements prior to ordering. It is heavy, with a good quality feel to it. It felt more expensive than it looked. The casing is made of wood (MDF, or medium density fiberboard)and has a matte finish. This makes it look like an older product than it is, as many new TV's have a plastic with a high-gloss shine, and some have a "piano finish". Most other sound bars and pedastals are made of plastic and have a higher shine factor. However, this wood gives substantial structure and integrity to the case of the ZVOX 420 so you feel comfortable putting a 50 or 75 pound TV on top of it without worry. (If you are looking at this, it is assumed you know the difference between a sound bar and a pedastal. This is the pedastal type that your TV sits on.) I had read a review of the ZVOX on another popular electronics and computer site (cnet), which indicated a vibration issue with the TV sitting on top of the ZVOX. If you have a TV with a good stand, and of any real weight, this is not an issue. I turned this thing up very loud and have no vibration issues whatsoever. The review over emphasiszed what seems to be a non-issue.

The front panel with the see-thru display is a nice addition compared to competitors. This lets you see the volume and other displays when necessary, but they disappear when not in use, so no impact to your viewing pleasure. The front speakers put out some serious sound that would leave the listener thinking that sound is coming from a much bigger speaker. The subwoofer is on the bottom of the unit and bass was strong, but not over other top. When getting a sound bar instead, many of them have seperate wireless subwoofers. In my listening tests, they had so much bass that it took away from the watching of normal TV programs. That may be more desirable for movies, but after a while you don't need or want a really loud bass on a sitcom.

I listened to several bars and pedastals in my tests. The Bose had great sound for TV, movies, and music. It wasn't nearly as loud or strong in sound as the ZVOX 420. However, the Bose did have that classy Bose sound that many listeners love. It is much smaller than the 420 and more in line with the smaller ZVOX in size. The 420 was 100 bucks cheaper than the Bose though. While the ZVOX didn't have that Bose sound it was still excellent and very full and rich. The 420 has a couple of surround sound simulators and a commerical option to level off those commericals that are too loud. I liked the commercial leveling option. The surround options did sound better on some programs, but not others. I would leave this up to user preference here. Overall, I would stay with the ZVOX vs. the Bose both on price and size (you can put a bigger TV on the ZVOX) and for general sound. The Bose wins on low to mid level listening, but you pay for that. They both offer such improvement over the built-in TV speakers that you won't mind.

Setup was very easy. Hardest part is lifting the TV up to put on top of it. Next hardest was figuring out how to turn off the internal speakers of the TV to only have the ZVOX sound. You probably don't want both on for sound quality or potential issues with slight timing differences of the sound. Programing the cable company's remote to control the ZVOX was easy. Just hold down two buttons and point the remote at the unit. Just read the couple of steps on the easy to follow instructions.

I hooked up with optical, but I think you will get the same quality regardless of the hookup, as it does not take advantage of the 5.1 sound the cable company pushes through anyway. Instead, the ZVOX has its own processing for sound.

Overall, the ZVOX 420 is a soild piece of equipment that makes your TV watching have fuller, much better sound. It will not compete with a surround home theater setup or separate components and amps and such. However, this is a simple, one wire, one electrical cord set up that couldn't be easier. If you are in the market for one of these or a sound bar, this is an easy choice that you will be happy with for years to come.
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on November 4, 2013
Awesome sound! I purchased the ZVOX 420 after buying the Bose Solo. The sound on the ZVOX beats the Bose Solo by leaps and bounds. This unit also has more features than the Solo. Beware, this unit is larger than the Bose Solo, but you will not be disappointed with the quality (and price savings).
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on September 7, 2013
It was just what I expected and truly adds life to the audio. The ability to enhance the voices is really useful for those talky movies where the conversation really counts and/or when the accent is a little different - such as British English.
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on December 15, 2013
Bought this based on reviews; never actually saw it in a local store. The reviews were very helpful and I'm pleased with the purchase. As others have noted, it's not a huge surround sound theater system, but it greatly improves the sound of my 40" Samsung TV. Our ears adjusted so quickly to the improved sound, we didn't realize how much better it was until we compared the tv speakers to the zvox by clicking between them while the Lonely Mountain song at the end of the movie The Hobbit was playing. My oh my! Mouth dropping difference. For movies and music, this greatly improves the quality of the sound. For tv shows, it's improved, but not as noticeable. I have a large 22x20 room with trey ceiling, and it fills the room and sounds great.
Set up was easy, easy. Just connected the digital optical cable supplied, and plugged it into the wall. Followed the enclosed directions to program my Charter cable remote, and I was up and running in about 10 minutes.
Did I mention this box is large? That's the only reason for one star off. It is BIG. I even considered paying the extra $150 and switching to the Bose Solo,because decor matters to me, but the reviews steered me clear of that as this one apparently has superior sound. I could have downgraded to the zvox 320, but I don't want to have 2 less speakers. I really like the sound out of this. So I am sticking with this one, even though it is rather larger than I would like. I sit my HD Cable box right behind the tv on top of the zvox (theres room for both the tv pedestal base and the cable box, that's how big it is), so the remote sensor works with the cable box in the few inches between the top of the zvox and bottom of the television. Everything is black, so it all sort of melts away and isn't too noticeable.At least that's what others tell me. A smaller casing would give this a top 5 star rating.

**Addendum: Been using this system for about a month now, and still really like it. It does have an annoying feature I'll put here in hopes the company will fix. It seems the buttons for setting choices resets to defaults whenever you turn the speaker off. I have the speaker functions connected to the tv button on my cable remote so they both go on and off simultaneously. The Dialogue Enhancement feature has to be turned on again every time I turn on the tv/speaker. It's a really nice feature on this speaker and it's annoying to have to turn it on seperately everytime we turn the tv on. Same with the feature to optimize commercial volume (which doesn't really seem to work much) and the surround sound settings. Kinda annoying and could be improved.Otherwise, still really loving the sound out of this unit.
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on January 11, 2014
My ZVOX 4004201 Audio Z-Base 420 arrived on time one week ago. My Panasonic 2010 model TC-P50G25 TV does not have an analog audio output so I connected the ZVOX using the optical digital audio cable which is included in the box. Initially I did not get any sound. However, I found that if I went to the TV’s Vierra Link menu and set the default audio output to TV it worked just fine. I also have a Roku steaming video player which worked fine with Netflix but not with Amazon. Once again it was a matter of setting the options correctly. It is necessary to go to the Roku settings menu and configure it for two channel audio, and then everything works fine with that also. This is probably why they say that it’s easier to connect the ZVOX via analog output but if your TV doesn’t have such an output you obviously can’t do that.

As for the sound, it’s not 5.1 channel audio but it sure beats the TV’s very poor internal speakers. I would recommend this product to anyone who is suffering with poor quality flat panel TV speakers and doesn’t want to set up six speakers for 5.1 channel surround sound.

It’s surprising the Bose Solo TV Sound System only supports TV’s up to 37” weighing 45 lbs. or less. Mine is a 50” weighing 64 lbs. So, Bose was not an option. Not to mention that the Bose costs considerably more than the Zvox and according to reviews I have read it doesn’t work as well.
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on May 21, 2012
Absolutely love the ZVOX, produces superb audio from such a small enclosure, cures your TV's weak speaker issue and adds a whole new experience to movie watching. Tweeters have a tad to much ting in them for my preference, but I believe that is related to the amps power output and clarity. For the price you can't really go wrong. Compared to Bose or other sound-bar options, the ZVOX is a winner hands down with Ease of use, Simplicity of Connection, Sound Quality and Price.
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