Most helpful positive review
125 of 128 people found the following review helpful
ZVOX 420 is a great way to go.
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.