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Best Zvox Soundbar For Hearing Impaired
Built like a tank, the Zvox SB380 makes it easier to hear voices in TV shows and movies. Is that enough to justify the higher price?
Amazon.com: Zvox Sb500 Aluminum Sound Bar With Built In Subwoofer, Accuvoice Dialogue Boost
Ty Pendlebury has a degree in journalism from RMIT in Melbourne and has been working there since 2006. He lives in New York where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Former film operator Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio retailer and record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for Stereophile and works as a freelance writer.
How much should you spend on a soundbar? Over the past few years, the difference between sound quality and price has been about $300, which is exactly where the Zvox SB380 is.
The Zvox SB380 offers excellent build quality and a relatively simple installation process. Dialog sounds clearer than most competitors with or without AccuVoice.
Amazon.com: Accuvoice Av203 Sound Bar Tv Speaker With Hearing Aid Technology, Six Levels Of Voice Boost (titanium)
The Zvox SB380 offers the convenience of a single box and makes dialogue clearer, but some cheaper beats sound better.
Zvox soundbars are consistently well built and deliver a lot of sound from a compact box. Her specialty is dialogue enhancement, making it easier to hear actors’ voices – as opposed to sound effects – in TV shows and movies. The SB380 continues this trend, adding a beautiful look and solid overall sound.
Unfortunately for Zvox, “hard” is no longer enough. The new budget superstar, the Vizio SB3621, easily outperforms the Zvox in sound quality and costs half the price. This also applies to the Yamaha YAS-106, which, like the Zvox, does not have a separate subwoofer.
If you really want clearer dialogue in TV shows and movies, the Zvox SB380 is still worth considering. But also consider the cheaper SB400, which includes Bluetooth and should be very similar.
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The SB380 is a sleek brushed aluminum soundbar that is itself a scaled-down version of the SB500 at just over 35 inches. It is largely identical to the comparably priced SB400. The only difference is that the SB400 has Bluetooth and the SB380 does not.
Like most Zvox designs, the SB380 is a 3.1-channel system with three 2-inch drivers and a 4-inch woofer. The long aluminum tube is secured by attractive rubber plugs with controls on one end and a bass port on the other. The front is covered with a metal grille and below that is a four-character orange display that provides information about volume or input selection.
Processing features include Zvox Intellivoice for enhanced dialogue for the hearing impaired, and a low-frequency limiting circuit that promises to deliver full, distortion-free bass at high volumes. Like the SB500, the SB380 doesn’t have a subwoofer output, so you can’t add an active subwoofer to the system.
We were disappointed with its more expensive brother’s relative lack of connectivity, but the SB380 has its fair share of inputs. While it doesn’t have Bluetooth — the company said it was designed to keep the price down — the Zvox has two optical connections and stereo RCA.
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The remote is the same credit card model we’ve seen on previous Zvox speakers. It’s functional, but we recommend programming it on your TV remote.
When we unpacked the Zvox SB380, we were impressed by the loudspeaker’s sturdy aluminum housing, which is a major step up from the competitors’ largely plastic speakers. The remote makes it easy to adjust bass and treble, as well as the SB380’s AccuVoice dialogue gain, output equalization and variable surround functions, all in a jiffy. Hidden behind the speaker’s perforated metal grille is a large, easy-to-read display for volume level, AccuVoice, surround sound and input selection, which appears momentarily and then disappears.
The SB380 is a soundbar that does not stand out and that is a good thing. You can forget about it and just enjoy movies and TV shows. Dialogue without AccuVoice was perfectly clear – enabling the feature magnifies the dialogue and makes it more lively and understandable – but it sounds more natural with it off.
Enabling the AccuVoice function increases the volume of the dialogue and makes it more lively and clear. However, we preferred to turn it off as the voices were still perfectly clear and sounded more natural. Unfortunately, AccuVoice has no settings to fine-tune the sound; it’s on or off. If you are hard of hearing this feature can help a lot, but we can’t say for sure
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The sumptuous orchestral score for Healing Medicine sounded wide and spacious, and the eerie sound effects of the psychological thriller, such as when a man is strapped to a dental chair and his teeth are drilled without anesthesia, sent shivers down his spine. . The sound from the SB380 was effective, but when we compared it to the much cheaper Vizio SB3621 soundbar/wireless subwoofer system, the sound was more immersive and dynamic. On the Vizio, the effects cut through more, so they were scarier, while the SB380 was less involved.
With Mission: Impossible III, the SB380’s home cinema capabilities were put to the test in a scene where Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) hangs villain/arms dealer Owen Deviant (Philip Seymour Hoffman) from a jet. The roaring jet, the wind whipping up the Davian, and the roar of the engines were lively on the SB380. The dialogue remained clear amid the chaos and the power of the jet engines was impressive. The Yamaha YAS-106 soundbar, which also does not come with a separate subwoofer, sounded similar to the SB380. Meanwhile, the Vizio SB3621’s power advantage made the scene much more exciting than those two.
The SB380 also served up quieter films and dramas well and if you mainly look at them, then this soundbar is a good choice.
Then we listened to CDs and streamed Tidal music files (via Chromecast Audio). The SB380 sounded acceptable, but the highs were loud and muffled at the same time. The sound was more than acceptable for background listening. The SB380 cannot be compared to the Vizio SB3621 or the Yamaha YAS-106 for music, both of which are brighter and more lively.
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The Zvox SB380 is a competent soundbar and if you never compared it to the YAS-106 or the Vizio SB3621 it would be more than acceptable. But we compared them. SB3621 is
Priced from the SB380, it sounds clearer and has much more powerful and detailed bass for movies and music. We think this is a much better buy.
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Zvox Sb380 Dialogue Boosting Sound Bar + Subwoofer Tv Speakers, 35.5
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SpeakerCompare tailors your listening experience to the headphones you have so that what you hear can be compared to what you actually hear while listening to the speakers next to you. Knowing what model of headphones you are using will help us remove any sonic color from your experience.
In a real listening room you will find that some speakers sound louder than others at the same power. In DC mode, you’ll hear these volume differences that naturally occur between speakers.
In equal volume mode, we made the volume of each speaker approximately the same. This gives you a more direct comparison of subtle differences in voice between speakers.
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SpeakerCompare gives you an idea of the sonic differences. But real-world performance is affected by the acoustics of your car or home, your choice of amplification, and your source material. We still believe that the gold standard for listening to speakers is to hear them in your own environment – which is why we offer a 60-day money-back guarantee.
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