Home Theater Geeks 438 Transcript

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00:01 - Scott Wilkinson (Host)
In this episode of Home Theater Geeks I answer a question from Ray Davis, who's having trouble hearing the dialogue on the speakers in his TV. Will a sound bar help Stay tuned? Podcasts you love From people you trust. This is TWIT Ray Davis who writes.

I recently moved and disposed of the audio portion of my AV system. Now I'm having a hard time hearing the speech in certain shows or movies using the TV speakers in my LG 65B8 OLED. I don't want to invest in another audio receiver and multiple speakers again. Can you recommend a good soundbar with subwoofer that will help me with discerning the dialogue in broadcasts? Ray, this is a very common problem and a soundbar can certainly help, no question about it. Many soundbars offer a center channel level control that you can increase the level of the center channel, which is where the vast majority of the dialogue lives, and some even offer a center channel EQ equalization, and boosting the two to six kilohertz range can also help with intelligibility. But when I read your letter, a brand, particular brand, came to mind immediately, and that is Zvox Z-V-O-X, which specializes in dialogue enhancing soundbars and what they call sound bases, which are basically large flat boxes with a soundbar at the front, speakers in the front, but it's deep enough that you can actually put your TV on top of it. Now, depending on the stand of the TV, if it's a center stand with a flat base, that works great. If it's two feet towards the end of the TV, it might or might not, depending on the size of the TV. Now, zvox soundbars and soundbases are generally very well reviewed, including by me. I did a review of a Zvox soundbase some years ago and I liked it so much I gave it to my mom who was having trouble hearing dialogue, and that helped quite a bit as well. Bit as well.

Now the Zvox company uses a technology they called AccuVoice, which they say is a trademark name for a patent-pending technology that lifts voices out of soundtracks to make them clear and understandable. They say it works much like hearing aid technology, but it uses a much more advanced processor that is capable of manipulation of the sound. Some of the models also include a separate feature called Super Voice, which takes dialogue clarity to a new level. They say this is their marketing speak by reducing the non-vocal background sounds. Now they go on to say there are numerous systems that claim to make voices more clear, and most of them do provide some improvement. But most of these systems focus on equalization. I mentioned that a little earlier and that does help, but that's a fancy name for tone control and it makes certain frequency ranges louder than others, which helps with intelligibility, because in human speech the consonants, which is where meaning lies, is in the 2 to 6 kilohertz range. But equalization, so Zeevox says, is only a small part of what AccuVoice does. It uses compression, dynamic compression, constant range boost, formant enhancement, which is an acoustical property of voices, and minimization of bass output. Oh, that's where you're, where you're going to lose some bass and some other proprietary techniques.

So there are three lines of such products. The accu voice line includes five models of sound bars that range from $70 to $220. They're all relatively small, 10 to 17 inches wide. Then there's the SoundBar line, which includes three models from $300 to $550, all with what X Zvox calls a built-in subwoofer. They come in different sizes 35.5 inches, 44 inches and 57 inches, so depending on how big the TV is. Then there's the SoundBase, which there's only one model it's the SoundBase 440. Which there's only one model, it's the Soundbase 440. It costs $250. They say it has a sound subwoofer built in. So you know I take that with a grain of salt. I'm going to talk about that a little bit more here shortly. On the AccuVoice page there's a really nice comparison chart for all of these models that shows you how many levels of AccuVoice there are, how many levels of SuperVoice there are. You can choose the one that has the right kind of flexibility and controllability that you want kind of flexibility and controllability that you want.

Now, specifically that comparison chart, I was most interested in looking at which ones have a subwoofer output. As I've said many times, I don't generally like what companies call built-in subwoofers in their soundbars or their TVs, because they're not really subwoofers. They don't go down deep enough. But interestingly, cnet has reviewed a couple at least of the Zvox soundbars and have been impressed with the bass output. Who knew that's great. Still, I think connecting an outboard subwoofer is going to be better. You're going to get better bass when you connect a subwoofer and just about any sub from a well-regarded manufacturer will do just fine.

Now it won't be wireless. Many soundbar companies offer a wireless subwoofer that connects to the main soundbar wirelessly. You're not going to get that here. You're going to have to connect it with a wire. So the subwoofer is going to need to be in the front of the room, relatively close to the soundbar.

So the models with a subwoofer output, as shown in that comparison chart, are the AV-157, which is 200 bucks you can see it here under a TV the AV-257, which is even a little less, 180 bucks, the AV-355, which is $220. And this one is a slim model, so if your TV's base doesn't lift it up very high, this might be the one to get. And then two of the soundbar models the SB500, which is 44 inches wide, and the SB700, which is $550 and it's 57 inches wide. The SB500 is $450. So those are. You know those are somewhat expensive soundbars, no question about it. But if what you're really concerned about is dialogue, intelligibility and understanding the vocals that are in TV shows, these are probably the best you can get, certainly excellent.

Now what about subs? Plugging a sub into these soundbars I would recommend and I went to Wirecutter for their powered sub recommendations. And these picks are by Brent Butterworth, who I respect and trust very much as an audio reviewer. The budget pick is the Monoprice SW12, 293 bucks at Amazon SW12, 293 bucks at Amazon. I'm probably a 12-inch driver. I didn't look at the specs particularly, but I'm sure it's very good. Wirecutter Brent's overall pick is the Roger Soundlabs Speedwoofer 10S Mark II. That's more expensive. That's $449 from RSL. You can only order it from Roger Soundlabs so, but it's his overall pick for powered subwoofer, so I would pair one of those with one of the Zvox soundbars.

If your LG OLED the B8 from 2018, is sitting on a surface using its stand, probably most of these will fit under the screen. I don't remember what the 2018 LG stands were like. The 2018 LG stands were like. If they were a single post coming down to a flat piece, then probably any of them would work. But if it's too widely spaced feed or it's really low, you might want to get the AV355, which is a low profile model. That might be a good choice. Uh, 65 inch OLED is about 56 inches wide, so all the Ziva Zvox models are less than that, except the SB 700, which is 57 inches wide. Okay, so it's would be slightly wider. I think it would fit really nicely under there.

Um, just sticking out half an inch on either side would not be a big deal to me, but that one is $550. And then if you add the Monoprice subwoofer, you're at about $300. So that's about $800. And if you add the Roger Sound Lab subwoofer that's $450. So you're up to $1,000. You know, now you're up to a thousand. You know that's now you're starting to talk some money. But it would be a killer system and you it would really work well to get those vocals to be completely intelligible.

One last thing to keep in mind none of the Zvox models have an HDMI input. They're designed to really take the optical output from the TV into an optical input on the soundbar. So it sounds to me like in your situation that would be fine. You would then connect your sources cable box, satellite box, blu-ray player, streaming device, whatever into the HDMI inputs on your TV and you'd have to use the TV as the switcher. But you're probably doing that anyway. So all this would do would be to add the soundbar to the TV and I think it would greatly improve the dialogue situation. So I hope that helped. Thanks for writing in Now. If you have a question for me, just send it along to HTG at twittv. And, as always, we thank you for your support of the TWIT Network with your membership in Club Twit and with that membership you can see the video of what we're doing, and you can even come into the club discord and join the conversation, so I hope you will consider that. Until next time, geek out.


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