ZVOX IncrediBase575 Surround Bar Review
- Product Name: IncrediBase575
- Manufacturer: ZVOX
- Review Date: March 02, 2010 15:00
- MSRP: $$699 - extra $50 for digital version
- First Impression: Mildly Interesting
- Dimensions: 36” w x 16.5” d x 5” h
- 133 watt amplifier
- Two rear “mixing” inputs (if two devices are connected and playing, you will hear both devices): dual RCA jack inputs.
- Proprietary PhaseCue virtual surround sound system
- Two 6.5" subwoofers uses a high-mass long-throw design in a ported enclosure
- Five 3.25 " main speaker drivers use ferrofluid and neodymium
- Magnetically shielded
- MDF cabinet
- ZVOX Infinite Compliance system - which connects the outer two main speakers with an acoustic tube. This system helps create big sound from a small cabinet
- Subwoofer output jack
circuit senses sound from source
- Simple, single-cord connecting system uses a dual RCA jacks on rear panel
- 2-meter RCA-RCA connecting cord included
- Backed by a one year limited parts and labor warranty
I'm going to be honest, I didn't know that the ZVOX IncrediBase575 was coming in for review. When it got here, I didn't know what it was. When I opened the box, well, I still didn't know what it was. Soundbars are all the rage right now and seem to be really capturing the public's attention. Nary a "best new innovations" list come out without a surroundbar somewhere on there.
The ZVOX takes a very different tack from other surroundbar offerings. While others are looking for small, plastic enclosures that are really meant to be mounted to a wall, the ZVOX IncrediBase575 is much, much larger. Meant to be placed under a display, the 575 is large, constructed out of MDF, and, oh yeah, sports integrated subs. Different? You bet.
The ZVOX IncrediBase575 arrived in a large, rectangular box with foam corner caps and two additional u-shaped foam pieces protecting the long side of the speaker. There is an additional box for accessories and cables including a set of RCA cables, a power cable, and a remote. The speaker arrived undamaged and, though it was big, the box was not too hard to move around.
The ZVOX IncrediBase575 measured in at 36” w x 16.5” d x 5” h. This is practically unheard of in the world of surround bars. Generally, you find that you are practically forced to wall mount surround bars. In all truthfulness, while most people have every intention of wall mounting their display, many end up on a stand. Depending on the height of your surround bar and the positioning of the IR receiver on your display, you may not be able to place many surround bars on a cabinet in front of a display. This really limits the usefulness of some of the current surroundbars as it makes placement difficult.
The IncrediBase575 takes the opposite position and looks to fit under most displays. According to the specs it is magnetically shielded so it should work with all displays - even that legacy CRT your parents are rocking. There are some limitations, however, as the display's base should not exceed 35 inchss wide or 15 inches deep or 140 pounds. This might limit many CRTs to smaller sizes but you should be able to accommodate many of the larger flat panel displays (ZVOX says up to 65").
Around the back you'll find two stereo analogue RCA inputs and one subwoofer output. There is also the IncrediBase575HSD which has the same specs but adds digital connections and a few smaller models with similar analogue inputs. There is a slot-style port on the back with four rubber feet on the bottom. The front has a (seemingly) non-removable grill. Behind the grill are five, 3.5" drivers. They are positioned with three in the center and one near the edges of the box. On the bottom of the box is two downfiring 6.5" woofers protected by a metal mesh grill to provide subwoofer duties. The box itself is large and bulky but not overly heavy. While it feels sturdy, it isn't like you'll need to invite a friend over to move it. Most of the box is wrapped in flat black vinyl with the two sides in gloss black. While the black finish should meld well into a dark room, the vinyl seemed easy to mar and slight abrasions were fairly evident on close inspection. For this reason, when you are placing your display on top, we recommend you set it down rather than place it and slide to the correct location.
The remote of the ZVOX IncrediBase575 is very, very basic completely lacking backlighting and with uniform and bizarrely laid out buttons. At the top there are seven round buttons with four oval buttons near the bottom. At the top we have Mute, Power, and Auto On/Off. While it seems like the Auto On/Off would be better as a switch on the amp, it is included on the remote. Below those there are Subwoofer and Treble controls Up and Down that are oriented horizontally. The oval buttons at below those are PhaseCue and Volume Up and Down that are oriented in the more traditional vertical arrangement. Since you'll need light to see the remote maybe this switching orientation of the controls won't be an issue.
Fit and finish of the ZVOX IncrediBase575 is decent though you can notice some rough edges in the vinyl wrap here and there. Inside the port (something most people will never see considering it's location on the back of the unit) was a bit sloppy with extra glue. This does bring up and interesting design choice - the port placement. Rear ports make sense for aesthetic reasons since you don't exactly want a gaping hole facing out into your room. But a port generally needs room to breathe and the size of the IncrediBase575 really sort of suggests that it would be pushed up against a wall. We wonder if a side-firing port might not have been a better choice
We opened up the back of the ZVOX IncrediBase575 by removing the amp. It was really the only part of the unit that we could get access to. We couldn't get the grills off without risking damaging the unit. Inside, we could clearly see the backs of the 6.5" woofers and the back of the box that housed the front-firing drivers. The front firing drivers were enclosed in their own area and inaccessible. The woofers, which were clearly visible, had stamped baskets. There was a bit of polyfil in the box between the top of the box and the back of the woofers.The wiring to the drivers was wrapped in velvet tape to prevent any noise from rubbing or vibration. Their was a small toroidal transformer mounted in the center of the cabinet. The cabinet was constructed out of braced 1/2" MDF. The bracing of this box is particularly important since not only is it proving inertness to the box but also support for the display that is meant to be placed on top.
Setup and Use
Setting up the IncrediBase575 is really just about as easy as it gets. All you need to do is connect the power cord, connect a set of RCA cables (some are provided), and turn the unit on. There is a blue LED indicator on the front that lets you know that the unit is on. When you hit the Auto On/Off button, a green light also flashes at you. With this engaged, the IncrediBase575 will engage two seconds after sensing a signal and go into standby mode three minutes after it stops receiving a signal.
There are two inputs on the back of the IncrediBase575 but these are not discrete. This means that you can connect two different sources but that if you have them both sending a signal at the same time, the IncrediBase575 will play both. At the same time. That can be a little confusing the first time it happens. Also included is a subwoofer output for additional bass response.
I connected the ZVOX IncrediBase575 directly to my Denon DVD-3910 Universal Player. I removed my center channel from the top of my Sanus DFV49 AV Stand and placed the ZVOX in it's place. I was worried at first since the stand had a lot of glass that the speaker would vibrate it but that wasn't the case. The rubber feet stuck securely to the top of the unit and seemed to have a bit of spring in them. This impressed us as we felt that a display could sit on top without "bottoming out" the rubber feet. This is exactly what the IncrediBase575 needs to keep it from adding unwanted noise to the room.
I played a number of two channel CDs from my collection to test out exactly how the IncrediBase575 works. According to ZVOX, they use a:
proprietary PhaseCue virtual surround sound system. PhaseCue, as its name implies, manipulates the phase of the separate channels to “fool the ear” into believing that sound is coming from a variety of sources throughout the room. The benefits of PhaseCue vary greatly based on program material. Live music and well-recorded modern movie soundtracks will deliver rich, three-dimensional sound – pulling the sound out from the speakers and into the room, literally surrounding the listener. Unlike many digital virtual surround systems, PhaseCue does not create any “digital weirdness” – rain the sounds like white noise, female singers that sound like they’re standing in a giant tin can. Note: All virtual surround systems – including the PhaseCue system – are limited in their effects when compared to a good 5.1 system. And sitcoms, news broadcasts and soundtracks from older movies often have very little in the way of three-dimensional sound. That being said, PhaseCue is capable of generating a wonderful and engaging virtual surround experience.
We were really impressed that ZVOX had no problems admitting that virtual surround systems are a poor substitute to a dedicated 5.1 system. Too many out there make outrageous claims about what their products can do. ZVOX is basically saying - you'll be amazed but don't expect miracles. We can respect that.
The idea of manipulating phase to fool the ear isn't exactly a new idea - they've been doing since the inception of stereo. Through our listening tests, we found that the ZVOX delivered nearly exactly what it promised - tricking the ear into thinking the sound was coming from a variety of sources. It actually seemed to expand the soundstage to nearly cartoonish proportions. The sound seemed to come not just from the front of the room but from all around you. If we had to describe it, we'd say it sounded like you were literally in-between the speakers.
For some program material this seemed fine. For others it was a bit unnatural. What it wasn't was some sort of Dolby ProLogic sort of solution. The vocals were just as spread out and treated as the rest of the music. We also found that the effect was, in our room, very contingent on where you were sitting. We were sitting directly in front of the speaker about 8 feet away and we could clearly hear the difference in the effect as we moved our head from one side to the other. So much so that at some locations it seems like we were surrounded by the music and at others that the sound was only reaching one ear.
The overall musicality of the ZVOX IncrediBase575 was pretty impressive. The bass was deep and impactful - much more than we expected. With the equivalent of a 14" square box and a 10" driver, there is quite a bit of space there for bass. This is really the major downfall of most surroundbars - the lack of bass. The larger dimensions of the IncrediBase575 gave it bass that is unmatched by other surroundbars.
Is this surroundbar for you? In the "Pro" column it is offering a much better bass response that even seasoned listeners will appreciate. The "Base" part of the ZVOX 575 means that it may be the best option (or the worst) for your particular situation. The real question, however, is the price. At the$700 price point it has a lot of competition. In much of the ZVOX material they refer to the display as the one feeding sound to the IncrediBase575. That makes a lot of sense to us. This solution seems to make the most sense in locations where receivers, DVD players, and subwoofers are really impractical or even impossible. The soundstage and bass the IncrediBase575 offers is very impressive though the surround experience is less convincing. Since ZVOX offers a 30-Day in home money back audition, they are really confident in their product. We look forward to seeing how this new type of surroundbar is received.
For more information, please visit www.zvoxaudio.com.
For an alternate perspective on the ZVOX IncrediBase575 please visit testfreaks.com.
Well, right now it's just pictures, but I'll be adding to it soon.