Lightning Review: ZVOX 550 Speaker System and Flat Panel Stand

The gadget: The ZVOX 550, the only speaker system we've ever seen designed to hold a 50" flat panel TV while packing a 60W amp, 5.25" sub, and five 2" speakers in one frame.

The Price: $US550

The Verdict: Almost soooo good. While soundbars are ever more popular, in many cases, they fit awkwardly in front of your television. I fit a 40" LCD on the ZVOX box comfortably. The ZVOX feels very stable—probably more solid than my entertainment centre. So that part works.

As for the sounds itself—also excellent. I simply don't have the equipment available to compare it to other $US550 audio systems (and really, there's no perfect analogue product). But I will say that highs, mids and lows were all crisply represented across a variety of genres. The bass, especially, made me more than happy to forgo an extra standalone subwoofer (which the system supports should you need it). And I easily filled my tiny apartment with sound.

The cabinet does vibrate a bit, though it's very quite unless you crank the bass up to max. The only reason I'd be wary is that the shaking might damage a TV over time...but my immediate, visceral response is that things are fine.

Where the cabinet falls short to me is its inputs. It supports two sources of stereo RCA plugs. And while it offers some virtual surround tech along with the option to mix the two sources, it's just not going to work for many (or most) general home theatre purposes without an optical input. Even if the ZVOX only technically plays back 2.1 channel sound, it's still a vital connectivity option.
Also, while I appreciate the minimal design, the tiny remote coupled with a single LED light on the system to signal power/remote commands, it's tough to know where your levels are (Is treble maxed? How much louder can I crank this?).

So given the omission of optical inputs and a limited UI, the ZVOX 550 is not quite the universal home theatre product that it could be. But if you want an excellent one-cabinet audio system that can hold your giant LCD, then it may be worth the few inconveniences. [ZVOX]

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