I’m an amateur audiophile. I love the way a good home audio system can bring out the detail in your favorite music, and can make you feel like you’re in a movie theater when watching a new film. I can spend hours moving speakers, tuning, and tweaking settings just to get the perfect sound. Sadly, I had to sell my system when I moved from a house to an apartment. That brought me back to square one – relying on the speakers in my TV to get the job done. That wasn’t going to work. I tested various speakers and smaller systems, but none of them were perfect for apartment living. Then, I had the opportunity to test out the ZVOX Audio Soundbase 420.
Soundbase 420 Design
This isn’t the kind of sound bar you’re used to – you actually set your TV on top of it, allowing the unit to take up less room. The 420 is only 3.5″ tall, 27 9/16″ wide and 14.5″ deep, and it can support up to a 50″ TV. All 5 speakers and woofer are housed within the wood cabinet, meaning that you don’t have to worry about placement within the room to get high quality sound.
The ZVOX 420 boasts a variety of features that make it a standout for apartment dwellers who want better sound quality in smaller rooms. The dialogue enhancement feature took care of the problem we constantly deal with when watching movies in my house: turning the TV way up for dialogue, then way down for sound effects. I was skeptical due to past experience with similar features, but in the case of the 420, it actually worked. If you’ve got reason to keep the volume low at night (like kids or touchy neighbors), you’ll find dialogue enhancement to be a lifesaver.
The system also offers virtual surround sound, output leveling for commercials, and a front stereo input to plug in your phone or music player. On the back, you’ll find optical, coaxial digital, and analog inputs. ZVOX makes devices that are easy to setup and keep things relatively hassle-free. I’ve got two wires sticking out of the back of my unit – the optical and the power cord – that’s it. The various audio cords needed come with the unit, so you don’t have to go out and buy new ones (unless you feel like you need the super high end, top of the line type of cords).
The front of the ZVOX 420 has a speaker grille that covers the entire front of the box. Behind that is a display that only shows up when you’re using the remote or pushing the volume buttons. It’s an elegant way to add a display but keep the overall look of the box uniform. The remote control that comes with the unit is one of the small plastic types, but it’s easy to sync with a universal remote that has a bit more heft to it.
One thing the 420 doesn’t offer is bluetooth, which seems to be standard on more and more devices. I have an Apple TV and an iPhone, so I use that as a workaround. If you don’t have either of those (or simply don’t want to buy a bluetooth adapter), consider stepping up to something like the Soundbase 570.
How It Sounds
I tested the ZVOX 420 with music, a few movies, TV shows, and video games to get a feel for its strengths. With TV shows and movies, it boosted dialogue, but still did well with background noises and music. I threw on The Avengers and cranked it up. The sound was rich and clear without the room-shaking bass you get from more complex systems. Not to say the bass isn’t deep – it’s full and complements the highs and mids in whatever you’re listening to. Bottom line, it doesn’t feel like anything is lacking sound-wise.
If you’re looking for a way to greatly boost your home audio quality in a smaller room without spending a lot of money, consider the ZVOX Audio Soundbase 420. With 5 speakers and a host of features to enhance the sound quality, this little unit packs a lot of punch. While it lacks the bluetooth functionality that other devices have to offer, there are relatively inexpensive workarounds you can employ to add that feature on your own. The best part? You don’t have to deal with a ton of wires when you’re setting it up. Pick it up now for $199 at zvoxaudio.com.
We’ve teamed up with ZVOX Audio to give away a Soundbase 420! Want to win it? Here’s how to enter:
1. Take a picture of the wires behind your TV/entertainment center, then upload it to the comments section on this page, on Facebook, or via Twitter & Instagram with the hashtag #chubstruglywires and you’ll be entered.
2. Enter only once. When the contest ends, we’ll randomly choose a winner from the readers who submitted photos.