There are two reasons you need a soundbar in your living room. First, your TV's built-in speakers aren't very good. Second, TV dialogue can be hard to hear (see reason one). Surely you've noticed that sometimes you have to crank the volume just to catch what's being said, and then everything else seems way too loud. Any soundbar will help, but the Zvox AV357 will help a lot: It's specifically designed to boost voices. Originally priced at $350, the Zvox AV357 is currently on sale for just $150 — the lowest price on record.
Zvox has a number of these "AccuVoice" soundbars in its lineup, but the AV357 is one of few that's enclosed in a wood-veneer case. If you're not a fan of the typical black-metal look of most electronics, you might find this a better fit for your décor.
It measures 24 inches wide and is designed to sit in front of your TV; this particular soundbar can't be wall-mounted, not unless you supply your own shelf for it.
Zvox supplies one of the better instruction manuals I've seen, with big print, clear illustrations and lots of setup information. It clearly explains how the soundbar connects to your TV's optical audio port. Unfortunately, there's no HDMI option here, meaning you might not be able to control the soundbar with your existing TV or cable-box remote — not without a little hoop-jumping anyway. The AV357 can be manually programmed to accept volume and mute commands from most clickers.
If you don't want to mess around with that, Zvox's remote is excellent, with clearly labeled tactile buttons.
The unit consists of three speakers in total, including a center one that's specifically for voices. There's also some electronic wizardry at work in the form of Zvox's AccuVoice tech, which helps to really isolate and enhance dialogue. Although I haven't tested this exact model, I've tried several other Zvox speakers (including one that made Yahoo's list of the best soundbars of 2023), and trust me when I say AccuVoice works really well. There's also an output-leveling feature designed to lower the volume of TV commercials and three levels of virtual surround sound (though using the latter will disable AccuVoice).
I particularly like the large, easy-to-read LED display on the front of the soundbar. It uses numbers to show volume level and abbreviations to help you through mode selections.
My only real complaint is the lack of Bluetooth connectivity; you can't use this as a speaker to stream music from your phone or tablet. (Zvox touts an "Alexa-ready" feature, but that just means plugging in an Amazon Echo speaker.)
That limitation aside, the Zvox AV357 is an excellent choice for older TV viewers or anyone struggling with hearing issues. And at this price it's hard to pass up.
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