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ZVOX Intros Audio Set Top Box

2/26/2004 03:06:00 PM Eastern

Swampscott, Mass. — Start-up ZVOX Audio has begun marketing a set-top TV-sound system that amplifies, widens and deepens an areas sound stage at $199.

The company, whose mission is to 'decomplicate home audio,' is targeting its first product and its first product primarily to owners of full-fledged home theater systems who want improved TV-sound in bedrooms, kitchens, and other small rooms without adding large boxes or wiring up six speakers. The ZVOX 315 Sound is also touted as a way to enhance the sound of game systems and PCs. It can also be used to deliver quality sound from an unamplified satellite-radio tuner or HDD headphone portable.

The 315 is the first of a trio of systems designed primarily by ZVOX as TV-sound enhancements. At least one other company is in this market: Soundmatters of San Francisco.

ZVOX, founded by Cambridge SoundWorks alumnus Tom Hannaher, has begun marketing the 315 on its web site (www.zvoxaudio.com ) and has won commitments from select retailers to test market the products, Hannaher said.

The 315 is DVD-player size at 4.25x17x15 inches. A second product under development will be wider and less deep, enabling it to sit on top of a wider selection of TV sets. The dimensions will be 4x27x6.5 inches. For wall-hanging plasma TVs, Hannaher plans a model that will mount on the wall above a wall-hanging plasma TV. It will look like a wall sconce.

Hannaher claimed the 315 is the only product of its kind with the following four attributes: small size, affordability, hook-up and operational simplicity, and ability to fill a 'good-size' room with sound.

The device turns on automatically when its senses TV-audio on the minijack cable. No remote is needed to operate the device. For hook-up, consumers plug one of the 315’s two stereo mini inputs into the TV. ZVOX supplies an RCA-to-mini cable and a mini-to-mini cable.

One of the 315’s mini inputs does double-duty as a subwoofer output for consumers who want to add a powered subwoofer for more bass.

The 315’s MDF cabinet features three forward-firing full-range drivers, a 5.25-inch vented woofer, and 40-watt digital amplifier. The system feeds mixed left- and right-channel information to the center driver. To widen the sound stage, the right driver gets right-channel information plus out-of-phase left-channel information, while the left driver gets left-channel information and out-of-phase right-channel information. Users can vary the amount of out-of-phase material supplied to the left-right speakers.

When Dolby Surround-encoded TV, VHS, or DVD soundtracks are reproduced by the 315, listeners will be able to hear surround effects, Hannaher said, but the device isn’t designed to deliver a full 5.1-channel effect because it doesn’t include 5.1-channel surround decoder.

Surround effects will sound more enveloping, he added, when connected to TVs featuring built-in Virtual Dolby Surround.

With a $200 price point, Hannaher said, ZVOX One-Box Audio Systems will be easy to attach to a sale as long as retailers demonstrate TV sound with and without the 315 attached.

'Many retailers are staying profitable these days by selling $120 component video cables with $80 DVD players. Selling a $200 one-box sound system with an $800 LCD TV ought to be a lot easier,' he contended.

The MAINstage product from Soundmatters features DSP to deliver a surround-like experience from a 5.1-channel Dolby Digital source, remote, and 40 watts of RMS power.

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