ZVOX Intros Audio Set Top Box


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.zvox.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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