Center Channel Speakers
- Written by Jim Milton
- Published on 10 May 2012
The ZVOX Zbase 555 Design
ZVOX has been making award winning speakers for several years now. Just don't call their speakers "sound bars" as they are much more than just any ordinary sound bar. The 555 falls into their second largest sized speaker system (behind the 580) and is designed to be placed under your flat panel's pedestal base. Should you decide to mount your panel onto a wall, the Zbase 555 can comfortably sit on a shelf or table top directly under it (such as in my review).
The speakers, amplifiers and subwoofer are all built into the cabinet. All you need is a coaxial or optical cable (which is provided) to connect to the Zbase and a power cord. Literally, within 5 minutes, I had my 555 up and running. Now, what sets the newer Zbases apart from their predecessors is the fact that it can accept Dolby Digital inputs. The 555 can take in addition too the two digital inputs, two analog inputs in the back and one "minijack" analog input from the front. A 70 watt class D amp powers five 2 inch drivers in the front of the unit and a 5.25 inch ported woofer that fires down underneath.
There is also included a sub out should you feel the need to really plumb the depths of a movie sound track. The cabinet is made from a very sturdy MDF with gloss black side panels. The unit is designed to support a TV from 26-55 inches and maximum weight of 120 pounds. I was able to look inside an unassembled unit and noticed vertical bracing throughout the interior. The bracing allows the Zbase to remain light, but very rigid. All of this is packaged in a unit that is only 3 3/8 inches tall. The Zbase series is designed to accommodate all sizes of TVs, so there are choices for just about any sized TV you might have. The largest model is the Zbase 580 which sports 2 woofers, but I also was able to see a new prototype at the company headquarters that will hold the newer 60 inch TVs. Is still has not been determined if the new prototype will see the light off day, but it's nice to know ZVOX is looking in that direction.
The 555 also incorporates some electronics that simulate surround sound. Their latest iteration of this is called PhaseCue II. By manipulating the phase output from the speakers, the sound field can be expanded into one of three different modes: 1 being mild, 2 moderate and 3 full. For those of us that have difficulty hearing dialog, there is a Dialog Emphasis (DE) mode that boosts the mid range level. Output Leveling (OL) will help keep those nasty, loud commercials from blowing you out of your chair during half-time. OL brings the softest sounds up and the loudest sounds down so the overall audio output is dynamically smoothed out.
A small but fully functional remote is included, so flipping between surround modes, OL and DE can be easily done. Do you have too many remotes on your coffee table already? No worries. The basic 555 commands can be "taught" on your current cable/SAT remote so that the power ON, volume and mute buttons on your master remote can control the Zbase. The learning process was about as easy as it can get. I completed it within 3 minutes.
The 555 will power down into "stand-by" after five minutes of no audio signal detection. In general usage the 555 uses about 10 watts of power and only .45 watt in stand-by. Now that's what I would call "green"! When the 555 is powered on with the TV, there is no sound produced until you hit the volume control button. The reason for this is because in order for the Zbase to get an Energy Star rating, it powers all the way down except for the IR input. That's why it draws so little energy in "stand-by". Hitting the volume button on the remote "wakes up" the amplifier and outputs the sound. When a command is sent to the Zbase, the display lights up for about 5 seconds and then goes dark. The display is large and bright enough to easily be seen from across the room.