Zvox Accuvoice AV157 review

"It's not pretty, but the AV157 shows all of the dialogue you have been missing."

  • Small footprint

  • Easy connections and setup

  • Super clear and adjustable dialogue

  • Expensive for a small speaker

  • No wireless connections for music

We have been adding speakers to our home televisions for years. First two speakers for stereo sound, then four, then five and so on. Some of us have full 7.2.4 systems with Dolby Atmos that imitate the cinema experience at home. With the number of soundbars growing, our options for bigger, better sound are more numerous than ever. But when we wrap ourselves up more, do we actually hear what's important? When actors, news anchors, or respondents speak, do we hear what they are saying?

Judging by the huge surge in the use of closed captioning for everything from Netflix to YouTube to Facebook videos, the answer is no – and it's not because we're going numb.

It turns out that more speakers do not lead to a more understandable dialogue. In fact, it seems to be harder to hear, especially if the producers of the movie or show didn't pay close attention to the quality of their audio mix, or if there is a lot of bass.

So it makes sense that Zvox, a company that has focused heavily on improving the clarity of TV sound, has carved out a niche for itself in making soundbar-like speakers to make speech easier to hear.

The latest product is the $ 300 Zvox Accuvoice AV157 TV speaker, which includes 12 levels of Zvox speech enhancement technology.

Is it the TV dialogue enhancer you've been waiting for? Let's find out.

What's in the box?

Zvox AccuVoice AV157 TV speakersSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The AV157 is delivered in an easily recyclable box. Depending on the recycling facilities you live in, some poly bags with cords and a polythene sleeve for the speaker may need to be thrown in the trash. Otherwise the packaging is quite environmentally friendly.

The packaging contains the loudspeaker, a remote control, batteries, three types of audio cables (optical, 3.5 mm analog and cinch up to 3.5 mm), a power supply unit and a very clear quick start guide.

design

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The AV157 is available in three colors: black, a gray-pewter color called titanium, and "Espresso" which, as the name suggests, is medium brown. Whichever you choose, the color only affects the appearance of the speaker cabinet – the front metal grille is always black.

The housing surface is made of shiny, structured plastic. While perfectly solid and well built, the overall appearance doesn't convey much in terms of high-end quality. It doesn't look like you're expecting a $ 300 speaker – in fact, it couldn't look more general.

The advantage of the sleek Jane facade is that the AV157 is easy to ignore, whether you place it on a surface in front of your TV or mount it on the wall (two threaded holes on the back allow this) very much that additional speakers should be heard and not seen.

It's about the size and shape of a large center-channel speaker (for those familiar with 5.1 setups), which means it's tiny compared to even the smallest soundbars.

At 17 inches wide and just under three inches tall, it's much narrower than the $ 400 Sonos Beam, which is already pretty small at just 27 inches. It is just as wide as the Panasonic Soundlayer and only one centimeter larger.

There are no physical buttons on the speaker and apart from a small Zvox logo, nothing disturbs the design of just one speaker.

Even the large, easy-to-read digital display showing volume, input and sound mode is hidden behind the grille and only activates for a few seconds, so you can see the results of your remote control commands before you switch off again.

On the back you will find the few connection options: an optical connection, a 3.5 mm analog input and a headphone and / or subwoofer output. For some reason, the Zvox product page for the AV157 shows the 3.5mm analog input as compatible with an optical miniplug cable, but I can tell you for sure that this is not correct.

Connecting the AV157 to your TV couldn't be easier.

With these inputs, in combination with the cables provided, you can connect the AV157 to practically any source, as long as that source is not only intended for HDMI. While this is rare, there are some TVs that are gradually phasing out support for analog and optical outputs in favor of HDMI ARC and eARC. So it is best to check the outputs on your TV.

The supplied infrared remote control is just as inconspicuous in design: Just a small, robust, rubberized plate with large, easy-to-read labels and easy-to-press buttons. Thanks to the rubber membrane that covers the buttons, the remote control should be able to withstand encounters with the occasional spilled drink far better than regular remote controls.

It would be nice if the remote control buttons were backlit, but the high contrast of the bright white labels against the black of the membrane is still legible in all rooms except the darkest.

Setup and connections

Zvox AccuVoice AV157 TV speakersSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

Connecting the AV157 to your TV couldn't be easier. Simply select the appropriate cable (I recommend the optical cable for best results), plug the ends of the cable into the appropriate ports on your TV and speaker, plug in the power adapter, and you're done.

You should never have to guess what volume level you are at, and the large, bright display means you will never be in doubt.

There's no bluetooth, no Wi-Fi, and no apps. This can limit the functionality of the AV157, but there is something to be said for technology that works the moment you plug it in.

That's not to say you can't play music through the AV157 – you can. However, you will have to plug your music source into one of the available inputs, which might be fine in the iPod era, but it's a bit boring these days.

A clever solution is to connect the AV157 to an Amazon Echo device using the 3.5 mm jack as an external speaker. As long as your favorite streaming music service is supported by Alexa, you're good to go – no remote control required. In addition, many of the popular music streaming apps are supported by the many smart TV operating systems. Navigating through music on your TV might sound strange, but it works.

user friendliness

Zvox AccuVoice AV157 TV speakersSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The included remote control is a breeze. Key presses generate immediate reactions.

I'm a big fan of the four digit alphanumeric display. You should never have to guess what volume level you are at or, with the AV157, what speech enhancement mode and level you are at. The large, bright display means you will never be in doubt. Adjusting the brightness of the display would be a nice perk, especially if you're using the AV157 in very bright or dark rooms, but it's never left on long enough for it to matter.

For example, you can use the AV157 with your existing remote control to increase / decrease the volume and mute it, but not all functions are available. For this reason, you should keep the factory remote control close at hand.

As good as the remote control is for basic functions, the deeper settings of the speaker could be easier to use.

Although the labels are easy to read and the buttons easy to press, some of the features (like switching between Accuvoice and Supervoice modes) require a long press of a button instead of each mode having its own discrete button.

This is especially true of the mysterious Other Settings button, which gives you access to three different settings: bass, treble, and output levels. However, you need to go through each setting and increase / decrease the settings with the volume.

With complex devices like A / V receivers, I get that – there are hundreds of settings and you can only have that many buttons. But the AV157 doesn't do that much and there seems to be plenty of room on the remote for a few more buttons.

Even so, for most people, these settings will be of the "set and forget" sort. While I'd prefer easier access to them, it's by no means a deal breaker.

Sound quality

Zvox AccuVoice AV157 TV speakersSimon Cohen / Digital Trends

The main job of the Accuvoice AV157 may be clearer dialogue, but it's a surprisingly good all-round speaker for all types of TV audio with a bigger, bolder sound than its tiny frame suggests.

Zvox's promise of “room-filling 3D sound” may be a little optimistic – especially when comparing the AV157 to what an inexpensive soundbar with a wireless subwoofer can offer – but there's no doubt that you'll get the Pump up bass levels and use the third stage There's more than enough power and range in surround sound mode to enjoy Hollywood blockbusters like the Marvel & # 39; s Avengers movies.

It is enough to just use the six standard levels of Accuvoice enhancement to make speech easier to hear.

It can also get remarkably loud if you so choose. Near the top of the volume range, the bass begins to decrease, causing a slight knock inside the case. However, this is to be expected with a speaker of this size.

More importantly, however, you have tremendous control over the ability to hear dialogue.

It is enough to just use the six standard levels of Accuvoice enhancement to make speech easier to hear. The moment you activate AC 1 – the first stage – the music, sound effects and virtually all other non-speech audio will drop noticeably as the dialogue jumps forward.

The result is so strong and creates a huge increase in volume. You can even reach for the remote control to decrease the volume after entering Accuvoice mode.

connected: How Zvox's Accuvoice technology makes it easier to hear voices

Each successive level increases this effect further until the voices have reached an almost painfully bright clarity. Put the AV157 in Supervoice mode and the effect is even more noticeable. As someone who fortunately doesn't have significant hearing loss, I can't testify how well these modes work for someone who has hearing problems, but it's hard to imagine how voices could get clearer. By the time you reach Supervoice Level 6, the dialogue is so sharp and bright that you can barely focus on anything else.

Incredibly, this happens with little distortion – and only with the highest boost values.

It takes getting used to, and it's worth noting that there's no free lunch here: to make the dialogue clearer, the AV157 highlights all of the other parts of the soundtrack.

As an experiment, I ran the AV157 through the optical port on my TV and my 5.1.2 home theater system through the HDMI ARC output at the same time to see if I could eat my cake. It kind of worked, but I couldn't keep it up due to a small but noticeable delay between the two sets of speakers.

The music on the AV157 is surprisingly good. I tested it with Tidal on an Apple TV 4K fed into my TV via HDMI. What really amazed me is that the room-filling 3D sound that Zvox promises is much clearer with music than with film or TV soundtracks.

As you can imagine with a speech enhancement speaker, the vocals are extremely clear even in the surround sound entry-level mode. The AV157 can't quite compete with the Sonos Beam for music – it lacks the beam's warmth and resonant bass – but most genres sound very good.

You just have to be careful with some bass heavy tracks. Post Malone and Swae Lee's Sunflower is a good example of a song that, even at moderate volume, outperforms the AV157's ability to reproduce bass, with more of the aforementioned knocking effect.

Our opinion

The Zvox Accuvoice AV157 is a great way to get much better sound from your TV through a very small speaker. But where it really stands out is the voice enhancement – something you just can't get out of a regular soundbar at any cost.

Is there a better alternative?

If speech enhancement is not critical, there are plenty of great sound bars out there that can be used to enhance your TV sound. And if a small speaker is important to you, $ 400 Sonos Beam is a great place to start.

However, if you want better dialogue, the only real competition to the AV157 is one of the other Zvox TV speakers, like the one $ 250 AV155 or the tiny $ 170 AV100 Mini. Each improves speech intelligibility, but only the AV157 has all twelve levels of the combined Accuvoice and Supervoice modes.

How long it will take?

Zvox's warranty is only one year, but I suspect that if something goes wrong with the AV157, something will happen very quickly. Otherwise, this speaker should give you many years of use. No battery needs to be replaced. If the power adapter ever fails, it's an affordable accessory. Even if the remote stops working, Zvox only charges $ 15 for a replacement.

Should you buy it?

Yes. For those who find it increasingly difficult to understand what is being said on TV shows and movies, the AV157 is the best way to improve intelligibility without resorting to subtitles.

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