My First Eargasm: An Audio Epiphany

September 17, 2013

So, back to where I left off. Despite dutifully beginning my research into the ZVOX following The Audiophile’s recommendation, I still hadn’t made a decision on what to do. As usual, I spent far too much time reading “expert” reviews and forum posts about all of the ZVOX models, carefully taking note of their pros and cons and comparisons to competing products. I swear the WWW can be a dangerous place; I nearly fried my untrained audio brain trying to process all of the specifications, charts, reviews and other information out there. TOO MUCH NOISE!

Anyway, needless to say, several weeks later I was forced to confront The Spirited Uncle M with the news that no progress had been made—he wasn’t surprised.

You see, I just couldn’t commit to the ZVOX. Yes, it is designed for enhancing your TV and movie-viewing auditory experiences. Yes, it gets some respectable reviews; Stereophile actually called it “An audiophile quality system.” Yes, it can be had for a reasonable price—used and refurbished units are usually on eBay for $300 and up. And yes, it’s a single, all-in-one unit. Sounds like the perfect solution for my little “entertainment” room, but I just couldn’t get excited about it.

For one, the ZVOX SoundBase 580 was a little too big to sit flush on my TV stand, and the smaller SoundBase 555 didn’t come across as anything special. Second, it would raise my TV 5” higher. Being a smallish room, the TV is viewed from approximately 7’ away and I thought raising it 5” would make it a bit awkward. Third, I was underwhelmed after seeing the SoundBase 580 on display at Best Buy. It’s a big black box. It’s boring. I know that has nothing to do with the acoustic performance, but the sound was another sticking point. It’s really designed for home theater and NOT music. Through all of my review scouring, I found plenty of end-users saying it lacked in the music department across all kinds of genres. Were they especially critical listeners? Maybe. But if their claims are true, I would not be getting closer to Audio Nirvana, and who knows if the minimum goal of Audio Bliss would have been met either.

Truth is, if I’m going to drop several hundred dollars on a piece of equipment, it has to be something that is going to last, and I didn’t feel confident that the ZVOX would (since there is a steady stream of them on eBay, maybe other users are coming to the same conclusion?). Basically, I was talking myself out of the ZVOX quicker than I was identifying another solution. Would a ZVOX be more than enough for a simple family room or bedroom setup? Sure, most likely. But would it hold up in a dedicated listening room?

I don’t know if I impressed The Spirited Uncle M with my due diligence or if I simply bored him to death explaining the research I did and the concerns that I had, but for only the second time in my entire existence on this planet I was invited into The Sound Lab. If you read my first post on this blog, you know this is a BIG deal.

An Audio Epiphany

The music that filled the room that night.… If you shut your eyes you’d swear the musicians were playing right in front of you. Lars nearly knocked me out of the listening chair with his kick drum on “Enter Sandman.” The strange sounds from Swiss electronic group, Yello, were piercing, detailed, and shimmered around you. The bass was powerful but focused, like a punch in the chest, while the mids simply tore through you.

No matter what was played, you couldn’t tell where the speakers were without looking at them; the entire room was filled with sound waves and pressure levels that surrounded you and sent your senses into orbit. It was amazing. It was like I never heard music before, or at least I had never heard GOOD SOUND before (did I just have my first eargasm!?). I wanted that. No, I needed that for my own. My decision was made. To home theater hell with the ZVOX; I’m going hi-fi.

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