I’m a long-time user of Zvox. One of their earliest models, the 580, has been used as my TV-audio reference (in terms of sound quality) for about a decade. In terms of musicality and neutrality, I have still yet to find something that surpasses its quality at a sub $1,000 price level. The aspect that I consider to be reference is its Dialogue Enhancement mode. While other soundbar dialogue enhancement modes tend to give a nasally vocal characteristic, it’s not the case with the Zvox 580. The dialogue remains relatively natural and not fatiguing to the ears. Not even a little bit. It’s not perfect, but in my opinion it’s the best available, nevertheless.
Jump many years later, I happened to encounter the Zvox AccuVoice 157, a soundbar that resembles an oversized brick in appearance, branded primarily to do dialogue enhancement for your TV. In fact, Zvox uses the phrase “hearing aid technology” in their branding materials and emphasize that it is not about loudness but clarity. This unit comes with a mind bogglingly bountiful twelve… yes, twelve… modes of Dialogue Enhancement powered through three 2X3” high-output full range speakers driving 24 watt Class D amplification with Dolby Digital decoding.
You might think, why would anybody need 12 modes? Maybe you do maybe you don’t, but by having 12 different modes, you can truly find the one (or two, or three) that will fit your needs as perfectly. In my case, I need an enhancement that will work for my “bedtime story” time. I have the tendency to listen to YouTube before I fall asleep. I want to hear a clear dialogue and at the same time suppress the music and the YouTube ads sound. Well, the Accuvoice 157 has that option among the buffet of 12 modes.
The AccuVoice 157 comes in an easily recyclable cardboard box. You can choose to get the boring black colour, pewter (“Titanium”) and medium brown (“espresso”). Inside the box, you’ll find the speaker, a remote control, batteries, three types of audio cables (optical, 3.5mm analog, and RCA-to-3.5mm), a power supply, and a very clearly and beautifully illustrated quick-start guide.
From the looks department, it’s a tad plain and for the asking price of US$300 I was expecting for more than basically a brick sitting in front of my TV. Around the back, you’ll find the sparse connection options: One optical port, one 3.5mm analog input, and one headphone and/or subwoofer output. So, no HDMI, Bluetooth or WIFI at all. This is puzzling at this price level. There are no physical buttons on the speaker and the only esthetic is a small Zvox logo, which is understated and classy which I do like.
The included infrared remote control is just a small, sturdy plastic unit with big, easy-to-read labels and easy-to-press buttons. Rubber membrane covers the buttons; looking at it, the remote should be able to withstand the occasional spilled drink far better than normal remotes. The high contrast of the bright white buttons against the black of the membrane is legible in most lighting conditions. Something that is rare in today’s electronics.
The 12 levels if Dialogue Enhancements are grouped into two groups of six, one category called Accuvoice and the other Supervoice. Listening to various channels such as CP24, Food Network, and a plethora of YouTube segments is easier than ever. Even with the poorly recorded YouTube segments, I can listen to the dialogue without the need of boosting my volume levels up high. In order to make dialogue clearer, the unit de-emphasizes all other portions of the soundtrack. The higher you go up the modes, the more de-emphasis of the other frequencies is being done. And I for one, welcome that.
As for listening to regular music, the sound quality is average, not something that will retire my Zvox 580. The AccuVoice 157 however, does give a slightly fuller bodied sound than my Sonos Beam. Regardless, one will be buying this more for the Dialogue Enhancement capabilities, musical prowess will be secondary.
So, if you find listening to dialogue to be problematic (many YouTube and ethnic cable channels are, some sports channels are too), the AccuVoice 157 should be at the top of your list. Highly recommended.