As sound delivery advances with the advent of immersive technologies like surround sound and Dolby Atmos, we still sometimes have to crank up the volume or turn on close captioning. Sometimes we even play a passage again to make out what’s being said.
Long-term exposure to noisy environments, too much loud music and ageing all play a role in hearing loss.
The ZVOX AccuVoice AV157 is a compact soundbar that uses the science behind hearing aids to create more clarity in recorded dialogue.
Five years ago, Massachusetts-based ZVOX launched its first product mimicking the hearing aid using advanced algorithms to gain voice clarity. This latest offering incorporates two innovative technologies: the new SuperVoice and the latest Generation IV AccuVoice.
“The best way to understand our SuperVoice technology is to picture a stage,” says ZVOX founder Tom Hannaher. “But instead of a row of actors, imagine a row of sounds. Our proprietary AccuVoice technology, that we introduced in 2016, clarifies voices and brings them forward on the stage. Our SuperVoice technology takes the other sound effects into the background – ‘pushing them backstage’ – so they don’t interfere with voice intelligibility.”
The dynamic duo offers 12 levels of dialogue boost, achieved by combining the six levels of AccuVoice and applying SuperVoice to each level. With a bit of trial and error, you can find the combo that suits you best. You’ll certainly know the sound sweet spot once you hear it.
For more fine-tuning, three virtual surround sound options help create a 3D effect. The first features minimal surround with a strong focus on vocal clarity. The second offers a moderate virtual surround with moderate voice focus, ideal for watching TV shows. The third – best for movies – gives you the widest surround sound with modest vocal focus.
Another nifty feature is output levelling, to help avoid significant volume swings that may occur when a show heads to a loud commercial break or when switching services, like from Netflix to broadcast television. Adjustments can also be made for bass and treble.
The modestly designed soundbar fits perfectly in front of most TVs or is easily mounted on a wall. The sturdy cabinet is a mere 17 inches wide, less than three inches high and weighs just under three pounds. Behind the front grille is a display that disappears within seconds when not needed, so you’re not distracted by it while watching TV.
Under the hood are three speakers powered by a 24-watt digital amplifier with Dolby Digital decoding that nicely fills the room with sound.
It’s simple to hook up: just connect the power adapter, then connect a wire to your TV or cable box. All the sound controls are accessed via a large-button remote. It can also be programmed to work with universal remotes.
This model isn’t equipped with Bluetooth so you’ll need a transmitter connected to any wireless headphone output.
It’s also not designed for Wi-Fi streaming. But if you want to listen to music from a compatible device, you simply connect Amazon Echo to the secondary input.
You’re likely still wondering why Hollywood can’t make movies with dialogue you can hear without help. According to ZVOX, “It’s because Hollywood is mixing sound for drama, not clarity.”
The ZVOX AccuVoice AV157 comes with a power supply, remote with batteries and three connecting cables: 3.5-mm analogue, 3.5-mm-RCA and optical. It retails in Canada for $279.99 and is available through Amazon and The Shopping Channel.
Greg Gazin, also known as the Gadget Guy and Gadget Greg, is a syndicated veteran tech columnist, communication, leadership and technology speaker, facilitator, blogger, podcaster and author. Reach him @gadgetgreg or at GadgetGuy.ca. For interview requests, click here.
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