With the IncrediBase 575 connected to my Panasonic plasma TV’s audio output, I first used it for everyday TV viewing. The 575 delivered sufficiently clear dialogue and punchy dynamics, along with sometimes shelf-rattling bass — so much so that I never really felt an urge to fire up the full surround sound rig that I normally use. Tweaking PhaseCue proved to be pretty important: With some programs I was tempted to crank this control up to get a more open sound, only to find the setting too high when I then switched over to a show with active surround channels like Saturday Night Live. Overall, I found the best strategy was to tweak PhaseCue using a surround-heavy DVD or Blu-ray Disc soundtrack and then leave it, rather than trying to tailor the adjustment for each program.
Moving on to Blu-ray, I loaded up XMen Origins: Wolverine and played a scene where Logan (Hugh Jackman) and his team attack a diamond trafficker’s base. The Zvox handled the soundtrack’s dynamics here with ease; it had no problem delineating the metallic clang of each bullet being deflected by the sword-wielding Victor (Liev Schreiber) or the pulsating deep bass of the techno music soundtrack that underpins the action. Some all-in-one systems use very aggressive steering to try and deliver discrete surround effects, but the IncrediBase 575 instead provides a more general sense of envelopment. (Remember that the 575 derives all of its surround information from a simple analog stereo input, so it can never deliver the same kind of discrete multichannel effects as a 5.1-channel setup.) The advantage to this approach is a much wider listening area, without any of the unpredictable room reflections and odd phase effects you get with some soundbars when not sitting directly front and center.
Cream’s Royal Albert Hall disc showed just how dynamic the IncrediBase 575 could get. Jack Bruce’s bass displayed sufficient weight and scale, and the attack of Ginger Baker’s sticks hitting the drumheads and cymbals was startling at times. The 575 also delivered a good sense of the Royal Albert Hall’s acoustic space.
Does the IncrediBase 575 have its limits? With 133 watts split among 7 drivers, anyone with a heavy hand will find that it is indeed possible to push things too far. But the volume level needed to get to that point is beyond what most people would ever require. Regular folks living in the real world will find that the 575 plays more than loud enough.
If you’re seeking a no-fuss way to vastly improve your TV’s sound, Zvox’s IncrediBase 575 is the right solution. It delivers powerful, convincing movie and TV sound without the hassles and floor-space requirements associated with a typical multi-speaker surround rig. I’m sure there are some who will claim that they can assemble a component audio system that delivers slightly better sound at a similar cost. But that would be missing the point of the IncrediBase 575 completely.
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