ZVOX Mini Audio System

Back in October 2004, we tested the ZVOX audio system, an all-in-one "virtual" surround option for those who want something better than built-in TV speakers. Now comes the $199 ZVOX mini audio system, a shrunk-down, portable version intended to provide sound for music players like the iPod or for TVs. This $199 all-in-one system combines a trio of front-firing speakers plus woofer in a compact, desktop-friendly box. Two minijack inputs are located on the back panel for plugging in the audio output of a DVD player, cable box, computer, or iPod.

The ZVOX mini's rubbery casing forms a slip-resistant base for an LCD TV or computer monitor. There are two control knobs on its right-hand side - one for volume and the second to adjust the system's PhaseCue level. (Higher PhaseCue creates a more spacious presentation, and a lower setting delivers a more focused sound field.) On the back panel, meanwhile, there's another knob for adjusting bass. A small remote control for changing volume also comes with the system.

Watching Batman Begins on a 20-inch desktop LCD TV, I instantly heard the improvement the ZVOX mini audio system delivered over the set's built-in speakers. Dialogue was clear, and the PhaseCue control lent the sound a spaciousness it otherwise would have lacked. But the system was also quick to reveal its limitations. Scanning ahead to the Monastery Mayhem chapter, effects like clanging swords and collapsing wood railings had a thin, tinny quality that became fatiguing at high volumes. And music from the ZVOX mini sounded boxed in and lacked dynamics.

Fast Facts
$199 / 13 x 3.3 x 10 IN / 10 LBS / ZVOXAUDIO.COM / 781-599-5493
BOTTOM LINE The ZVOX mini is a decent all-in-one audio system for watching TV on a small screen. But if you're looking for something to also play music on, consider spending another $100 or so for one of the higher-end solutions from Apple, Klipsch, or Bose. That way, you'll get a convenient docking station for your iPod and room-filling, high-fidelity sound.

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