Zvox Model 315 Sound Console

What can you get from a single box not much larger than a DVD player with three small drivers firing forward and a woofer port firing rearward? If the box is the Zvox 315 Sound Console, you get more sound than you might think - full, wide stereo and a surprising amount of surround sound. The Zvox 315 can turn almost any sound source - from a portable CD player to a satellite receiver - into a complete music system usable nearly anywhere. You can place it beneath a computer monitor, atop a TV, on a desk, or even (thanks to its 12-volt input) on your car's tailgate.

The Short Form

DIMENSIONS (WxHxD) 17 x 4 1/2 x 14 3/4 inches PRICE $200 MANUFACTURER Zvox Audio, www.zvoxaudio.com, 866-367-9869 KEY FEATURES • Compact, single-box stereo sound • PhaseCue circuit for "out-of-box" sound • Easily accepts wide range of audio sources

PLUS • Very good stereo and quasi-surround sound • Very easy to operate • Same width as standard components

MINUS • Input overloads easily • No input switching • Volume control on rear

The $200 Zvox doesn't need an instruction manual - a single sheet of paper accompanies the unassuming gray, vinyl-covered box. The only controls are three small knobs and a power switch on the rear. There's a stereo minijack input and a dual-purpose minijack input/output that can either feed an external powered subwoofer or serve as a second, mixing input, with volume controlled at the source. For example, while you work at your desk listening to your iPod, you could have sounds from your PC mixed in with the music.

The three knobs are labeled Main Volume, Subwoofer Level, and PhaseCue. The first two do what you might expect (Subwoofer Level is a bass control). PhaseCue controls Zvox's proprietary circuit for creating what it calls "out of box" sound, which is accomplished by feeding left-plus right-channel sound to the center driver, the left minus the right channel to the left driver, and the right minus the left channel to the right driver. Got that? Furthermore, a tube connects the left and right enclosures within the box, which Zvox says produces "infinite compliance," allowing bigger sound from a smaller cabinet. The bass channel has its own equalization and a soft-clipping circuit to reduce the chances of audible overload and distortion.

Plain and simple, it works. The Model 315 Sound Console lives up to Zvox's claims and then some. To start out, I placed the box directly in front of my 42-inch rear-projection TV, centered just below the screen on a short speaker stand, and watched what has become my standard reference DVD, the audio/video extravaganza Moulin Rouge.