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Sound Advice: Choosing an add-on TV speaker is not always as easy as it sounds

June 22, 2018 GMT

Q: Several years ago you recommended an Insignia soundbar. I bought one, and it has been fine, but now I am craving something better. You have written about the ZVOX AV200 TV Speaker recently. Is it worth replacing the Insignia soundbar with the ZVOX?

A: Comparing the ZVOX with standard television speakers is easy. It’s got much better sound, and it’s optimized for enhancing the dialogue. Comparing it to the Insignia, however, gets a little cloudier. The actual sound quality is superior to the Insignia, but the Insignia is more of a full-sized, full-range soundbar with deeper bass. If you made the change, you would notice better sound and clearer dialogue compared with the Insignia, but you would lose the deep bass and the home theater effect for action movies and other such programming.

Not to complicate things too much more, but there are other options within the price range of the AV200. Two of my favorite soundbars sell for under $250 and would be a dramatic improvement over what you have now. From ZVOX (zvox.com) there is the SB380 soundbar, which has a subwoofer and very high-quality speakers built into its aluminum cabinet. It also has a special version of the AV200’s dialogue-enhancement circuitry that makes it one of the best full-sized soundbars for reproducing television dialogue. It’s one of the leading values out there in a full-sized soundbar.

My other suggestion is the Polk MagniFi Mini (polkaudio.com). This very small soundbar is about the size of a medium-sized Bluetooth speaker and comes with a wireless subwoofer. Setup is very easy, and it sounds much bigger and more dramatic than you would expect for the size. If you listen to a lot of music with your soundbar, you will appreciate that it has built-in Chromecast that takes the sound quality up several notches compared with the Bluetooth connection.

Headphones return

Sbode earphones are back. Two weeks ago I wrote about the Sbode Bluetooth Sports Earphones disappearing from Amazon to the dismay of potential buyers. I praised the earphones for their comfort, fit and great sound, all for only $23.99.

The earphones are available again, at a new, even lower price of $21.99. My hat is off to Sbode for not only bringing them back quickly, but also for dropping the price as an olive branch to the buyers who had been disappointed. Given my very positive experience so far, I will have more about this emerging brand and its products in the near future.

Send questions to Don Lindich at donlindich@gmail.com. Get recommendations and read past columns at soundadvicenews.com.