Week 25, 2017: Matching ceiling speakers in a surround system, more on ZVOX SB380 introductory offer

Sound Advice

By Don Lindich

Week 25, 2017

Q. How important are the surround channel speakers in a 5.1 home theater system? Do they have to match all the other speakers, or is it not critical that they are the same as the front and center speakers? I recently moved and was forced to leave my expensive in-ceiling PSB surround speakers in the house when I left. I had a PSB Image system. Should I get the top-of-the-line $350 PSB CS-650 speakers, or can I use a lower-priced alternative?

-A.M., Pittsburgh, PA

A. It is considered ideal to sonically match all 5 speakers in a surround system. Subwoofers you can mix and match, but a modest system with 5 matched speakers will often produce a more coherent, satisfying sound than 5 more expensive, but mismatched speakers.

PSB makes very fine speakers. Since you are using them for surround you can go with the entry-level model, the CS-610, which is only $249/pair. People do not hear as well from behind as they do facing front, so you don’t really need the extra performance of the CS-650 for good surround effects. psbspeakers.com

I don’t know the circumstances of your move and why the speakers were left behind. If it was because you could not leave holes in the ceiling, in the future I suggest you but some cheap in-ceiling speakers of the same size and swap them for the good ones before you leave. You keep your good speakers, the ceiling is intact and everyone is happy.

Better ZVOX questions this time around: I seem to have done a better job explaining the ZVOX SB380 soundbar introductory promotion this time, as no one had purchasing questions. I did get quite a few questions about the product itself, a few of which I will answer below. At the time I submitted the column there were still a fair number of soundbars available for $235 with free shipping. This is the kind of deal I love to tell readers about, because it represents an opportunity to get the best for the price of an undistinguished, throwaway product from a mass-market brand. Not only is the product best-in-class, the company is a class act as well. ZVOX is an American company that is successful enough to develop and produce leading-edge products, yet small enough that they can provide personal service and support for customers like my newspaper readers, who may not be so tech-savvy. Go to http://tinyurl.com/zvoxsb380 to learn more.

Q. What are the main differences between the SB380 and the larger SB400?

-J.C., Minneapolis, MN

A. The sound of the $299 SB380 is almost identical to the $399 SB400, despite the smaller size. The main difference is the SB400 can play a bit louder than the SB380 and it has Bluetooth. Though the SB380 lacks Bluetooth, you can play music through it using the TV itself or with a direct connection.

Q. Does the AccuVoice feature for improving television dialogue perform the same in the SB380 as it does on the other ZVOX soundbar models?

-M.M., San Jose, CA

A, Yes, it works exactly the same and is just as effective as the more expensive models.

Q. The info for this soundbar says it can be laid flat on its back for use. Will it sound as good?

-J.G., Skagit County, WA

A. Though I have not heard it myself, I contacted the company and they said that there is a setting for flat placement that optimizes the sound from this position. They claim the sound is very similar and no customers have ever complained.