Week 9, 2019: Soundbars with good dialogue and home theater sound, ZVOX VoiceBud VB20 review, Sbode M350 Bluetooth speaker sale

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 9, 2019

Q. We purchased the ZVOX AccuVoice TV speaker and are very happy with both the clear dialogue it produces and the affordable price. However, I know it is optimized for clear dialogue over music and home theater performance. What soundbars have clear sounding dialogue as well as top quality music and home theater sound, preferably for under $600?

-J.W., Airkin, MN

A. The ZVOX home theater soundbars SB380 ($249) SB400 ($399) and SB500 ($429) all have AccuVoice for clear sounding dialogue. Other good choices are the Polk MagniFi Mini ($249) which has a very small profile yet still makes a big sound, and the Polk CommandBar (also $249) which has built-in Amazon Alexa. All are well under $600.

Speaking of ZVOX, I will use this as an opportunity to bring everyone up to date on their VB20 VoiceBuds. When they were introduced several months ago they were referred to as “hearing amplifiers” that feature much of the same technology as expensive hearing aids ($2,500 each) but at a fraction of the price ($299.99 each.). There are a lot of people that could use a little help with their hearing, but don’t need that expensive hearing aid just yet. The idea was to provide these individuals a way to get a device that markedly improves their hearing, but without the doctor visits and high expense.

When I wrote about the VoiceBud VB20 I asked for reader feedback as I do not have a frame of reference to review the product. The general consensus is the VoiceBuds perform as advertised and most everyone was satisfied, especially given the price and ease of acquiring them. Reader R.J. said it best of all of the positive emails: “I just bought one of the new ZVOX VoiceBud Hearing Amplifiers to try. It proved to be a very fine product that should help anyone who has hearing problems. It is well engineered so it is very comfortable, easy to use and quite effective. I like it so well that I am tomorrow going to order one for my other ear while their sale is still on.”

A few readers who had severe hearing loss chimed in and said the VoiceBuds were not enough to replace their top-of-the-line prescription hearing aids. For example, A.H. said, “I used them for well over a week, but I can’t judge them as it appears I have severe hearing loss in that one ear and would need prescribed hearing aids. Still, I must say that ZVOX answered my request for a return RMA in a matter of hours, and I would not hesitate doing business with them in the future.” I should add that there some who did say they were able to replace expensive hearing aids with a VoiceBud.

The ZVOX VoiceBud VB20 is now registered as an FDA Class One Hearing Aid, so they are no longer called hearing amplifiers. They are also on sale again through March 31, reduced to $249.99 from $299.99 for a single VoiceBud, or $499.99 for a pair, backed by a 60 day home trial.

Another deal worth mentioning: The Sbode Sport Bluetooth Earphones have proven quite popular with readers, and Sbode makes some nice small Bluetooth speakers, too. To celebrate the launch of their new website, Sbode has their SB350 speaker on sale for $27.99 at both sbodeaudio.com and amazon.com. More than just a Bluetooth speaker, it has FM radio with autotuning and can play music from a TF (MicroSD) card. You can also pair two of them as separate left-right channels for true stereo sound.