Using both a soundbar and audio receiver with a single output, save $120 on ZVOX SB380 soundbar: $299 to $179 (Week 5, 2020)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 5, 2019

Q. I have a 65-inch TV and a ZVOX soundbar with the AccuVoice feature, which is fantastic for making TV dialogue easier to understand. I recently purchased your “2019 Product of the Year” Emotiva T-Zero speakers for $399 and a $199 Onkyo TX-8220 stereo receiver to power them.

I know you are not supposed to use the speakers and the soundbar at the same time, but I would like to have the ability to use them both independently of each other. I imagine that for most daily TV viewing like the news and talk shows, the soundbar would remain the best choice. For movies, action TV shows or music TV programs like “The Voice,” the Emotiva/Onkyo sound system would probably be the way to go, due to its amazing reproduction of music. (Of course, the main function of my T-Zero system is to enjoy music.)

Unfortunately, the TV only has one audio output, which is an optical digital output that is already connected to the soundbar. Is there any way to connect the television to both the soundbar and my sound system?

-J.R., Pleasant Hill, CA

A. Your thinking is spot on. Both products have their strong points, and it would be nice to have use of both of them with your television. Fortunately, this is easily accomplished.

You can buy an optical splitter that will take your single digital audio output from the television and create two or more outputs. The $18.99 Portta Toslink 1×3 is the top-rated splitter on Amazon and creates three signals from the single TV output. You can connect one to the digital input on your audio receiver, one to the soundbar, and have a spare in case you ever add wireless headphones or another accessory.

Your cable or satellite company probably has music channels in addition to television programming. With the TV connected to your sound system you can enjoy these as well as any other music you play through your speakers.

Over the years since they were introduced, ZVOX AccuVoice soundbars have been one of, if not the most popular recommendation I have ever made in this column. They can be wall-mounted or placed on a stand, and the finely-finished aluminum cabinets feature built-in subwoofers and high-quality drivers for outstanding full-range sound from a single speaker. They really bring television shows, music and movies to life, and the AccuVoice feature solves the persistent problem of muffled on-screen dialogue.

ZVOX has recently made some dramatic changes to their best-selling SB380 soundbar. The AccuVoice feature now has six levels of adjustment, all of which have been fine-tuned to make voices even easier to hear and understand. There is also an “Alexa Ready” setting that activates both the optical input and the miniplug input simultaneously. Connect an Amazon Echo Dot to the miniplug input, and your soundbar becomes a wonderful-sounding Amazon Alexa speaker. If you are watching TV, when you say the wake word, “Alexa” the TV volume is reduced. The unexpected bonus is everything is processed through AccuVoice, making this not only one of the best-sounding, but one of the easiest-to-understand Alexa speakers on the market.

Even without the new enhancements the fine sound of the SB380 was worth the $299 price of admission. With the improvements the value equation goes up even more, and until March 3 you can use the coupon code SAVE120 at get a $120 discount, bringing the price all the way down to $179.

By the way, the ZVOX soundbars were my 2016 Product of the Year winner, so you now have two award winners in your home.