Compact soundbar recommendations, computer speakers with exceptional sound (Week 34, 2023)

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Week 34, 2023

Q. I need a small soundbar with tone controls so I can adjust the sound to my liking. I was interested in the ZVOX AV157 you have recommended, but it lacks these controls so I am looking for another recommendation.

-J.R., Mount Lebanon, PA

A. The AV157 has bass and treble controls using the Other Settings, or PS button on the remote. (I had another reader inquire about this recently, so it could be a common misconception.) I have regularly recommended the AV157 and ZVOX products because they tend be an exceptionally good match to the needs of a newspaper audience, which tends to trend a bit older. As people age they do not hear as well, especially with the weak speakers built in to the television and poor audio mixing by the producers. The improvement from ZVOX AccuVoice really helps with dialogue and that is what I emphasized when discussing them, to the detriment of the other features. The AV157 also has virtual surround sound and Output Leveling to bring down the volume of loud commercials so they don’t blow you out of your chair when they come on. It makes for an easy-to-use solution for what ails the average TV viewer, and it is easy to set up as well. The ZVOX AV157 lists for $249.99, is on sale for $199.99 and ZVOX usually has a coupon code you can use when buying from their website. The current code FB40 reduces the price another $40.

If you are looking for something with a subwoofer that is more of a home theater performer, the Polk Audio Magnifi Mini has long been one of my favorites. It is small, but has big sound for music and movies and the external wireless subwoofer provides room-filling bass. The Magnifi Mini has been on the market for a while so discounts are regularly available. It lists for $299 but the current street price is about $240. There is a new Magnifi Mini AX model for $499 that also has Dolby Atmos and the ability to use wireless rear speakers. I am intrigued by it given the excellence of the Magnifi Mini, and hope to hear a demo of it soon.

Q. Are there any computer speakers that provide fantastic sound, but with limited wires? I would prefer surround sound but stereo will do if the sound is good enough. I don’t have a specific budget in mind.

-P.L., Minneapolis, MN

A. Surround sound is typically going to require wires and probably some complex connections. I’m working on some solutions to this and will detail them in a future column, but for now I will help you find some good computer speakers.

You will get the best sound from speakers that have an internal sound card and a USB connection. A top choice in this category is the Axiom Audio M1 Computer speakers, which sell for $698 at Axiom has larger versions as well, and they also offer a matching subwoofer.

If you can find a used pair on eBay the Definitive Technology Incline computer speakers will make you very happy. They look like miniature monoliths from 2001: A Space Odyssey and radiate from front and back, like a high-end Magnepan speaker. They fill the near field by your computer as well as the entire room with big, beautiful sound. I have seen them selling for between $100-$200 on eBay, and they are well worth it. The Monsoon MH-500 is very similar and used, working pairs with the subwoofer, volume control puck and power supply regularly go for under $100.