How ZVOX soundbars use advanced tech to help the hard of hearing enjoy TV again

By Parker Hall: For More Info, Go Here…

These speakers sound clear to the hard of hearing. Here’s how that’s possible.

When Tom Hannaher designed and sold his first soundbar, he had no idea that his biggest fans would be the hard of hearing.

It was 2003, and he had just started a small audio company called ZVOX after years of working at Cambridge Soundworks in Boston. Aiming to create a small form-factor, great-sounding speaker to pair with TVs, Hannaher’s new company had built a rectangular speaker to place below TVs. It would eventually become recognized by industry experts as
the first commercially successful soundbar.

People didn’t care about surround sound or bass … they just couldn’t understand what was being said on TV.

Building the first successful product in a now-expansive product category is a massive achievement, and much of the success is owed to the fact that ZVOX’s model was designed to replicate higher-end systems with dedicated speakers.

The original ZVOX soundbar had a center speaker explicitly designed for vocal dialogue, mirroring discrete home theater speaker setups, meaning that the voices on screen rise above other sound effects from a particular show or film when reproduced on the ZVOX soundbar.

After some slow sales in the beginning (understandable given how new the product category was) those with hearing issues – mostly elderly buyers — caught wind of this little speaker that made their favorite TV shows easier to understand.

“Early on, we realized that what we were selling as a home theater system, people were purchasing as a dialogue clarification system,” says Hannaher. “People didn’t care about surround sound or bass … they just couldn’t understand what was being said on TV.”

Hannaher and his company had tapped into an unanticipated market and they did everything they could to keep it. The team of engineers and developers spent the intervening years working on making both hardware and software improvements to their soundbars, creating what they call the AccuVoice feature for those who are hard of hearing or want maximum clarity from the on-screen dialogue.

“It’s really a crazy combination of good,” he says, “… we built a hearing aid into a loudspeaker.”

 

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