The Who. The Rolling Stones. Pink Floyd. George Thorogood. Rush.
These (and dozens of others) are just some of the outrageously loud rock n’ roll bands I have seen in concert over the years … many of them multiple times. Not to mention the small club venues where I’ve seen so many bands I can’t even name them. As a result, I have 30 percent hearing loss in one ear, just like a lot of other Baby Boomers out there. I consistently watch TV shows with the closed captioning on. It’s also one of the main reasons I don’t do the audio reviews for CE Pro!
Well, soundbar manufacturer ZVOX “hears” my pain. The Swampscott, Mass.-based company has unveiled its new AccuVoice TV Speaker designed specifically for the older generation with hearing loss issues who have difficulty hearing dialog from TV programs or Blu-rays.
The 17-inch soundbar uses a computer process that mimics the functionality of a hearing aid. It applies a patented compression/equalization algorithm that lifts voices out of background sounds to create clearer dialogue reproduction.
“Audiologists know that much of our hearing is based on the “hard” consonant sounds … K, T, L, V and others. The “soft” vowel sounds are lost. The algorithm is able to diminish the non-consonant frequencies,” says ZVOX CEO Tom Hannaher. The algorithm turns on and off, detecting only the dialog, so it does not diminish the soundtrack of a movie or TV show.
According to Hannaher, another factor that exacerbates the problem is the increasingly thinner and thinner design of flat panel TVs. He notes that most of today’s flat panels have a speaker that is less than 0.5-inches in size and usually downfacing.
“The reality is that early televisions from the 1950s produced better audio than today’s TVs,” he says. “And when OLED hits the market it will be even worse. But sadly, no clients of custom integrators ever reject a TV based on its audio quality.”
Hannaher says he presented the technology to a group of audiologists … the people who sell hearing aids … and they rhetorically asked, “What took your industry so long to come up with this?”
Multiple Sales Channels
The new $249 soundbar, which is enclosed in an aluminum cabinet and uses three high-performance full-range speaker drivers, will hit the market in September. And ZVOX, which has been around for many years and was one of the original pioneers of soundbars and soundbases, will be exhibiting at CEDIA 2016 with a booth (#5109) for the first time ever.
Hannaher, whose legacy goes back to working with Henry Kloss at Cambridge Soundworks in the 1970s, says AccuVoice is “as exciting as anything I have ever done.”
Hannaher has also initiated a Kickstarter campaign for the product.
“I am doing Kickstarter not because we need the money to manufacture the product, but because it gives me added exposure,” he says. In just its first two days, the campaign raised more than $21,000 against a goal of $30,000. Supporters will receive a discount on buying the product. Hannaher plans to use the funds raised on additional marketing.
ZVOX sells its equipment through selected retailers and online stores, including Amazon, Best Buy and Crutchfield. The AccuVoice will have an even broader channel strategy, with audiologists even selling the product in their hearing aid shops.
But the custom installation channel is also a key part of ZVOX’s strategy because integrators often service older Baby Boomer clients who are the target market for the product.
Hannaher says he is open to potential licensing deals with other manufacturers that might want to adopt the AccuVoice technology.