Here at MajorHiFi, we demo a lot of equipment – from IEMs and DACs to over-ear open-back models. Today I’m checking out the ZVOX AV50, a headphone aimed at delivering superior audio for podcasts, movies, and audio books. At $149, it’s not exactly the most budget-minded headphone ever. But at that price, just what kind of sound can you expect?
ZVOX AV50 Review
The ZVOX AV50 comes in a nice box that holds the headphone, a carrying case, a micro-USB charging cable, and an aux cable for wired listening.
Designed for portable use, the AV50 features a hinged design that allows the headphones to lay flat or fold up. Each earcup swivels about 90 degrees, facilitating easy one-ear listening.
In addition to ZVOX’s own AccuVoice Noise Cancellation, the AV50 also sports Bluetooth connectivity for wireless listening.
Battery life comes in at 15 hours with noise cancelling on and using a wired connection. However, play time drops to only 11 hours when using both noise cancellation and a Bluetooth connection. While this battery life does seem low by current standards, the compromised power allows these headphones to attain an incredibly low weight of less than half of a pound.
Comfort-wise, the ZVOX AV50 does a good job of covering my giant ears. I can even almost forget I’m wearing headphones at times.
In the low end, the AV50 feels a little lax and sluggish, without the general verve or energy one would expect from a headphone at this price (like the M50x). Detail seems to be present, but may be lurking behind the weak sound quality. Indeed, on more sophisticated or intricate recordings, the AV50 seems to obscure some of the finer nuances.
Unsurprisingly, the ZVOX AV50 really shines in the mids. It does a superb job of capturing the intricacy of vocals, and instrumentation isn’t too shabby here, either. All in all, the mids might be just a little compressed – but not in any noticeable way. While this sound quality allows the AV50 to sound great with podcasts or movies, but may suffer when it comes to simple music enjoyment.
In the highs, the ZVOX AV50 seems to struggle a bit. Slightly bright, it has a habit of getting just a little too out-of-control with strings and other sources that register in the upper limits of the high end. The result appears as a high end that works well with female vocals, but seems to lack the resolution to tackle instrumentation.
When it comes to dialogue or voices, there’s enough soundstage in the AV50. If two people gab away, their voices will remain distinct. And while most headphones will manage as much, the AV50 somehow distinguishes itself for this feat.
Oddly, the AV50 sounds better using Bluetooth than it does using the supplied aux cable – even when that cable is plugged into a decent DAC/amp.
A skeptic might glance at the ZVOX AV50 and see a Bose knockoff with a short battery life and lackluster sound quality. But due to it’s emphasis on dialogue over sound quality in other areas of the frequency range, the ZVOX AV50 fills a niche audio need for folks who need the very best in accurate voices without the distractions of true-to-life instrumentation.
The ZVOX AV50 offers excellent midrange detail for its $149 price tag. Though I would personally opt for the wired Audio Technica ATH-M50x (at the same price) or the wireless M50x BT at $199, I also prefer a bit more fidelity in the lows and the highs (not to mention longer battery life).
That being said, if you’re looking for a lightweight, wireless, noise-cancelling headphone that handles vocal content especially well, you won’t be fazed by the ZVOX AV50.
At $149, the ZVOX AV50 offers an interesting take on audio with it’s focused emphasis on midrange detail. While not the perfect headphone for round-the-clock music enjoyment, this headphone does offer enough sound quality to easily tackle audio books, podcasts, and movies.
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