Home Reviews Entertainmnent Gadgets Parrot Zikmu Solo – review

It is a full-fledged 2.1, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speaker system – but not as we know it. It is an objet d'art too.

Parrot products, designed by S+ARCK, means that the form is beautiful but the function is equally important. It is an unmistakable, minimalist, elegant, signature design.

There is nothing else like the Zikmu speaker, nor like the incredible Zik headphones previously reviewed.

To a reviewer that presents a little problem – do you measure it by Hz, or by form, or by design, or by gut feel – here goes on all fronts.

 

Out of the box - form

It comes in a box shaped a little like an exaggerated trombone case. On the inside that is what it looks like – a large round trombone shaped bell base tapering inwards to a flat-sided spire finished in gloss ABS and matching cloth mesh. Drop dead beautiful and an elegant addition to any lounge room.

It is designed to sit anywhere in a room – the app for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone allows it to be placed in a corner or centrally and still immerse the room with stereo sound.

(Note the picture left is an x-ray view)

Function

The function is a 2.1 speaker system connected by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth (NFC or passcode pairing), Ethernet RJ-45, iPhone/Pad/Pod or if all else fails an analogue audio source delivered by a standard 3.5mm sound cable or an optical digital toslink PCM format cable. It plugs into mains power as well. The sound radiates from a single tower to give full stereo separation with air moving bass from the down firing woofer bell base.

S+ARCK says Zikmu offers an extra dimension created by the vibration, where the air itself comes to life. “You have an object, which creates this air that surrounds you on all sides, that has a presence, like a human presence, like a fragrance.”

 


Specifications

Specifications – always a good fall back – give an indication of what Zikmu can do but they do not tell you how good it sounds – at least to my ears.

  • Total power output: 100W RMS, 50W per channel – more than enough to fill a large room
  • 3-channel (Class D) digital amplifier
  • Frequency range: 50 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Compatible audio formats: MP3, LPCM
  • Settings: volume, R/L balance, equalizer with pre-sets – but use your smart device to really customise it
  • RF remote control for source, volume and forward/back
  • RCA line-in input for all audio analogue sources
  • Wi-Fi b/g with SES/WPS
  • Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, A2DP and AVRCP, Range: 15 metres
  • Cabinet custom moulded design using ABS and PMMA resins with acoustically transparent cloth grilles over the membrane sections
  • Power supply: mains
  • Dimensions Height:750 mm, Bottom: 320 x 290 mm, Top: 130 x 35 mm, Weight: <8kg
  • Colours: Sorbet Lime, Artic White, Pearl Grey, Classic Black, Dragon Rd

What it does and how it does it

This is an audio streaming device that is driven by (a) Bluetooth (from your smart device), (b) Wi-Fi/Ethernet (from your router or Mac/PC) or (c) by a physical connection – plug in the smart device to the top dock or use an analogue or optical digital cable to connect TV.

In order to stream audio the device you connect has to be able to stream – support AirPlay, DLNA and UPnP. In tests it found a WD MyCloud storage device, and a WD My Passport USB external hard disk, an iPad, Windows Phone, Windows Media Centre and could play MP3 directly from these. All of these functions are best managed by using a tablet as you get additional information and the ability to set up play lists.

It supports pairing with up to 10 devices – sources - but only one at time will work. I found this a little confusing when using the remote control to select the source – it is far easier by the app.

If you want to use it as a replacement for an entertainment sound system it needs to be connected to an audio out source – preferably optical digital but analogue will do – that brings the matching sound stream to the video stream together e.g. from your smart TV. Some TV’s have network connections but I was unable to test this due to an older smart TV. Instead I hooked up the AU$50 Avantree Saturn Bluetooth transmitter to the TV and streamed audio to the speaker – all good.

Apart from an umbilical power cable, the beauty of Zikmu is that you can place it anywhere within 15 metres of the sound source – on a balcony, in the lounge, study etc., - it just works.

Sound quality

A traditional flat speaker radiates sound outwards from the front panel. Zikmu radiates sound all round – 360 degrees or ‘fragrance’ as S+ARCK calls it – as well as a down firing woofer.

It has its own digital signal processor and amplifier so it is highly customisable via the app that provides equaliser, placement, and several pre-sets. It also seems to clean up poor bitrate streaming and deliver crisp sound. But the trick is to tweak the sound to what you like – it makes a noticeable difference and the equaliser is easy to use.

I tested it against a Pioneer AVR and a set of Jamo 2.1 bookshelf speakers - at comparable listening levels it was as good as the entertainment system. Whether it can replace an AVR based entertainment system really depends on the HDMI switching functionality and audio out connectivity of your smart TV – it certainly handles the audio brilliantly.

A pair of Zikmu’s can be used in larger room or for more stereo separation.

Summary:

Pros

  • Drop dead gorgeous design
  • ‘Fragrance’ immersive room sound
  • Great connectivity if your devices support audio streaming
  • A real talking point – there is nothing else like it

Cons

  • Don’t try to use it without the apps – which work for the Zik headphones as well
  • i-device dock uses older Apple 30 pin connector – yes you can use a lightning converter but that’s not the point

Most reviewers give this at least 8 out of 10 and we concur – in the right place and environment it is a 10.

Price: AU$1199 from specialist hi-fi retailers, Myer and Apple stores. These are sold by specialists – not eBay - so the price is the price.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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