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Carbon Audio Zooka review

Gordon Kelly

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Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score

6/10

Pros

  • Unique, durable design
  • Effective tablet stand

Cons

  • Weak, tinny audio performance
  • Expensive for performance level

Review Price £79.99

Key Features: 2x 30mm side-mounted drivers; Up to eight hours battery life; Bluetooth connectivity; Doubles as a tablet stand; 254 x 86 x 51mm, 980g

Manufacturer: Carbon Audio

It may only be January, but following the commencement of its international roll out in October many are already claiming 'Kickstarter' will become the buzz word of 2013. The crowd funding website has already financed a diverse array of endeavours from independent films and Oscar-nominated documentaries and critically acclaimed albums to enthralling video games and exciting gadgets (including the MetaWatch) and another of its major success stories has been the strangely named Carbon Audio Zooka.

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Carbon Audio Zooka - Design

Having hit triple its funding target early in 2012 the Zooka has generated a lot of attention for what is essentially a Bluetooth portable speaker, even being stocked in Apple stores around the world. The reason for this is simple: design. We've seen some quirky models in the past, but quite simply the Zooka looks like no speaker you have seen before.

The overall form factor is essentially a flattened tube which is slit open almost to the middle and speakers are housed at either end. The slit is crucial as it allows the Zooka to also act as a stand for a tablet. Gripping a tablet from the side raises it to a convenient typing angle, gripping it at the bottom positions it upright for watching video thanks to a screw-in kickstand. In addition the slit also lets the Zooka sit on top of a laptop making it easy to carry around while positioning the speakers at head height. Like all the best ideas the concept is simple, yet brilliant.

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Furthermore Carbon Audio has mastered the build materials. The Zooka is moulded from silicon which first enables the crafting of this unusual shape, but secondly makes it extremely durable while the matt finish is highly resistant to finger prints. It is a product that is designed to be handled. On the flipside the Zooka is quite substantial at 254 x 86 x 51mm and almost 1Kg (980g), but this does mean tablets are kept still in use even if laptop screens require a reasonably strong hinge.

One quirk is the cut out arch which differentiates the front of the Zooka. This is specifically for iPads so it doesn't obscure the iSight front camera and with most tablets and laptops placing their front facing cameras in the centre it should work for other brands too. Connectivity couldn't be simpler: there's the aforementioned Bluetooth, microUSB for charging, a 3.5mm auxiliary jack for wired connections and raised volume, Bluetooth and power buttons.

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Carbon Audio Zooka - Performance

While its design is what has given the Zooka so much time in the limelight, its audio prowess is crucial and here is where questions are raised. Carbon Audio has given little away about the speakers except to say they are dual 30mm drivers with a frequency response of 150 – 20,000Hz and a sound pressure level (SPL) of 80db at a distance of one metre. That said even these limited figures set off alarm bells. For a start 150Hz isn't particularly low for bass frequencies and 80db is in the sound bracket of dishwashers and electric razors and this is where the Zooka falls down...

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Michael Gunner

January 10, 2013, 5:15 pm

So, the question begs - what is the point? I don't know about iPads, but I own a Nexus 10 and the sound is decent enough. For £80, this has got to offer a significant improvement over the current sound quality otherwise it's a complete waste of time, it's just another stand, albeit a slightly fancy one.

IMHO this brings about one of the critical faults of Kickstarter - it allows joe public to decide a product is fit for market, and joe public are not really qualified to do so, and this is allowing sub par products to get into the market without undergoing the same testing and scrutiny that other commercial products are subjected to.

I had a browse yesterday and there's a project for a egg yolk separator. The worst thing is, the entire function of the product can be replicated perfectly with a throwaway plastic bottle. Completely laughable junk. Don't get me wrong there's the occasional good idea but most of it is bunk.

Jack Chamberlain

January 10, 2013, 7:16 pm

Not sure you can throw that criticism at Kickstarter. Surely joe public are the perfect people to decide whether a product is fit for (joe) public consumption. The public gets what the public wants and the manufacturer makes a few quid, everyone's happy. If joe public helps to kickstart an inferior product then it's their own fault; it's their money. No skin off our backs.

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