In short the Zooka lacks any real bass or midrange and is far too quiet. As such what you get is tinny sound with volume that is louder than your average tablet, but certainly not guaranteed to better what you'll experience in any laptop larger than an Ultrabook. Being charitable it could be argued the Zooka claims its 80db rating at a one metre distance because it expects to be used primarily when sat directly in front of it using your device. Then again sound drop-off is so significant when you walk even a few metres away that it still feels incredibly limited.
Carbon Audio does claim by positioning its drivers at each end of the Zooka facing outwards that they create an omni-directional soundstage. The science behind this is solid and a similar method is employed by Orbitsound, but to achieve this requires more volume than the Zooka can provide. Besides at maximum volume the Zooka quickly distorts.
On the plus side where Carbon Audio has done better is the battery life boasting the Zooka will last up to eight hours on a single charge and this is largely justified at low to medium listening levels. The problem is high volumes are needed most of the time and this brings the battery life down to nearer five hours which is nothing special.
Carbon Audio Zooka - Value
Interestingly, while these criticisms are substantial, none of them would be deal breakers if the price were right. After all Carbon Audio has created a stylish, unique speaker that while not saving you the cost of a laptop or tablet cover does double as a nifty rest and comes in enough colours to appeal to younger members of the family – if not the kid in yourself. It is therefore frustrating to see the Zooka has been given a £79.99 RRP which places it in the price range of the infinitely more powerful Pasce Minirig which also has a whopping 60 hour battery life.
Yes the Zooka is cheaper than the outlandishly expensive £170 Beats Pill and similarly costly Jawbone Jambox, but they both offer call conferencing functionality and though sonically disappointing still substantially outperform the Zooka. As such the Zooka doesn't really save you money and while a much lower RRP could make it a more appealing product, as it stands it proves expensive for what is ultimately little more than a novelty.
We had reasonably high hopes for the Zooka. Carbon Audio has clearly crafted it with great attention to detail and its flexible design will no doubt win it a multitude of sales. Unfortunately this same love and attention has not been put into the performance and audio is poor with flat, bass-light reproduction which is little better than many of the laptops it is meant to enhance. Where the Zooka does shine is as a durable tablet prop, but £80 is too much to ask for this functionality when the audio is so limited. There is a good idea at the core of the Zooka, but it is back to the drawing board if Carbon Audio is serious about matching style with substance.