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Zooka wireless speaker bar mostly disappoints

Lex Friedman | April 10, 2013
The Carbon Audio's $100 Zooka is a Bluetooth speaker available in black, green, gray, blue, pink, purple, red, or teal. My review unit is a color the company calls black, but it's a decidedly non-black dark gray.

However, the Zooka also suffers from Bluetooth issues. A good amount of snaps, pops, and such were the norm in my testing, rather than the exception. And the Zooka often partially missed iOS notification sounds as they came in--such sudden sounds got picked up about two-thirds of the way in, at best. (In other words, the sounds were choppily cut off.)

The speakerphone feature works typically for Bluetooth speakers at this price, which is to say not especially well. I could hear the folks on the other end fine, but to them, I sounded quiet, muffled, and as if I was, well, on a speakerphone.

Bottom line

Given the Zooka's mediocre performance, the question is, who should buy it? The answer, I suppose, is folks looking for hybrid speaker/stands. To me, Bluetooth is an odd choice for such devices, since the speaker is often physically attached to the source device anyway--you might as well use a dock connection or connect the speaker using a simple audio cable and get much better sound quality. As is, while the Zooka's design is convenient, the speaker's performance just doesn't offer enough to recommend it. The $100 Big Blue Live (4 out of 5 rating) offers a lot more sound for the same price, though without the novelty of attaching to a laptop screen or propping up an iPad. I'd personally rather get a good stand and a good speaker than a mediocre toaster-fridge.

 

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