- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 03 February 2011
Design and Set-up
The speaker set comes with two mini towers, two 6-1/2' (2m) decent quality braided power cords, an RF remote, a rudimentary Quick Start Guide in 9 languages and a variety of iPod dock adaptors.
I don't comment about product packaging very often, but I can't help myself this time. The speakers were shipped in a relatively flimsy cardboard carton and I was worried that they were probably jangled around mercilessly in transit. I opened this outer carton and was delighted to see the real packaging underneath. The real packaging was a black Styrofoam case that from the outside looked like it had a couple of trombones in it! This case had a handle on it. Does Parrot view this as a "portable" sound system? The handle straps around the case and is held by four snaps. It could be a little difficult to get all the snaps to close because the strap fit snugly. Inside the case, each speaker and the remote were packed in individual, form-fitting neoprene socks. All told, this may be the most unique packaging I have ever seen.
The mini towers' enclosures are predominately glossy plastic enclosures with perforated metal grilles up top covering the mid/high drivers. The Zikmus are available in four basic colors, plus some limited edition units with skins designed by various artists. While I found their look to be interesting, I don't think the Zikmus will ever achieve cult status like the Salif juicer. The fact of the matter is that they will blend in with a limited range of interior styles. They didn't fit into the Mission-Style interior design of my suburban home. On the other hand, if I lived in a metropolitan flat with modern furnishings, then the Zikmus would be a welcome addition.
The towers are only 2'-6" (750 mm) tall and weigh a scant 7 lb 11 oz (3.5 kg) each. I kind of wish that they had an integral handle because they were awkward to lift and carry. But I think a handle would defile the speakers' visual design and would obviously interfere with the top-mounted controls and docking station.
Each tower contains 50 watts of Class D amplification. They are said to be tri-amped. No additional details are provided, but I will assume that one amp powers the bass driver while the other two amp channels drive each of the two "exciters" for the bi polar mid/high panels.
There is one 5" (125mm) down-firing bass driver in each tower. According to Parrot, the "Zikmu is a bass-reflex system equipped with a custom designed woofer. The motor of the driver and its suspension [have] been tuned for a perfect sixth order alignment between the driver, the acoustic enclosure and the electronic filtering."
The mid/high drivers are handled by flat honeycomb transducers. Here is Parrot's explanation of their design and implementation, "[The panels are] driven with 2 exciters. The panels are [hung] with a surround whose profile has been adjusted to lower the mechanical impedance of the edges. Neoprene dampers are used to control the drum mode at high frequencies. The exciters are maintained in a semi-rigid manner thanks to a damping material attached to a metal structure. They enclose a compact double neodymium magnet motor and a dedicated suspension to minimize rocking mode at high volume."
Parrot states that the internal DAC's are 48 kHz and 24-bit. This may not sound like a lot in this day and age, but considering the nature of this system, I am certain that the resolution of the DAC's is not a limiting factor in the Zikmu's performance.
Basic set up was a breeze. You simply attach the power cords, plug them into a wall outlet and then jam an iPod into the right tower. The power cords plug into the base of each tower and are the Mickey Mouse type. One of the cords did not fit very snugly and I was worried that it would come loose too easily. I obsessively checked it often but it never did come out on its own, even as I schlepped the speakers from room to room.
Of course, synching the towers to my laptop via Wi Fi was a little more involved. Still, the only real hiccup was that I needed to relax my firewall settings to establish the initial connection. The Zikmus then connected to my WEP-encrypted router without a hitch. After that, I was able to restore my usual firewall settings and the unit worked flawlessly.
You can also easily synch the Zikmu to Bluetooth devices such as smart phones and Mac Books. As mentioned above, it can synch up to 10 devices so I could see synching the Zikmu to your friends' devices and they could share their music whenever they come by for a visit. Each tower also has a stereo RCA input for legacy analog connections or to use the system as external speakers for your TV.
The included RF remote has power, volume up/down, skip/replay, play/pause and source buttons. You can't access the iPod menu from the remote or from the web interface. This is something that Parrot should seriously consider providing with future versions of the Zikmu. If you were using an iPod Touch, an iPhone or another Bluetooth device to control the Zikmus, then the external device would become your remote and you would have full control.
I found out right quick that the Zikmus had certain limitations with respect to their loudness capability. But when run within their limits, the Zikmus' sound was remarkably engaging if not downright beguiling. So I wound up doing 90% of my critical listening with the speakers about 6' apart with me sitting on the floor about 6' from the speakers. This way I could evaluate their sound without overdriving the system.