Kicker and I go way back to my early days as a car audio enthusiast. Even before I had my license, as a 15 year old I started packing Kicker subwoofers in my trunk paired with various amp and crossovers. Yes, I will admit, I was one of those obnoxious kids with more subwoofers than wheels- the one who rattled your window sills from a mile away. It turned into quite the hobby/obsession even entering a few local car audio competitions and even winning a few first places.
Being no stranger to car audio and Kicker products my interest was piqued when they introduced the ZKick. So I have had my eye on the ZKick dock for quite some time only having had a chance to preview it in the stores. It may be helpful to demo a dock like this in the store for features and build quality, but it can be hard to get a sense of sound quality and output in a big box store with kids screaming and Guitar Hero being played in the background. I finally got a chance to pick one of these units up and have been using it daily for the last two months.
- ZKick ZK500 Specs
- Size (HxWxD): 8.5 x 19.2 x 8.4 in.
- Weight: 9.2 lbs.
- Tweeter Sizes: 3/4”
- Woofer Sizes: 5”
- Passive Radiator Square Subwoofer: 6”
- MSRP: $250 (Amazon $180)
- Included: Speaker Dock, 3 dock inserts, AUX cable for other players, remote, AC adapter.
I made a quick video showing use of the ZKick on the Zune HD. Due to the change in the touch interface some of the remote buttons do not work- mainly the directional navigation buttons. Check out the video for the 411.
The unit itself is very robust and heavy made primarily out of a hard black plastic. The four front facing woofers and tweeters are protected with a non-removable metal mesh grill. Hidden behind this grill is the sensor for the remote control. The top center sports the display along with a push button rotary dial for volume and menu control.
Moving on to the back you have the AC adapter input and AUX input so that you can use other MP3 players or audio devices though the 3.5mm input jack. On the other side there are outputs for audio and video. It will only output your content at standard definition but it’s also really nice to connect to your TV and browse your media from across the room with your remote. This also works well for party situations. Above the passive radiator on the back is an indentation to be used as a handle for easy carry. This is very nice to have making it easy to tote around the house.
One of the great things about this dock is it is very portable all in one in terms of moving it around the house, but I found having the a bulky AC adapter to be a bit of a pain for quick transports around your home. Even in a more stationary setup it can be difficult to hide the adapter behind a couch or shelf. I would have loved to have the power unit integrated into the dock, even it did and more weight and bulk.
The media navigation is all handled though the Zune. So without using the remote you can do this on the Zune’s controls while sitting in the dock. The minimalistic display and push button rotary control will allow you to adjust the volume, treble, bass, and select the AUX input.
The remote control will allow you to navigate though your media just like you would on the Zune’s pad and buttons. Additionally you will find volume buttons, on/off/mute, skip forward/back, and pause/play. The remote works as well as any remote does, but the design and button layout hinders usability. Buttons should have been places more towards the top of the remote making it easier to hold and operate. But my biggest concern is the layout of directional buttons- it should better mimic the layout on the Zune. For instance the directional buttons should be in the shape of a plus sign with a center button not a “T”. The confusing part about the “T” layout is that it’s upside down compared to what most of us are used to on a keyboard layout. Even after 2 months or daily use I still find myself pressing the wrong buttons on the remote. I finally gave up and programmed my Harmony remote to handle the ZKick.
To put it simply, Kicker managed to fit their top class speakers and amps into a speaker dock without sacrificing performance and output. It truly is a robust car audio product crammed into a shelf system. Just like the car audio products these speakers are able to be driven hard and loud without distortion, something most shelf systems can’t do. In most of my reviews I’m used to stating output as something that can fill a room or small apartment, the ZKick on the other hand can fill a backyard comfortably.
Though this did present some concerns for me sine the bass was so hard and heavy and really loud volumes it would rattle the Zune back and forth in the dock. While it was cool to watch it was likely stressing the dock connection on the Zune. This is only a problem if you really crank it to too-loud-for-indoors volumes. There is a rubber pad to keep it from hopping out of the dock, but there still was still a substantial amount of movement. A quick and easy fix that I use in this situation was a ball of sticky tack on the back to keep it in place.
Loud output is definitely its forte, however, it still preforms very well at all volumes with clarity thou out the spectrum, so it will work well on your desk. One thing to keep in mind that channel separation is nearly non-existent since the speakers are so close together. You still can sit and listen at your desk, but if you are overly picky with your audio you might miss that sound stage. The ZKick is really designed to fill a room with sound and it does a great job at that.
Kicker’s car audio tech leaked into a consumer shelf system worked out very well. I might have a few minor complaints about the remote and external power supply, but overall I’m very happy with it. The ZKick has earned a permanent spot in my daily arsenal of gadgets. If you are looking for a Zune dock, this is the one to buy.
The ZKick originally arrived with a price tag of $350 but is currently seeing some deep discounts since it’s over a year old and kicker may be making room for new products with the release of the Zune HD. But I would still encourage you to pick one up if you are a bargain hunter since it will work for the Zune HD. Amazon lists it for about half the original price at $180 which is a steal. It really hurts to think I paid $100 for the iHome clock radio dock when comparing the quality of products.
For more discussion on Zune accessories, check out the Zune accessory forum.>