The ZK350 is the third installment of Zune Docks by kicker. I have already reviewed the other two docks: ZK500 & ZK150 if you are interested in checking out those reviews. In short though, the ZK350 hits a sweet spot somewhere in between blending portability with bass. In order to make it even more portable there is an optional battery add-on that will keep your beats playing for a few hours away untethered from the wall.
Design and Build Quality
The unit itself is rugged just like the rest of the ZK family- hard black plastic with metal grill screen. The buttons are minimal with just a center click rotary knob on the front. The display is very minimal with LED lights indicating volume levels and modes. I like this minimal approach since it keeps the unit cost down and really you don’t need any more info to display. The Zune’s screen takes care of most of it.
There is a handle on the back that is deep allowing you to comfortably grab the dock and move it. At the same time it’s stealthy and doesn’t look like it has a handle.One of the other nice things about this dock is they did away with the plate inserts for every different model of Zune. Instead they added an infinitely adjustable back plate so that any Zune will fit without having to find the box or wherever you put those pesky dock inserts. The more important thing is it is more secure than the inserts- important because it has been known to rattle the Zune right out of the ZK500 dock.
Underneath the front center of the player there is a magnet that stores the remote when you are not using it- kudos to Kicker for this clever feature. Since there is a magnet on the back of the remote you can also attach the remote to the front metal grill with minimal coverage of the speakers.
The remote has been improved from previous docks. The layout on the past remotes was confusing and was sometime hard to tell which side was up. The one for the ZK350 has a much better layout with properly configured directional buttons and clearly marked volume buttons. Some of the remote’s functions will be limited with the Zune HD since it is a touch device and directional controls are not even
The dock features two 1/2″ tweeters and two 4” subwoofers matched with a passive 4.5” square subwoofer on the back. The sound predictably won’t match my KRK studio monitors but still does a fantastic job at reproducing crisp highs and warm clean lows. Adversely to studio monitors, the ZK350 does a good job of filling a room with omnidirectional sound. It sounds good at most points off axis.
The ZK350’s low end is noticeably weaker than the ZK500 as expected with smaller woofers; it certainly does miss that really low wall rattling bass. However I feel
it does extend low enough and will still beat out most other docks that are similarly sized.
Simple EQ are available for treble and bass with 5+- levels of adjustment. I find that it’s nice and balanced as it is, but occasionally tune down the bass at night to be considerate to the neighbors.
Inputs & Outputs
If you keep your ZK350 mostly at a desk, the headphone outputs on the front might come in handy. Similarly if your dock resides near your AV gear there are fixed audio and video outs via RCA jacks on the back. For fans of the radio an antenna connection is on the back so that you don’t have to plug headphones into the headphone jack for an antenna.
The ZK350 has a few add on accessories to make it even more portable, away from a power outlet with the battery add-on or on the road with the 12 volt adapter.
The battery MSRPs for $100 but can be found for much less on Amazon. Depending on how and where you use the ZK350 will depend on if this price tag is worth it to you. It is after all about half the price of the unit itself. For me I find it to be well worth it since I like to be able to move the dock to different rooms depending on what I’m doing: living room, office, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom- it pretty much follows me around the house. Having this ease of portability, I get a lot more play time with the dock.
The battery is rated between 2-5 hours depending on how loud you play it. Typically I got somewhere around the 3 hour mark. So do keep this in mind when you are taking your speakers with you from room to room. For me this wasn’t much of an issue since I didn’t typically stay in a room for more than 3 hours and for the room I use it in the most, the kitchen, is where I kept the adapter plugged into the wall. So you will need to consider how much you will use away from the wall.
One annoyance I have with the battery is that the LED never shuts off, even when unplugged from the wall and from the dock itself. Kicker says the battery drain is minimal and I agree, but there still is some battery drain and the visual annoyance of a blue LED in a dark room.
One other note on the battery is that it is installed on the dock with screws. So you cannot easily swap out the battery on the fly. Not a big deal, it blends nicely with the dock and doesn’t add a substantial amount of weight.
12 Volt Auto Adapter
I don’t have one of these but I would imagine it would make the ZK350 an awesome companion on a camping or tailgating trip. This adapter plugs into your cigarette lighter in your car and will work for all of the Kicker speaker docks.
I have used nearly every Zune dock on the market and so far this one is my personal favorite since it combines great sound with portability. The ZK500 certainly does hit harder and louder, but for an 1100 square foot apartment, the ZK350 is way more than enough. I might lean more towards the ZK500 if I were using it outside or didn’t have neighbors to upset. Either way the ZK350 is a great option in the ZKick series of Zune docks.