Video/Photo Review: Kicker ZK500
Today, we're reviewing Kicker's ZK500 - a self-contained stereo system with Zune docking cradle.
Available in May 2008, Kicker touts this system as the "loudest and most innovative stereo system available for your Zune". After a day of poking, prodding, and playing the ZK500, we can attest to its ability to rock the house - and that combined with its impressive feature set earns it our "Recommended by Zunerama" rating.
The ZK500 provides bass and treble adjustments, well-designed controls, and a thin remote that competently mirrors Zune player functions. We especially liked the adapters that provide a snug fit for any model of Zune player.
Thoughtful features aside, it's the sound that counts. Kicker doesn't disappoint, loading the ZK500 with five-inch woofers, 40-watt stereo amplifiers, and a square six-inch subwoofer - all in an attractive, compact package.
Read on for our video and photo review, covering the features and performance of the Kicker ZK500. The video below lets you see and hear the features of the ZK500.
Packaging. Our review unit arrived double-boxed with the ZK500 encased in styrofoam blocks.
In the Box. Included with the ZK500 is (from left to right) an auxiliary-in cable (for connecting a non-docked player), three adapter plates (more on those below!), remote control, AC adapter, and owner's manual.
Right off, I like the ZK500's graceful lines. Its controls are sparse and functional, with a neon blue glow around the rotary control that matches the LCD display above it. I appreciate that the docking area is inset into the player - it gives some protection from the Zune player being subjected to accidental knocks and bumps.
(Of course, it's been a while since I've hosted a dance party that got that rambunctious.)
The three dock adapters handle every Zune player: Zune 80GB, 30GB, and 8GB/4GB models. The adapters snap satisfyingly into place. In the first picture, you can see what Kicker calls the "vibration isolation pad". It's a circular bumper that keeps your player from feeling the full force of the system's bass vibes.
The open slot in the adapter plate allows you to pry it out. Each of the three adapters makes for a satisfying fit for its intended Zune models. The 8GB and 30GB models are shown below.
Backside. The rear view below reveals the recessed carrying handle, and the six-inch subwoofer - a "square passive radiator" in Kicker's parlance.
On the lower left are connectors for composite video out, and L-R stereo RCA output. If you're so inclined, you can connect the ZK500 to your television and enjoy Zune video-out and/or audio-out through your home entertainment center.
Beside the power connector is a 1/8" stereo Aux-Input. The included male-male stereo connector can be used to connect the ZK500 to any MP3 player or other device with standard 1/8" stereo output.
Dimensions and Weight. The ZK500 measures in at 8.5" high, 19.2" in length, and 8.4" deep, and weighs 9.2 pounds.
Controls. The blue-lit rotary control is a clean design and easy to use. It's a push-button for turning on power, and for scrolling through the menu options of Volume, Treble, Bass, and Aux-In.
As you'd expect, rotating the control adjusts the volume or changes settings in the other menu options.
You can put the ZK500 into Standby mode by pressing and holding down the control. In Standby mode, the Zune player continues to charge while it's resting in the dock.
Remote. The infrared remote control mimics all of Zune's player controls. In a nice touch, the Mute button stands off on its own, for quick access when needed.
The Sound. The peppy ZK500 lives up to the Kicker brand name. For a relatively compact device, its sound packs surprising power - with booming bass and celery-crisp highs.
With a variety of tracks, I cranked the volume up to the limits of my pain threshold. I was pleased to find low distortion levels even at the upper end. The ZK500 volume control goes up to measure of 40, but I think I'll rarely have this above the 20s. Interestingly, the Zune player volume control does not affect the ZK500 sound output; the volume is only controlled through the ZK500 rotary control (or the remote control).
Essential specs on the ZK500:
With its resonating bass and rich sound quality, the ZK500 impressively injected new life into my playlists. It's a compact, muscular sound system, and offers a clutter-free music solution.
We're pleased to see Kicker enter the Zune stereo market with this compelling stereo system. We're awarding the ZK500 our "Recommended by Zunerama" rating.
You can see pricing and more product info at Kicker Systems on Amazon and at Kicker's website.
Price: $349.99 (lower with introductory pricing)
Amazon link: Kicker Stereo Systems