New Gear: The Parrot Zikmu Solo

Having previously been pretty impressed by Parrot's Philippe Starck–designed headphone, the Zik, I figured the latest update to the Zikmu tower dock line might have a little more to offer than looks. And biases aside, that proved to be true, in a demo I got earlier today at NYC's Avatar studios the Zikmu Solo ($999, available in November) really impressed me with its expanded functionality and - more importantly - it's sound quality.

Looking much like its predecessors (sort of a fluted, homebound version of the monolith from Kubrick's 2001), the new Solo obviously has the Philipe Starck imprimatur of cool, but it's got quite a lot more going on under the hood. A pair of side-firing oblong HARP drivers flank a forward-firing BMR driver, each powered by its own 20-watt Class D amp; another 40-watt amp supplies power for a 6 1/2-inch downward-firing woofer of more traditional design. Bass management, room size and position compensation, and stereo virtualization are taken care of by Parrot's own DSP.

The upshot of all of this tech? A totally convincing stereo image from a single-point source a little more than 5 inches wide at the top of the column. One of the most impressive virtual stereo effects I can recall hearing. I'm serious. The demo opened with Pink Floyd's "Money," and the effects really did seem to come from their familiar places stage left and right; well to the physical left and right of the Zikmu Solo. That was followed up with some orchestral tracks.

And it'll play back just about anything you have on hand. Physical connections include analog audio, optical digital, and ethernet, plus a quaint little top-mounted 30-pin iOS dock. On the wireless side, it'll connect with your sources via And it'll pair with your Bluetooth devices over NFC. Tap and you're in business.

The full-featured Parrot Audio Suite app for iOS (and soon for Android) manages setup (with a simple graphical interface, you can input the size of your listening room, and the position of the speaker within it; the Solo then sets up its onboard DSP for you). That task accomplished, the app gives you complete control over pretty much every parameter, with a graphic EQ, plus lets you browse network shares (Samba and DLNA/UPnP). Plus the app lets you download and apply future firmware updates for the Solo itself. Very, very cool.

The Zikmu Solo certainly isn't cheap, but if you're looking for a cool-looking do-it-all streaming speaker that really does perform, it should definitely be on your list of devices to check out this holiday season.

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