The Zooka wireless sound bar has a small footprint but its audio packs a powerful kick.
What's more, it can also serve as a microphone for Bluetooth devices.
The Zooka ($99), a Kickstarter project by Carbon Audio that started selling at retail last week, combines a pair of powerful speakers and a microphone in a rounded medical-grade silicone bar that's colorful and measures only 9-by-2-inches.
Although being marketed as an iPad and iPod accessory, it works with any device with Bluetooth wireless support.
The Zooka is a rounded silicone bar with a speaker at each end. One side of the unit is slotted so you can slip an iPad or iPod Touch into the device. There's also a notch in the slot so front-facing cameras won't be obscured by the unit.
The other side of the bar contains controls for power, volume, and Bluetooth connectivity. There's also a line-in/aux jack, mic, and mini-USB port. Zooka automatically switches from Bluetooth to aux input when a device is connected to the aux jack.
The USB port is used for charging Zooka. Battery life on a single charge is about eight hours, although the bar can be used as it's recharging.
Zooka's mic allows the unit to be used as a speaker phone. When paired with a handset, you can answer a phone by pressing Zooka's Bluetooth button. To disconnect from a call, you simply press the button again.
You can reject a call by holding the button in for two to three seconds. Its sound quality as a speakerphone is the equivalent of that produced by a desktop or mobile handset--it's not exceptional, but serviceable.
A 2.5-inch metal rod that slips conveniently into one end of the unit can be screwed into Zooka's back. That "kick stand" allows devices slotted into the unit to be used in an upright position. The problem with that arrangement, though, is you can't access Zooka's controls, as the edge they're on becomes the bottom of the unit.
With output five times that of an iPad, the Zooka is loud. But its sound is more than that. Its quality is very good, too. Anyone with a diminutive mobile device looking for some ear candy will be pleased with this sound bar.
Set-up is a Treasure Hunt
Setting up the Zooka, which comes in eight colors, would have been a lot simpler if better documentation had been included with the unit.
The quick start card packaged with Zooka leaves something to be desired. For example, it lacks a reminder that you have to charge the unit before you start using it.
It doesn't explain that a blue LED light at the front of the unit blinks blue when charging and is solid blue when charged.
To power on Zooka, you have to hold the power button in for about a second--another missing fact from the card.
The card does show you have to hold the Bluetooth button in for three seconds to activate it. Zooka will emit a tone at the end of that time to confirm Bluetooth activation.
Also absent from any documentation in the box is the passcode needed to pair Zooka with a Bluetooth device. It's 0000.
All the information missing from the card can be found in an excellent quick start guide for the device prepared by Carbon Audio. All you have to do is go online and get it, not a route taken by many enthusiastic purchasers until forced to resort to it.