Zoook continues to push out a series of affordable speakers in India, but the sound that these devices are capable of producing hasn't changed much over time. Last year, Gadgets 360 reviewed the Zoook Rocker Armor XL, which we noted sounds just about okay, but is nice and loud. Right now, we're looking at the company's latest product, the Zoook ZB Jazz Blaster Bluetooth, and for better or for worse, that description still feels like it holds true. Zoook has brought the pricing down a bit, and the design is appealing, but the audio quality still leaves a lot to be desired.
Zoook describes this speaker as a powerful tool to bring a party to life, and we're inclined to agree, though the party in question is probably taking place in a college dorm. On the plus side, the company says that the speaker is IPX5 certified, so if anyone spills a drink on it, there's no harm done.
Priced at Rs. 3,099 this speaker is not a bad deal. It looks very to the Boat Stone 1000 Bluetooth speaker, which is Rs. 100 cheaper, but without having seen the latter in person, we can't comment on how similar the two sound. Setting that aside for now, let's take a more detailed look at the Zoook ZB Jazz Blaster.
The Zoook ZB Jazz Blaster is heavy for a portable speaker, weighing in at 1.2kg. It's also pretty big - 11 inches wide, 4.6 inches tall, and 5 inches deep. It's not the sort of thing that you can toss into your bag and carry around everywhere. The advantage is that you can move it from room to room without having to plug it in.
A lot of the weight comes from the 5200mAh battery, which delivers pretty good battery life. After using the ZB Jazz Blaster for over a week, we found around 8 hours of playback pretty consistently, although of course, pushing the volume higher will use the battery a little faster. The design itself is interesting - the speaker has a front grille from where the sound is projected, while the sides are enclosed. Its looks evoke old stereo systems, complete with a strap in the middle similar to the handles many of those portable systems had. The body is covered in a plan plastic shell, with a rubber flap protecting a Micro-USB charging port and a 3.5-mm aux input. On the left side, you've got four rubberised buttons for Bluetooth pairing, pause/ play, volume up, and volume down.
If the rubber flap is in place, the speaker should be able to handle splashes of water - it's rated IPX5, which means you shouldn't submerge it fully, but it should be able to withstand spills or a quick rinse. There are two 15W drivers providing a total 30W output, along with passive bass radiators. This seems good on paper, but in actual usage, it only makes the unit loud.
There are audio prompts when using the speaker. It announces when it's been switched on and is ready for pairing. It lets you know when it's connected or disconnected to a source. Plug in a 3.5mm cable and it switches to Aux mode, while stating that audibly too. This allows for minimal controls and indicators on the device, which helps with the simple look. So far so good, but the audio side of things is disappointing.
We tested the speaker in a number of different conditions - with sources connected via 3.5mm cable or Bluetooth; using audio from a CD player, stored on our laptop, and streamed from our mobile phone. Across the board, the results were fairly uniform - the Zoook ZB Jazz Blaster is a loud Bluetooth speaker that does not sound very good. At full volume, you can fill a large room, and even in a crowded party with people talking, you're not going to be able to ignore it. Clarity however, is badly lacking, whether you're talking about low notes or high.
The sound also feels incredibly compressed - although the speaker has two independent drivers, the sound seems to be coming from a single point. Regardless of the volume, there's also no depth - everything is a muddy mix that sounds boring. Inspired by the name, we decided to put in a Dave Brubeck CD first, and it sounded like the saxophone had a cold.
Drum beats are loud punctuation marks in whatever you're listening to, but instead of a tight and focussed sound you have a diffused rumble. Upper-mids are the only area to get some definition, and it's okay but still kind of disappointing.
Using our laptop connected to the speaker with a 3.5mm cable, we tried out high-res files of the Hamilton OST. Some tracks, like Farmer Refuted, sounded okay, though the lower register was largely absent. Others with a wider range, such as Satisfied and Right Hand Man, sound confused and you can't pick out the individual elements in the tracks.
We also listened to a number of songs on YouTube over Bluetooth, including the viral hit Jimikki Kammal. Not surprisingly, it doesn't get better. Simply put, this is not a speaker you want to buy if you just want to listen to music by yourself. If your goal is to fill up a crowded space with sound, it'll get you there, but you lose depth and richness in the process.
At Rs. 3,099, the Zoook ZB Jazz Blaster won't empty your pockets, and it sounds fairly in-line with many other products at this end of the price spectrum. Our personal choice would be to spend less, and get a smaller, quieter, but clearer-sounding speaker such as the Logitech X100, which will set you back by just Rs. 1,690 these days. We've used it daily for years now, and it still remains a great buy.
On the other hand, go past Rs. 4,000 and you'll start to notice a big step up in quality, from brands such as Creative, Logitech, and Altec Lansing, with products that can still deliver volume. Your final choice depends on what you're looking for, and that college dorm scenario does sound like a place where something like this, perhaps bought at a discount during an e-commerce sale, would be a good fit.
Price (MRP): Rs. 3,099
Ratings (out of 5)