The Zona is a small, powered bookshelf speaker. They measure only about 10” high and are 6” in depth and width. The black MDF (medium density fiberboard) cabinet is curvy in the back, differentiating itself from the herd of black rectangular boxes, the ubiquitous shape of bookshelf speakers. They have a 1” silk-dome tweeter, a 4.5” fiberglass woofer and a tuned bass port you hardly notice as it is a slot in the front rather than the round cobweb attracting hole that many ported speakers have in the back. They each have two class D (uses very little electricity) 20 watt amplifiers (total 40 watts per speaker) which are bi-amped - i.e. the tweeter and the woofer are powered separately – with DSP (Digital Signal Processing) technology and with all those electronics inside, weigh a solid seven pounds each.
If there’s one thing I can say about the Zona is that the set-up is close to fool-proof. So much so that I could not figure out at first, what to do with them or how to set them up – imagine an audio-geek standing there staring at the smooth, input-less rear of the speaker with cables in hand and scratching her head. You see… the Zona is completely wireless. The controller which is about the size of a small donut is the only way a signal is sent to the speakers, and all you have to do is plug it in. It self installs and if the speakers are already plugged into the power strips, they look for each other and both the controller and the speaker flash blue, green or red to show that they are synching and settle on a single color. All you have to do next is to select the speakers – which do show up in your audio panel as Speakers – “USB Headset” and you’re in business, whether you are playing music or a game.
When I first set up the system, I ran into a problem. The left channel was much quieter than the right and I could not get it to respond to the remote control despite powering both the controller and the speakers on and off. A quick email to their support however, and I was told that it had gotten out of synch somehow. Once I took the volume all the way down and the brought it up again both speakers were back in synch.
There’s another way to set them up which I also tried. The controller has a 1/8” analog audio input that you can plug directly into your receiver, processor or pre-amp if you prefer. A RCA to 1/8” Y cable and a straight 1/8” to 1/8” cable are included, as well as a USB wall wart (transformer) to power the controller. The Zona goes through the same search and synch process, and once setup, you can play your records / CD etc.
The Zona are pleasant sounding speakers and well balanced. The bass ports do a good job and provide quite a bit of bass and soundstage was actually larger than I had expected for speakers of this size and caliber. The bass does not go particularly deep but balance was quite good against the treble and bass. At average listening levels, they were quite competent for speakers in this category. For some tracks, treble could stand to be brighter and bass heavy tracks would distort, but we aren’t talking audiophile quality here, just good stereo.
Interestingly enough, you can’t push the speakers. The amps won’t play loud enough for you to really rock out. You want to really push that combat theme in your favorite game or really hear the ground rock in the midst of battle? Not going to happen. In a small reverberant room, like say my 8 by 10 office, it will fill the room. When set up with my gaming rig in my living room, not so much, no.
The remote is great for doing a quick mute and for the aforesaid re-setting of the speakers when they got out of synch, but the separate treble and bass controls for each channel are limited. They won’t make the sound fuller, but can lighten up the bass for bass heavy tracks so the speakers do not distort.
What I really wanted to do was set them up as surrounds – the back channels for surround sound. With a sound card and in that scenario, they worked like a charm. Since the Zona is wireless, I would not have to run cables to the back of the room. I plugged the controller into the port for rear speakers, checked to make sure the computer recognized them and they were ready to go. As they are now rears, lack of volume did not bother me, but the bass distortion did. Yeah, I wanted to hear the full range of Capcom’s Lost Planet: Extreme Condition. Still, gaming with surrounds again was grand. Yes, kids, the monsters are coming from behind the sofa. I hear them!
Aperion is a web only, direct-to-consumer audio company and seeks to free up and simplify access to surround sound in your home with the Zona Wireless speakers. That they did well. I could bring those speakers into my kitchen, my dining room or my bedroom and get the same music I was streaming in my living room. The company claims a wireless range up to 150 feet, and up to 300 feet with line of sight.
If you are a fan of portable gaming and like to move around with your laptop, the Zona might be for you. If you already have a competent 2-channel system and want to add rears without the hassle of cabling, you might want to try the Zona out.
Launched at $499, they currently retail for $399 and being a web-only company, Aperion offers a 30-day money back offer on all their products, with free shipping both ways.