- Written by Jim Clements
- Published on 03 February 2011
Since its release, I have really enjoyed MuteMath's self-titled debut album. The biggest track on this album is "Typical". This Grammy-nominated song has an excellent You Tube video of the song being performed in reverse. I love the driving beat and excellent drumming of the Mutemath sound. I ripped the CD to my iPod with Apple Lossless Encoding and played it back over the Zikmus.
I heard right away that the Zikmus have more inner detail than the ZVox ZBase 550 which I use for my bedroom system. The haunting vocals from "You are Mine" sounded subtly nuanced. The fast-paced songs had great rhythm and drive. The pacing was so good on all the upbeat material I played through the Zikmus that I spontaneously performed a greater spate of air-guitar exhibitions than I have done in years.
The downside is that the Zikmus usually produced a very small acoustic image. It was like a little diorama. This made Darren King's drum kit sound as if it were about 3' x 3'. The small image effect was not a problem when I used the Zikmus widely separated for background music. Also, tracks with lots of low bass, like "After We Have Left Our Homes" could easily tax the Zikmus amplifiers. The highs were rolled off, but they remained reasonably clean when I kept the volume within the limits of the internal amps.
An early form of "Crossroads" was the mid-70's collaboration between the jazz pianist, Claude Bolling and the classical flautist, Jean-Pierre Rampal titled "Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano". Something about the sound of the Zikmus made me reflect back on this old work and I promptly downloaded it from iTunes to my iPod Touch. Isn't technology great? I'm really glad that I downloaded this album it was a real blast from the past and small ensembles sounded good on the Zikmus due largely to the scale and power demand issues.
Obviously, the Zikmus have limited bass extension and the fundamentals from Max Hediguer's upright bass were hinted but not reproduced. But the bass weight was satisfactory and the bass was extremely nimble with fine pitch definition. This was good.
The piano sounded a little colored in the upper mids, but was generally quite natural throughout most of its range. On "Sentimentale", the flute floated over the stage and sounded really, really real.
Erica Wheeler's album Good Summer Rain was released In March 2008. The album features Erica's signature fusion of folk and bluegrass roots music. Instrumentation on this work includes mandolin, guitar, dobra, drums, piano and upright bass. This album is sponsored by The Trust for Public Land.
Track 1 is "As the Crow Flies". On it, Erica's voice was clean and clear – female vocals were quite nice on the Zikmus. The sound was nicely layered from front to back. This may be in part because of the bipolar mid/tweeter. Still, the sound was missing a certain sparkle in the highs. "Lucky in Love" had limited dynamics, but I was drawn into the song. There was better apparent bass extension on this album and the vocals were more transparent. The strings had an uncanny delicacy about them.
Some of the Zikmu marketing photos I saw had people lying around all catawampus on a sofa with the speakers almost randomly in the room and a guy controlling them from a laptop. In many respects, this is the best way for these speakers. For example, I took the Zikmus out on my 16' x 24' covered patio for an afternoon of cooking up a batch of English IPA. The burners I use are high pressure burners that make a lot of noise (like a tiny jet engine) when on all the way. The Zikmus generally played loud enough to be heard over this din. And they were much more balanced and transparent than the Mirage speakers that are mounted under the eaves of my patio.
It was a Sunday afternoon and we listened to the Third Coast Music Network on 90.1 KSYM, the local community college station in San Antonio. The FM transmitter they have is only 5,000 watts and getting a signal can be iffy at times. So I streamed the station off the internet using my laptop. It worked excellently all day long. I am recommending Third Coast to anyone who likes roots music, zydeco, blues, and alternative country. Check it out on a Sunday afternoon sometime. The only real drawback is that KSYM steams exclusively through Windows Media Player.
In this section, I have posted screen shots of the Zikmu web interface.