Have you ever heard of Zenbre? No, I hadn’t either, but it seems they provide a number of audio-based products via their site or Amazon. The SoundBank Z8 Plus is a direct successor to the Z4 speaker, and boasts a few neat tricks. For a start, it has an IPX6 water resistance rating, dual 10W speakers, a large 6600 mAh battery, as well as ample connectivity options. Just how well does it play audio though? Let’s take a closer look.
- Inoffensive aesthetics
- Huge battery
- Very loud playback possible
- Nice TrueWireless option
- Not the deepest bass
Overview & Performance – SoundBank Z8 Plus
Let’s start with the unboxing. This is a big beast, measuring over 220mm in length and tipping the scales at a rather chunky 1.1kg. You can, therefore, expect to have quite a hefty box to go with the device, and that’s certainly the case. The box flips open from its magnetic latch, showing the SoundBank Z8 Plus encased in soft foam, with a micro USB charging cable, 3.5mm audio cable and user manual in tow.
The unit itself has a soft silicone cylindrical chassis which is almost fully covered in the middle by the nylon mesh. It’s quite a nice nondescript design and I can see a lot of people having no worries putting this in their front room. A few more colour options would be nice though, with the likes of the Amazon Echo and Google Home lines coming in nice grey finishes.
On one end of the cylinder, you get your controls which comprise of a play/pause button, a call answer button, volume up/down, TrueWireless to sync with another device, as well as a source mode selection button which toggles between aux in, SD card and Bluetooth modes.
On the other end of the device, covered by a silicone flap are the connectivity options. You have a Type A USB port for charging a connected device, microSD slot as well as a 3.5mm aux jack and a microUSB charging port. All work as you’d expect in my testing, albeit the microSD card takes a little longer to scan the contents before playing depending on the size inserted.
Setting up is a breeze as with all Bluetooth devices in the last few years, and upon pairing you are greeting with what can only be described as a faux-“Duke Nukem” announcing the connection.
Once you start playing via Bluetooth, you’ll be using the Bluetooth 4.2 connection to stream your music which is a little disappointing. At the close to £80 price you’ll be paying for this device I’d expect to see Bluetooth 5.0 which would also bring the wider range and speedier connection. Thankfully in my testing, the SoundBank Z8 Plus didn’t suffer in either of those areas so perhaps their choice was vindicated?
Considering the unit boasts a 20W output and contains an amplification chamber, the bass is relatively lacklustre. It gets loud enough, but there is little rumble in streamed songs. It goes above and beyond many 10W speakers but there’s not enough here for me. My original Amazon Echo still delivers deeper bass in my testing, and you are of course receiving value-added smart home features with that device. Using the EQ button does switch through Treble, Bass and Normal modes, and the Bass mode does help quite a bit but only if you push the speaker up to a very high volume.
The SoundBank Z8 Plus does, however, get extremely loud when you push it; way louder than any normal human could endure. This is a great speaker for having outside of an evening with a group of people and will easily fill the void. Plus, thanks to its IPX6 rating, you can spill some water on it and it should survive also. Just don’t go swimming with it!
Despite its heft, it’s portable also thanks to the cleverly integrated carry loop which is stored into the base of the SoundBank Z8 Plus when not in use.
You’ll also be able to use this device for quite some time thanks to its included 6600 mAh battery. We managed to get 21 hours of continuous play (yes we tested that) but at low volume to ensure it didn’t keep me awake, however, expect to see closer to 18 hours at higher volumes. Once you have exhausted the behemoth battery, it’ll take around 4 hours to charge back up before you can get on your way again.
Conclusion – SoundBank Z8 Plus
The Zenbre SoundBank Z8 Plus is a decent choice for those wanting to fill a relatively large space with sound; it’ll do that until the cows come home. At the higher volumes bass starts to become acceptable, and the clarity of the streaming music over the Bluetooth connection is good. At lower volumes however it suffers, with the speakers struggling with nuance in songs at those lower levels.
The EQ button, for me, was largely redundant once you crank the speaker up, but the ability to pair it with another SoundBank Z8 Plus device for some surround sound playback is a great little touch, but at £80, that’s an expensive setup for what this is.
Whilst portable, the weight might be off-putting for some, and you certainly won’t want to be throwing this in your bag when you go on holiday, however for outdoor parties, and maybe in a larger room, the SoundBank Z8 Plus can deliver some decent, if not amazing, sound.