A great brand name, design, functionality and sound are all the key ingredients of which superb speakers come to fruition. Palo Alto's Cubik speakers are most likely the only pair of angled cubicle speakers you've never seen before. The Cubik's cube design certainly lives up to its name. You may be thinking these pair of speakers are going to set you back a lot, but thankfully that isn't the case. The Cubik will run you just under the $200 price tag. These puppies are no small speakers but they also don't have a dedicated subwoofer that's a relatively native feature with almost all speakers at this price point. While looks are very important to most consumers, sound is the most important factor when it comes down to picking up a pair of speakers. Find out just how well Palo Alto's Cubik speakers perform in the full review right after the jump.
Out of the well packaged and organized packaging, the Cubik speakers are very easy to set up and do require an external power source. Because the Cubiks do not come with a dedicated external subwoofer, I think they will appeal to a very specific audience. After weeks of testing and audio listening, it turns out that it is indeed the case.
Lets go over the build quality of the Cubik speakers first. Each speaker uses a heavy metal stand that screws into the bottom and completes the overall angled cube design we see throughout these speakers. I'm a big fan of different looking speakers of those I am normally used to. The Cubik speakers feels very solidly built and have a matte soft-touch coating. Upon usage, I found that the soft-touch coating was not such a good idea to use on speakers. It attracts lint, dust and oily fingerprints. At least it looks really good for a few days and it's definitely better than a cheap looking and even more fingerprint prone, glossy finish. Underneath the matte, soft-touch coating is a golf ball-like dimple pattern that gives the speakers an even more interesting look.
There is no denying the fact that the Cubik speakers have a great impact on how good they look sitting there on your desk, but of course looks aren't everything. Let's get down to how well these perform and sound.
The Palo Alto Cubik use a USB connection to connect and transfer digital audio from your Mac or PC which is then amplified providing a clean and higher quality audio than the standard analog 3.5mm output. I've got mixed emotions when using the Cubik while listening to music of all genres. I found the sound to be very clear throughout the sound spectrum meaning very clear highs, mids and lows. Vocals sound crystal clear. Sadly, the lack of an external subwoofer has greatly decreased the sound quality when listening to music with a great deal of bass. A feature called the 'bass boost' is a button you will find yourself wanted to press to get a noticeable bass response out of the Cubik speakers, and like all bass boosts, this feature will never replace a true subwoofer. Without turning on the Cubik's bass boost feature, you will find that the bass response is very weak.
When using the Cubik's bass boost feature, the bass drowns and overpowers and distorts the mids resulting in a mediocre sound. Music with a lot of bass requirements isn't the Cubik's strong point what so ever. However, listening to classical and less bass-demanding music with the Cubik speakers is actually a while different story and much more enjoyable. Stepping back and not using the Cubik's bass boost results in a weaker bass response, though the mids and the highs are not overpowered. This is where the $200 price tag becomes overpriced when compared to other speakers currently available on the market.
A few more downsides to the Cubik speakers are that there is no tilt adjustment, meaning the sound direction is fixed and you cannot adjust the angle of each speaker to best suit your sitting and desk arrangement. This is something that I think Palo Alto should have at least incorporated at the $200 price. There are volume and bass boost buttons on the left speaker which work flawlessly to control your computers sound levels as well as quickly muting the audio.
The Cubik speakers are very limited when it comes down to inputs and outputs. On the back you will find a power input, a mini-USB input for audio and a proprietary input that is used to connect to the right speaker. The cables are all fairly long and do a good job for a desktop setup.
All in all I don't think the Palo Alto Cubik are worth your money at $200. There are far better options out there like Harman Kardon's SoundSticks 3 which are below the Cubik's price tag and have a dedicated external subwoofer. The Cubik's bass boost is a weak attempt at creating a stronger lows which end up distorting the rest of the sound. If you're someone who doesn't need the power and quality of en external subwoofer, the Cubik speakers are an overpriced item you may want to try for yourself. Good looks outperform the sound quality and that's a shame. The Cubik could have had an extreme potential if only Palo Alto had not sacrificed a few key features.