A while back I had the chance to review Palo Alto's Cubik speakers and found them to be unsatisfying when it came down to sound quality and performance. Luckily, we've got a similar concept of cubical goodness to try out. The UFi UCube speakers are made by a company called Ultralink who manufacturers some high-end audio and video cables. So naturally you would think these little cubical speakers are off to a good start. There's no denying that the UCube speakers will perfectly match aside your iMac or any other Apple computer with their aluminum stands that resemble the Apple aluminum pedestals found on iMacs and Cinema Displays.
Ever since UFi announced the UCube speakers I knew I had to try them out for myself. And what do you know, I've been sent a white pair to review. So jump past the break for the full review!
Out of the box, the UCube speakers come with an Ultralink branded, RCA audio cable that is used to connect the two speakers together. It's nice, thick and has gold plated plugs. The length of this cable will be the deciding factor when setting up these speakers on your desk. I found the length (3.28 ft long) of the RCA audio cable to be just right when used with a desktop setup. There's also a 3.28 ft long USB cable including that is used to both power up the speakers as well as to connect them to your computer. Last but not least are two aluminum stands which you can attach to the UCube speakers. I like the fact that you can use these speakers without the aluminum stands. Each speaker has rubber feet on the bottom and so do the aluminum stands.
Around the back of each speaker you'll find an RCA audio input while the right channel speaker has the mini-USB and RCA audio inputs. That's about all the port that you'll find on the UCube speakers. It's straight forward plug-n-play.
These speakers look great whether you use the aluminum stands or if you just decide to place them directly on a desk. I would, however, suggest using the stands as they angle the speakers towards you so you'll be able to get the most out of them that way. What's more is that there is no volume control buttons of any kind to be found on either of these speakers. I would have at least wanted to see some sort of usable features such as a power button, power status LED and volume control.
The build quality is actually very good considering the hosing of each speakers is made out of a quite thin plastic. What helps these feel like they've got a sturdy build quality is the unibody construction. You'll hardly even notice that these are actually made out of plastic, and that's a good thing. The sleek unibody construction and solid aluminum stands have a very sturdy build quality. You won't find any seams or mold points.
So how do these actually sound? I was really hoping these would outperform the Cubik USB speakers, but unfortunately that is not the case. I've been exclusively using the UCube speakers with my MacBook Pro for over a month now, and while they undoubtedly sound much better than the internal speakers you would find in any Mac, they fall short in terms of a desktop surround sound speakers. I wouldn't call the UCube speakers very portable unlike Razer's Ferox portable USB speakers you can take everywhere with you. I think these would be considered as a desktop speakers more. They aren't your ideal portable speakers. Which brings me to another point, there is not dedicated external subwoofer. If you've read the Cubik review you would know that the lack of an external dedicated sub resulted in a poor bass performance.
Sadly, we're caught in the same exact situation with the UCube speakers, but this time it's even worse. The bass performance on the UCube speakers is very disappointing to say the least. Granted they are a small sized speaker setup, but that doesn't mean the UCube have a "I can do whatever I want and get away with it pass".
You can get an idea of of small exactly these speakers are standing next to a 13" MacBook Air. It goes without saying they look really good together. However, that's not enough, especially when you're paying $150 for these. What I'm most disappointed in, is the bass performance in these speakers. UFi has slapped a few glorified specs in the product description when in fact none of that even matters. The bass is extremely weak and not pronounced. Bass doesn't sound good in these small speakers, but it's to be expected when there isn't an external subwoofer which is almost always the case for poor performance. The bass sounds like an annoying thin clap you would expect from a smartphone instead of a full bodied thump kick you would expect from desktop speakers. The price is high at $150 compared to other desktop speakers that have a dedicated external sub. Not good enough.
Thankfully not all is bad. The highs come to the rescue with their ultra clear and clean sound. The mids aren't very detailed and tend to distort when listening to rock and bass heavy music. What all this translates to is that the UCube speakers aren't a good sounding pair of speakers for most music genres and movie watching. It's safe to say that without the USB connection and quality RCA audio cable transferring all the audio between the source, the UCube would perform even worse.
So in conclusion, you're better off looking at some other speakers. I really love the look and versatility of these cubical speakers, but good, sleek looks aren't enough to persuade me into suggesting these $150 pair of USB computer speakers to anyone for that matter. To some of you these might not even look good too. Maybe you're more of a rounded objects person than a cube lover. What a shame Ultralink. We've learned a valuable lesson from this though, don't trust speakers without a dedicated sub. If you're still mad enough to consider these, the UCube speakers are available in white, black, red and silver.