There are a zillion companies making a zillion little iPod/iPhone speaker docks ranging from about $100 (including the cute Paul Frank Julius monkey from Speakercraft) to, well, a lot more. The Arcam rCube falls into that “lot more” category at $799. When you add on the optional wireless accessories, the rCude creeps even further into “lot more” land.
But that’s what I’d expect from Arcam, a high-end audiophile company from England. This is a company with a history of catering to people with high expectations who are willing to pay for better products. So with that in mind, I unboxed the rCube and set out to listen to some music.
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The rCube is extremely uncomplicated. The unit is, as it’s called, a little 8-inch cube all covered in black speaker grille cloth (a white version with gray cloth is also available) on the sides, The top features a minimal suite of touch-sensitive button icons and a dock for the iDevice hidden by a little flip door like a like a trap-door-spider’s house (which also doubles as a carrying grip).
The rCube makes me think of a line from Dr. Who referring to his space/time machine the TARDIS–it’s bigger on the inside. Inside the rCube are two woofers and two tweeters and 90 Watts of amplification—plenty for a moderate sized room. The unit also hides a rechargeable battery so you can take it outside and power a picnic for up to seven hours.
Its compact size makes it easy to place on an end table or shelf. The instructions recommend corner placement in order to get the most out of the system’s bass output. If you don’t place it in a corner, there’s a bass button on the back which switches the EQ to emphasize the low end.
You may have already noticed that the rCube is not built for the iPad. That’s OK, because Arcam makes a wireless adaptor (utilizing Kleer wireless technology rather than Bluetooth) that fits the iPad or any other iThing. The rWand (as Arcam calls it) is a little dongle that fits the charge port. It took me a couple of tries to get the rWand to sync with the rCube, but once all the proper LED lights blinked green I was in business. Using the rWand you’re able to select and play your music directly from your Pod/Pad/Phone and use the device’s volume control (you can use the rCube’s remote for volume control too).
The rWand works very well, sounds great and let’s you operate the system from another room, but with the dongle attached to your iPhone you can’t put the phone in your pocket, and it may not fit around all phone cases.
A wireless USB dongle is also available for streaming your music from your PC to the rCube.
Sound quality was very good—far superior to both the Cambridge Soundworks and Altec Lansing players I had in the same room. The rCube produced a slightly cleaner bass than the Bang and Olufsen BeoSound 8, but lacked the sense of space the B&O features. The rCube was able to get very loud, much louder than most listeners will need except for outside use. In the latter situation, the rCube would be an excellent portable unit for patios and the like.
In the same price and performance column you’d find products like the B & W Zepplin Air ($599) and the Bang and Olufsen BeoSound 8 ($999) mentioned previously. Both of those systems have better stereo separation than the Arcam due mostly to the wider space between the drivers. The newer Zeppelin includes AirPlay compatibility, making wireless connection easy without an additional dongle. But both the Zeppelin and the BeoSound 8 take up twice the tabletop space.
If you’re looking for better-than-boombox sound for your iPod/Phone and space is concern, the rCube is probably the best you’ll find. While it’s pricy, we’ve seen it available for much less than its original $799 on places like Crutchfield, so that’s worth checking out too if you’re interested.
Optional rWand $99
Continuous power output (20Hz—20kHz at 0.5% THD), per channel
• Woofer channels, 4Ω, 100Hz—3.7kHz – 35W/Ch
• Tweeter channels, 6Ω, at 1kHz – 10W/Ch
• Harmonic distortion, 80% power, 1kHz – 0.1%
• Line inputs
o Nominal sensitivity – 250mV–1.5V
o Input impedance – 22kΩ
• Signal/noise ratio (CCIR, 45W) – 90dB
• Nominal output level – 90W
• Output impedance – <50 Ohms
o Output Level – ~94dB SPL/Vrms
o Output impedance – 100 Ohms
• Mains voltage – 110–120V or 220–240V
• Power consumption (maximum) – 90W
• Dimensions W x D x H (including feet) – 200 x 200 x 200mm
• Weight (net) – 5 kg
• Weight (packed) – 6.2 kg
Read a review of the Bang and Olufsen BeoSound 8 here.