Apple’s Steve Jobs always had a thing about cubes (G4, NeXT), and a love of music. Arcam’s very Apple-like rCube speaker system looks and sounds so good Steve would have been happy to have stuck the company logo on it. [Updated: October 10, 2011]
Apple’s one venture into own-branded speakers was the quickly forgotten Apple iPod Hi-Fi – a great, big slab that looked like a single speaker had toppled onto its side.
(I’m ignoring the translucent SoundSticks, iSub and Cube speakers as they were a joint venture with Harman Kardon.)
See also: iPod/iPhone speakers
The Arcam rCube combines the cool, minimalist looks of an Apple product with top-quality audio performance.
It’s not just minimalist in its clean glossy black or white lines. It measures just 200mm cubed. And at 5kg it’s half the weight of other supposedly portable speakers like B&W’s Zeppelin.
You wouldn’t want to carry the rCube all day but it’s easy to move around the house or office with its nifty hidden handle.
And it’s not just smart in looks and sound. The rCube is more sophisticated than other premium speaker systems.
It’s wireless in more ways than one. Using the rWave USB dongle you can losslessly and wirelessly stream music from your PC or Mac at up to 50m. Better than that you can connect up to eight rCubes to create your very own whole-home audio network.
With the rWand+ you can control what’s playing without having to leave the garden or kitchen. And parties can get even more interactive by passing the rWand+ round so that friends can have their turn DJing using their own iPods, etc.
Both rWave and rWand+ use clever Kleer wireless technology that’s superior to standard Bluetooth.
These extra don’t come cheap, however. The rWave costs £79, and the rWand just a tenner less. Neither comes packed with the base rCube unit.
The rCube’s integral Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery is a trooper, lasting up to eight hours, which should be long enough for most parties or days out in the garden.
And while it’s resting it will charge your iPod or iPhone.
The touch controls on the top of the rCube are also minimal, and there’s a slimish remote offering the usual volume and track functions.
And here’s my only negative about Arcam’s rCube. Despite being a cube you have to aim the remote at a reasonably strict angle to get results – usually above or to the front of the unit.
At the back you get a rear panel row of ports and sockets (AUX, Composite and Component Video, a USB connector for firmware upgrades, DC In, and a power switch).
There’s also a switch to reduce bass output when the unit is placed in a corner. When the rCube’s sitting in the middle of the room or at least away from bass-reinforcing walls you can activate the Bass Boost to compensate.
Unlike many similar better-sound-at-the-push-of-a-button magic switches on rival speakers Arcam’s Bass Boost button really does make a difference.
It’s hard to put into words just how good the Arcam rCube sounds – with pretty much any genre of music. It’s a cliché to say the sound has to be heard to be believed but I was not expecting the level of acoustic fidelity even though I’d read plenty of eulogising rCube reviews.
What HiFi praised its “unbreakably cohesive delivery … subtlety and sufficient punch”. Other reviews point out the rCube’s power and clarity, and state that “its acoustic performance is unmatched” and “gorgeously complete”.
What’s not to like about the rCube? Well, at £500 it was a luxury purchase – worth the money but out of many people’s price range. So the recent price drop to £350 makes this a superb and affordable premium Apple device speaker system.
It’s so good Apple should have made it.