The UFi UCube USB Powered Computer Speakers Page 2

Product Description
The UCube speakers measure 3 1/4" per side, and mount with a single thumbscrew to the two tidy brushed aluminum stands, which are included. Also included are the 1 meter USB cable, and 1 meter RCA cable that runs from the left to right speaker. The USB cable connects to the left speaker, which houses all the electronics. The speakers aren't labeled "left" and "right" but the left speaker is the one with the USB connection.

The UCubes in Use
The UCube really couldn't be simpler to use. Screw the speakers to the stands; hook up the cables; make sure the computer recognizes the UCubes; and play music at will. Many computers will automatically recognize the UCubes and begin to play, but sometimes it will be necessary to go to the computer's control panel and manually select the speakers, which will appear as a USB device named "UFi UCube."

The real advantage of these little speakers is their portability. I've been using them while writing out on my back porch on my laptop. But I also brought them up to a Forest Service cabin my buddy and I rented over the holiday weekend so we had tunes while we did mostly nothing but relax. It was cool.

The only gripe I have with the product is that it should have shipped with some sort of carry pouch. Seems like a big mistake to me. These are great little speakers to tote about, but that becomes a bit of a problem without anything to carry them in. I ended up just sliding them into a sock with a small piece of cardboard between their front grills, which worked fine, but I would have preferred a dedicated pouch.

Sound Quality
Okay, they're not as good as my Harbeths, but they're a damn site better than the computer speakers on my MacBook Pro. The UCubes had much more even frequency response with little honky mid-range, if any. As expected, there's little bass response below 100Hz -- a speaker this size will just never be able to do that -- but the upper bass was there, and provided a reasonably comfy bed for the rest of the tunes to lay in.

The highs were a bit splashy and tizzy. In reading some of the promotional materials, it's evident that they've done some things in the DSP to improve the imaging of these speakers. I did perceive that the image was wider and deeper than I expected, but a bit artificial in nature. I suspect some of my perceptions of the highs were due to this processing. While the highs were a bit prominent, they weren't harsh or biting.

Overall, the sonic rendering of the UCubes was quite well balanced, and could be played at surprisingly high volumes. These little gems could easily be used for background music in a studio apartment, dorm room, or RV.

A Note to DIYers

HiWave (the maker of both the Audium chip and BMR speakers in the UCube) makes a developers kit for the DyadUSB system. This kit includes software that will allow you to play around with the DSP EQ and audio effects in the system.

Summary
The beauty of the UCube lies in its simplicity: elegantly simple good looks; ridiculously simple to set-up; simple good sound for your laptop; and simply a bargain at $149. You bet, I'll simply recommend them for folks wanting an easy way to make their laptops sound better on the move.

I wish they had made a carry pouch for them, but I've got a spare sock now ... lemme know if you need it.

Lots of resources on the technology after the video.

Resources
Ufi's UCube website.
Naim Audio makes a BMR driver, and has a good white paper on BMR technology.
HiWave's pages on BMR drivers, the Audium amp, and the press release on selling its intellectual property to NXT, which became HiWave.
A similar product using the DyadUSB system by Sound Science called the Qsb Speakers.

COMPANY INFO
Ultralink Products
231 Bentley St.
Markham, Ontario, Canada L3R 3L1
info@ufiproducts.com
905-479-2831
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Limp's picture

I had all but given up on speakers in this size and price range, then came this. Looks very promising.

To you, Tyll, and anyone else using multiple sound devices on a Mac, I recommend this neat little application called SoundSource, found on rogueamoeba.com/freebies.
It makes it possible to choose sound in/outs without going through System Preferences.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Nice! Thanks for the tip, Limp!

dalethorn's picture

I got my first Nxt's in 2001 I think - don't remember the brand, but were for desktop computer and about $100. They sounded fairly dull. A couple of years ago I got the Nxt travel speaker from Brookstone for about $40, which sounded better, but not a stereo speaker. A Google search did not turn up any high quality speakers like these cubes, just a bunch of cheap toy things, and references to Nxt technology drivers being included in some "high quality" theater systems. Now if they can make some other form factor speakers that sound as good as the cubes, that would be interesting. Like the iHome variety, which might look like a small book or a CD case, and fold out to twin stereo speakers, having good sound for circa $150. I'm not holding by breath on that, since that would be far too useful, and it wouldn't appeal to the average consumer.

Negakinu's picture

I want the sock! :)

How do these compare to say, something like the JBL On Tour or even the Audioenginge A2? Thanks!

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Don't know about the JBL ... I'll try to get some Audioengine stuff in for review sometime soon.
Armaegis's picture

If you're looking at the Audioengine stuff, folks might appreciate a short head-to-head with the M-Audio AV40 are those are commonly squared off against each other.

Armaegis's picture

Hah, it's funny to see someone else using socks to carry miscellaneous gear. I use abandoned socks (the ones that have lost their soulmates to the great washing machine in the sky) to hold my mouse and hard drives.

Tyll Hertsens's picture
Great minds think alike!
JIGF's picture

Looks interesting.

I have a Lacie firewire speaker and it is deplorable.

Another company you should check out aside from Audioengine is HiVi, they have many computer speakers.

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