REVIEW: Palo Alto Audio Design Cubik

Laptop speakers are notoriously poor, regardless of whether they include the latest technology and quad surround speakers. And while most desktop computers come with a reasonable set, there are plenty of alternatives available if you want to upgrade.

You may even be surprised to know that the top choices include a plethora of options for a more full-bodied sound from your PC―without breaking the bank! The latest pair from California-based Palo Alto Audio Design sport a creative design and claim cutting-edge digital audio components for high-end sound quality. The downside is that the Cubiks cost a cool £179.99 (RRP). Is that money well spent?

Features

Purchasing a good set of PC speakers has many benefits, most obviously the improvement in sound quality. But many also offer attractive styling and multiple audio inputs and power options for improved ergonomics and versatility. And with more and more people working from a home office and spending longer periods of time in front of a computer screen, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to enhance the whole computing experience.

Recently launched in the UK, the Cubiks are a slick looking set of 2.0 speakers that would sit well on any modern desk. Cubed-shaped with cut-offs at each corner to enhance the visual appeal, the Cubiks sports a wholly-black matte design with an unusual dimpled golf ball like effect. The front grills, like the screw-on stands, are made of aluminium and give the Cubiks a mean―but impressive―look and feel.

A key design trait of the black cube speakers are that they’re angled to provide optimum listening at desk position. So, instead of the sound hitting you in the ribs or chest area, it’s actually delivered up to each side of your face for that vital sweet spot.

The Cubiks are also different as they connect to your computer via USB (9-volt power adapter is included). Compared to a standard lower-fidelity 3.5mm audio connection, USB is totally digital so the sound files remain in the digital realm and the speakers take care of the digital-to-analogue conversion process―unlike a 3.5mm connector which handles the conversion process. The end result is clearer, more eloquent audio performance at moderate volumes.

The downside is that Cubik’s small enclosures and 2.5-inch drivers can’t handle loud volumes without distorting and the lack of a subwoofer means bass levels are flat. Sure the design is listener-friendly in busy offices, but home users wanted to crank up the volume will be left disappointed. Other criticisms are that there is no auxiliary input for connecting non-PC devices, no headphone jack, and no remote control.

Palo Alto Audio Design should also have added tilt adjustment to the stands, allowing you to adjust the angle of each speaker to best suit your sitting and desk arrangement. We were also astonished that the left speaker is hardwired, meaning you’ll have to return the speakers to the shop if you ever encounter a problem.

Summary

When technology is ever evolving, even computer speakers can become outdated. Options such as aesthetically pleasing designs, remote controls and the ability to toggle between inputs on the computer are now starting to become as much of a focus for manufacturers as overall sound quality. Palo Alto Audio Design has chosen to ignore all these user demands and produced a speaker system that prides itself on design rather than performance. Best suited to casual computer users looking for an elegant design for playing back classical or folk music at sensible volume levels, the Cubiks don’t offer the performance or features to justify their high price.

  • Test

    It’s 2.0, not 2.1

    2.1 speakers are 2 satellite speakers and subwoofer