Palo Alto Audio Design Cubik review
Tiny speakers with a very big sound, but the Cubiks are simply too expensive for most consumers
Traditionally, large-as-life sound requires one of two things: big speakers, or smaller satellite speakers partnered with subwoofers to handle the bass frequencies. By that token, Palo Alto Audio Design’s tiny Cubiks look entirely ill-equipped. Each cube houses a single 2.5in full-range driver and weighs in at a lightweight 500 grams. There’s no subwoofer anywhere to be found; instead, a tiny reflex port at the rear of each speaker aims to increase its ability to produce deep bass.
The Cubiks sit atop metal stands which aim the speakers towards ear-level, and despite the light weight, they feel solid and well constructed. Buttons on the top of the right-hand speaker adjust the volume and engage the bass boost mode for listening at low volumes. Audio is ferried to the speakers via the supplied USB cable but, somewhat disappointingly given their semi-portable dimensions, the Cubiks’ power is supplied by a dainty wall-wart PSU.
They might be tiny, but the scale of sound that spills out has to be heard to be believed. The Cubiks deliver full-bodied audio, with orchestral works showing off the pinpoint imaging, and everything from solo vocalists to frantic dance tracks benefiting from the stunning clarity.
Yet, despite Palo Alto’s best efforts, truly deep bass is a physical impossibility given the tiny drivers, and weighty basslines shrink to an impotent thud. Kick drums retain a healthy thwack, and it’s still possible to follow the tune of the basslines underneath, but there’s no physical weight there at all. And despite being able to fill a room with sound, a slight veil of distortion sets in at full volume on more demanding tracks.
It’s the price which delivers the killer blow, however. If you can live with larger speakers on your desk, then £180 could easily stretch to a far more capable set of active stereo or 2.1 speakers. The Cubiks are stunningly effective for their tiny size, but at this price we’d simply expect nothing less.