iLuv Audio Cube

The Audio Cube delivers a serious sound for a unit of its size, and it looks great while sounding so good. No landscape docking option makes it a dud for film buffs, though.


8.0
CNET Rating


Don't be fooled by the design; from the pictures on the website, you might assume that the speakers sitting on either side of the dock are removable, and could be placed further apart for greater stereo dimension. They are not. This isn't really a negative, as none of the units we've tested have had detachable speakers, but it still may feel like an unfulfilled promise.

However, the Audio Cube makes up for that initial heartbreak by delivering sound with mighty oomph. A full range of tweeters, mid-range speakers and a simulated subwoofer deliver very satisfactory sound indeed. You would have no trouble at all popping this on a table and filling a room for a party.

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Speaking of things that aren't detachable, the controls are highly visible on the front of the unit, but there is no remote control. So it's a trade-off between having to go walking back and forth to select tracks, and not risking losing a little plastic thing. Some may call the lack of a remote a plus, but your preferences may vary.

Of course, iLuv's bread and butter is alarm-clock accessories, so the Audio Cube can happily fulfil that duty in conjunction with either of two free iPad apps. One of the apps emphasises the internet-radio functionality, and the other emphasises the clock functionality, but in practice they both function virtually identically. And they're both free, so you may as well download them and decide for yourself which one you like better.

The Audio Cube is designed to match the iPad visually, with shiny, black surfaces and brushed-metallic highlights. The central docking area is also precisely wide enough for an iPad in portrait orientation. With the iPad mounted, and one of the iLuv apps running, you'd think that they were one unit (an iPhone mounted on it, on the other hand, looks like it's been built to the wrong scale). On closer examination, the materials are not exactly glass and aluminium — more like polished plastic and painted plastic. It actually feels a little flimsy.

Again, this felt like a bit of an unfulfilled promise, rather than a real negative. For the price we'd hope for something that feels more sturdy — like the iPad does. iLuv clearly feels that the sound quality is what you're paying for.

But while it's exactly the right width for an iPad in portrait mode, there is no landscape mode. It's particularly tragic in this case, because the sound really is so good that you want to use it for movies. Unfortunately, if you do so, the picture is sadly small.

Also, there's a bluish-white light on the front of the Audio Cube that seems to stay on constantly. When you adjust the volume, it pulsates as if each pulse represents a new level of loud. This is cute, we suppose, but given that you also get the standard display on the iPad screen that gives an actual quantifiable indication of volume, we don't see the point. It's unnecessary frippery of a kind that Steve Jobs would probably have fired someone over. You may not mind.

Two ports on the bag allow audio-in via a 3.5mm jack, and data connection via micro USB if you want to sync your iPad while it's docked. A USB-A to micro-USB cable is, mercifully, included.

Conclusion

The iLuv Audio Cube lacks some of the bells and whistles of its competitors, and its lack of a landscape mode makes it unsuitable for watching movies — so it's definitely not for film buffs. However, it produces about as good a sound as we've ever heard from speakers this size. If that's what you've been looking for in an iPad dock, then go for it.

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