Focal iCub speaker set for iPod review

3.5 out of 5
£450

For

Impressive sound range, looks, quality

Against

Price, target market

With iPod accessories reaching a fever pitch it seems there is no stopping manufacturers from creating yet another bolt-on or speaker set. Focal seem to have taken this ideology to the extreme with the iCub, a high-end 2.1 speaker system designed for your iPod or MP3 player.

The small cube-shaped speaker system (subwoofer measurements: 333x300x300mm) comes in black rather than the standard white to fit in with your high-tech modern lifestyle (of course) and this unit is so high-spec that to get the benefit of the system your MP3 files have to be encrypted at 192kbps rather than the standard 128Kbps.

This has its drawbacks - for starters currently only Tesco in the UK offers music downloads from its store at this level of encryption - so no iTunes for the iPod/iTunes loving fan. Likewise, higher encrypted files will mean less music on your MP3 player, and while this won’t make a huge difference to a 20Gb model, it is still a factor to consider. Of course you can encrypt your CD collection at whatever rate you want and it’s here that Focal is hoping to score.

So you’ve got your 192Kbps songs, what do you do now? Play them of course. Volume is controlled via the glowing volume knob on the top of the subwoofer. We can’t fault the sound quality and performance coming from the three BASH amplifiers, with a maximum capacity of 400 Watts and the high precision 20bit D/A converter (ST TDA7535) used for the speakers. The balance between treble and bass is just right and there’s no doubting this is a top-notch player that any respectable audiophile would be happy to own. Couple that with multiple inputs, including optical digital, all with automatic detection so there’s no need to manually turn iCub on or off and you’ve got a pretty impressive
machine on your hands.

So what’s the catch? Well the Focal iCub will currently set you back a cool £450, some £250 more than a 20Gb iPod, showing that this really is at the extreme end of the iPod accessory lines. If you really are into your music that much, that much in fact, that you are willing to spend £450 on two speakers and a woofer, are you likely to want to plug your iPod into it? Probably not.

Verdict

We thought the Bose iPod speakers were expensive and then we met the iCub. In all fairness the speakers are very good, it’s got gold banana plugs everywhere and the design, although on the large side, is pretty snazzy too - although we think placing the volume knob on the top of the subwoofer is a bit annoying as it means you can’t hide it out the way.

This is a top notch set that outclasses the iPod it’s geared towards. Millionaires, the extremely rich, people who already own budget 5.1 sets which cost that much or just stupid with your money need only apply.