TDK Wireless Sound Cube
TDK is probably a name you remember from the '80s and '90s, when you had a stack of its cassette tapes and used them to kill the music industry by taping your favourite songs from the radio. But of course, with the music industry destroyed by such piracy, we now live in a world devoid of all musical endeavour.
Not really, of course, music is fine, and now you can hear it on a sound cube made by TDK. Like many speaker systems these days, this one is wireless and uses Bluetooth to accept your tunes.
If there's one thing we can say about the sound cube, it's that it's certainly a cube. And we like that. Too many products are rectangles, and not as pleasing as a fully square cube.
On the front there are a couple of dials, one of which controls the volume while the other allows you to select inputs and adjust the bass and treble. It has to be said that while the volume adjustment is pretty easy, the input selection, Bluetooth pairing and tone controls are a little harder to use, but we'll come to that in more detail later.
There are three large woofers located around the front, and left-and right-hand sides of cube. There are also speaker grilles which contain tweeters, for high-frequency sound. These are built into the corners and pretty inconspicuous.
You get a remote control too. It's very basic, offering only modest control of the box, but it's small and compact.
At the back of the sound cube there is a power input, a line input - which takes a headphone-jack style input - and a USB port, which you can use for charging your devices. This is a high-drain output, so it should be possible to charge a tablet here.
We did find there were some problems with the Sound Cube's more basic set-up. For example, we wanted to pair our HTC One X with it, but simply couldn't make the thing work. While it claimed to be paired, playing music over the connection simply didn't work at all.
On the other hand, an iPod touch worked incredibly well indeed. Once paired, everything was as we'd expect. The only problems we had were when we tried to connect with iPod when the HTC phone was near - the two devices attempting a connection at the same time stopped everything from working.
Of course, if Bluetooth is too much hassle for you, then there is a line in, which is much simpler. Just connect your device via its headphone jack, and you're in business. Should use less power on your phone or MP3 player too.
We also found that the tone controls for bass and treble were hard to work out on the face of the unit. What you have to do, is press the mode button once, then dial around until either the bass or treble light is lit. This is fine, of course, but how much easier would it be if they just had a dedicated control for those - even if it were done via the remote only.
For all these minor quirks, there's nothing massively troubling about using the Sound Cube. And once it's set up, you won't need to mess about with it again.
Of course, as with any speaker, the only thing that really matters here is how it sounds. And we have to say, we were shocked by just how good the TDK does sound.
There are plenty of speakers on the surface of this thing, but that can be little more than a trick. Here we found that the Cube produced a rich, deep and very likeable sound.
On our test tracks, everything felt like it was well-optimised, and we were just testing in a normal living room, with the cube in one corner tethered, as it must be, to a power socket.
There's masses of power too: this thing will go loud enough to fill a good-sized room, and in a normal bedroom, kitchen or study it will do a pretty spectacular job of filling the room with music. What's more, that music won't distort either - at least, we didn't notice any problems at the volumes we used it, but full power was entirely too much for our space.
Power is useless without quality, so it's great to hear such an overwhelmingly pleasing sound coming from the Sound Cube. It may not suit everyone out of the box, as it's quite bass-heavy, but that is at least adjustable, but it's also not out of control and we thought that for the target audience it was perfect.
So, it's a pretty decent price at around £230. It sounds good, looks good and will suit the vast majority of users down to the ground.
If you're a hardcore iPod, iPhone or iPad dock user, then this probably isn't for you. You could add a third-party dock, but it would be a lot of hassle for something that's achievable through a headphone jack and, without the USB interface, there are no quality gainst to be made in so doing.
Set-up and setting tweaks are a pain, but they aren't entirely necessary for most people. We're a bit concerned about the difficulty of pairing some Bluetooth devices, but it might just be that we were unlucky with our phone, and the iPod worked like a charm.