(Pocket-lint) - The Dali Kubik One is a statement soundbar if we ever saw one; the pillar box red model in particular being as eye-catching as it is ear-catching.
Surprisingly the Danish manufacturer, synonymous with quality standalone audio products, hasn't ventured into the world of soundbars before now. The One is its first foray into the market, but with Bluetooth connectivity it's a savvy music system too, not just restricted to boosting TV audio output.
However, with a £799 price tag it's a significant sum more than the likes of the Libratone Diva or Sonos PlayBar, and lacks a separate subwoofer like the price-equal Yamaha YSP-2500. All considered, is it "the One" to buy?
Upon pulling the Kubik One from the box, its quality is eminent. The 98cm-long unit is built around a metal chassis (the product is 16.2cm tall and 10.2cm deep), which, combined with its built-in amplifier, gives a sturdy overall weight just under the 10kg mark.
The frame of all One models is black, but coloured material meshes add a lick of colour and hide away the speaker units within. The red finish we have for review is particularly striking; if you want something simpler then white or black options are also available; or if you want to go to the opposite end of the scale then separate meshes are sold separately, ranging from lime green to yellow.
To the centre of the Kubik One the black frame segregates left and right speaker sides, giving a distinct stereo appearance. It's here where the controls are housed up top - on/off, volume up/down, input type, infrared (IR) for remote control sync - which, while marked, are subtly integrated within the design, maintaining that sleek overall look.
When switched on the product doesn't fire out lots of distracting lights, which is useful for its likely in-front-of-TV position. There's an unassuming glow from small LED separates, a different symbol for each input type.
The only design downside is the poor quality remote control, but Dali is aware of this and is in the process of replacing it with a new one for its customers. So we won't dwell on that side of things too much (but it's plastic budgetness is a stark contrast unbefitting of the soundbar's quality build).
Sturdy and striking, we can see where a chunk of that £799 goes - the Dali Kubik One is as well built a soundbar as we have ever seen.
Flip the unit around and there's an alcove to the rear where all the connections live. It's fairly straightforward in this regard: two optical inputs, one set of AUX inputs, micro USB, a subwoofer out, and two switches to adjust bass enhancement and power mode, next to a gain adjustment (for the subwoofer).
There's no HDMI support, so the One can't operate as an AV receiver. At best, assuming you've sourced a subwoofer, it's a self-contained 2.1 system, not a fancy 5.1 or greater surround sound machine.
Within the Kubik range there isn't a distinct subwoofer to be found, so matching the style of the One is unlikely. Also note that with a wired output for the subwoofer, there's no option for wireless connectivity in this regard.
On the front beneath the square Dali logo there's also 3.5mm input - again, it's barely noticeable - for wired connections, to plug in audio devices and the like. We're glad this isn't on the rear, making it easy to plug in on the fly.
Hidden away within the chassis are two 2.5cm tweeters and two 13cm wood fibre cones to handle the mid-low section, the closed box design delivering a taut response just like the company's sealed loudspeakers. In a way that's what the one is: two loudspeakers turned on their sides, with a built-in amplifier delivering the juice.
Predominantly we've been using the Kubik One as a standalone system, delivering tunes in our office for a full month. And what a glorious month it's been, as the audio quality is second to none, perfectly balanced, with the right levels of richness in mids and high levels.
Bass couldn't be called gigantic though - the plastic-built Libratone Diva delivers far more rumble in this department - but the "bass enhance" and "bass boost" options help massage the low-end frequencies to have more voice. You don't need a subwoofer by any means, as the 48-22,000Hz frequency response covers all bases, and the sub-laden tunes we've been playing have been delivered with kick, just not at wall-shaking levels.
Everything is very clean and sound projection is wide; with the soundbar sat at floor level for the past week (due to a kitchen fit, it was sensibly on a shelf and in front of the TV previously) the outward projection still feeds the ears. As a result, wherever you position the Kubik One the sound is glorious (save for behind the sofa or something).
Catering for aptX Bluetooth means CD quality via wireless connectivity, or if you want that extra level of quality then the wired USB input means the Kubik One can cater for 24-bit high-resolution audio too.
We've had a good connection for the most part, but sometimes excess workload on the laptop would cause issues with the Bluetooth signal - and the Dali responds by either bursting into a loud hum (which is very annoying) or distorting at a significantly louder volume than whatever is playing. So we've had to run for the mains socket a number of times, but have never had such an issue via smartphone Bluetooth connections, only the laptop.
As this is a soundbar, a prime reason for purchase will be to add a dash of quality to your TV audio. The One handles this well - whether from a set-top box, current or older TV (the AUX have their uses).
However, without dedicated equalisation, or a way for the One to communicate with a TV like some full-on digital receivers can, you may need to tweak your TV's bass and treble output to get the optimum sound. That's all down to the difference in various programmes, of course, as while watching Blu-rays we've had zero complaints. The Dali delivered plenty of pomp to The Wolf Of Wall Street's chopper crash scene and we've been hooked ever since.
Dali is well known for its quality loudspeakers and the Kubik One soundbar fits perfectly in among such prestige. It's an extremely well built, eye-catching soundbar with perfectly balanced audio - whether you're using it for TV audio enhancement or listening to music.
Yes the controller is pants (but there's promise for it to change), we've had some whacky high-pitched buzzing moments when the laptop Bluetooth signal has gone to pot, and there's no HDMI for receiver-like capabilities, but that's all forgivable when listening to the quality output. Its near competitors don't offer such luxuries either.
The only real sticking point for some will be that £799 asking price. It's an undeniably expensive product, but the build quality and appearance make it worth it if you're serious about audio and appearance. If not, the Yamaha YSP-2500 alternative, complete with subwoofer, is a savvy but altogether more vanilla solution. Go risky, go with the bright red Dali instead.