Arcam rCube - The Sound of Heaven
Christmas is coming. In its price range, the Arcam rCube provides an angelic audio experience that cannot be beaten.
As the festive season approaches, readers will be beginning to think about the gifts that they would like to receive for themselves and give to others.
In particular, many readers of this column might be considering ways in which they can offer their thanks to its dedicated columnist. The simple answer is that he will be delighted to accept the gift of an Arcam rCube which will give years of audio pleasure. Indeed, within minutes of beginning a rigorous testing process, it was literally sending shivers of delight down the spine.
Do not worry too much about the prospect of someone else beating you to the draw, since it is possible to daisychain up to four rCubes, thus wirelessly filling a whole property with perfect sound.
On one level, this multi-award-winning set of integrated speakers is just an upmarket iPod dock but it can be so much more.
In recent years, companies have gone all out to improve our listening experiences and Arcam has been a leader in the field, albeit at the top end of the market.
They have more recently been obliged to recognise the move towards the use of iPods, iPads and iPhones as a primary music source. Ignoring the temptation to come up with something cheap and cheerful like so many other manufacturers the Cambridge-based company has striven for excellence and found it.
This exceptional product may cost £350 (having started out at £500) which might include either an rWand or rWave (explanations follow) if you go to the right shop but it is worth every penny.
The quality is indisputable and for this money you will get speakers that are as good as products that cost twice as much and will easily bear comparison with the best that the likes of Bose, Sonos and even Bowers and Wilkins can offer in the up to £500 price range.
As the photos demonstrate, the name is accurate since these speakers are cubic, available in either glossy white or black, measuring approximately 20 cm in each direction and looking really cool. The compactness somewhat limits stereo definition but does not eliminate it.
They are designed to be portable and can be carried around, although the production quality is so high that you will need a few muscles to take them far afield.
However, for use around the home the rCube is perfect, easily carried by a handle behind the iPod dock (which charges as well as playing music).
Since the rCube runs for up to 8 hours from an internal battery, it really can be carried everywhere and potentially played in the garden or park, though at top 45W per channel volume will annoy not only your own neighbours but everyone else's for miles around.
The sound reproduction is exceptional. As soon as you begin listening, you are able to relish a richness that is made up of a velvety bass, which can be boosted or reduced with a button on the back, plus the kind of sound detail that allows listeners to realise exactly what they are listening to, each instrument carefully delineated, unlike the usual muddied mess that comes from cheaper (or even more expensive) competitors.
Whether you want to listen to classical music at very low volumes or rock played at stadium levels, the rCube will not let you down. It is almost impossible to express the quality, therefore the best solution will be to go to a shop and try them out for yourself.
In a spirit of enquiry, everything from rock to chamber music, opera to trip-hop, symphonies and concertos to jazz, musicals, folk rock and easy listening have been tested out and none disappoints.
While many listeners will be happy to use the iPod dock, there are various other possibilities. Jacks allow speakers to play music from other products using wired connections, or output to television or video.
Perhaps more exciting are the use of the optional rWand or rWave dongles. The former attaches to various types of iPod and iPhone turning them into portable media players at up to around 10m, even with a couple of walls in the way. This is effective using Kleer lossless technology which ensures that the sound is perfect and even better and more reliable than Bluetooth. It's also effectively turns Apple's little gems into fully fledged remote controls.
The rWave does exactly the same but instead operates through USB connections so that you can play music or anything else from your PC or laptop. This extends the scope to Internet radio or Spotify.
There is inevitably a remote control, which performs a variety of simple functions but has no video screen.
Readers who are about to purchase an iPhone 5 or fifth-generation iPod Touch, should be aware that the new Lightning connector so controversially introduced by Apple will require an adapter. This is a real pity and at present, Arcam have no plans to create a new generation of their own products.
Despite this, all in all, the rCube is a revelation. Even old favourites, regardless of genre, sound completely new and fresh when played on these compact but powerful speakers.
If any reader is concerned about the safety of the Postal Service, it would be advisable to send my Christmas gift care of PKF's London office. I will be inordinately grateful to receive what is undoubtedly the best set of speakers that I have ever heard in a system costing under £500.
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