I have trouble listening to music while I write. I know that some writers swear by it, but I always find myself distracted, even when listening to music without vocals. I even have a Spotify playlist titled "writing music," a playlist that shouldn't even exist in the first place. However, for this particular article, I'm giving it another shot.
Enter the Cube
Physically, the Cube is very impressive. Sleek metal houses the speaker, giving it a reassuring heft while remaining plenty light enough for a mobile device. The height and the width both measure roughly 2 inches, with the length sporting an extra quarter inch. On the back, you'll find three ports: one USB port for hooking up the computer and two 3.5mm ports, one for a pair of headphones and one to go to your phone, MP3 player, or other portable device as an audio source.
The Cube runs off of a rechargable battery that you can charge through USB. Obviously when you're using it with the computer, that isn't an issue, but if you want to use it with a mobile device, you'll have to charge it first. There's a tiny red light on the front to let you know that it's on.
Get This Party Started
Connecting the Cube speaker to my PC was a simple plug-and-play affair, with Windows 7 noticing it right away. Then, it was simply a matter of going into the control panel and setting the speaker to the default sound device and I was up and running.
Being a portable speaker, I anticipated volume limitations, but I actually had to immediately turn it down. I had my PC's volume all the way up but the Spotify at only 30%, and yet the speaker was much louder than I had expected. The Cube would have no problem filling a room with music and might even fill an entire house, assuming it was open enough. NuForce has managed to pack a lot of power into something that fits in the palm of your hand, and for that they should be commended. If you crank the volume up too high, the sound will start to crack, but it can get pretty loud before that happens.
Crunch Crunch Crunch
I ran through a lot of my favorites--Semisonic, Bob Dylan, David Bowie--and it all sounded good. Then, I played a Daft Punk track from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack and the bass proved to be too much for the little Cube; it turned into a crunchy mess. It's safe to say that anything resembling dubstep is out of the question.
When using the speaker as a headphone amplifier, I didn't really notice much in the way of improved quality, though it definitely offered a higher volume than my phone generally does. Unfortunately, having my phone cranked all the way up already threatens to ruin my ears, so this doesn't seem like a very useful feature in that regard.
As far as the DAC (digital audio to analog converter) goes, I didn't notice a difference. The Cube's converter bypasses that of the PC, which NuForce claims are often low-quality, but that clearly isn't the case for everyone. My computer isn't the best out there, but it does a more than capable job of pumping out the tunes.
I Prefer the Movie
The NuForce Cube isn't a bad speaker, but it's not good enough to justify the hefty price tag. It's undeniably impressive and aesthetically cool as hell, but you're buying this for how it sounds, not how it looks. The MSRP has recently dropped from $119 to $99, which is good, but a hundred bucks is still more than the Cube is worth.