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Nuforce Cube Review
The Nuforce Cube is a cute little speaker, but it’s too pricey and doesn’t sound good enough to make its home on your desk.
(3 out of 5)
- Small and simple design
- Clear midrange and high end.
- Distorts heavily on the low end
- Needs to be charged to work with a 3.5mm audio input.
Speakers usually have to be big to put out a lot of sound. The bigger a speaker is, the louder it gets. Conversely, the smaller a speaker is, the softer its maximum volume generally is. Nuforce tries to break this trend with the Nuforce Cube, a less-than-3-inch cube with a built-in USB digital-to-analog converter. It gets loud for its size, but its $119 (direct) price and poor bass response keep it from being more than a pretty mini-speaker.
The Nuforce Cube (check price) looks cute. It’s a rounded 2.3-inch by 2.8-inch (H,W x D) near-cube with a metal shell, a plastic base and back, and a removable fabric grille. It’s available in black, silver, blue, or red versions, and comes with a USB-to-mini-USB cable, a 3.5mm audio cable, and a carrying pouch. It has no physical controls and only three ports: a mini-USB connector, 3.5mm input, and 3.5mm headphone output. The speaker is powered through the mini-USB port, and a battery inside keeps it working as a powered speaker for several hours when it’s not connected.
While you can use the cube as a speaker with a 3.5mm input, it’s intended for use via USB as a combination speaker and digital-to-analog converter (DAC). If you plug it into a PC through USB, it shows up as a sound device, taking over the audio capabilities of the computer. A small red light on the front indicates it’s plugged into USB, or is running on battery with a device connected over the 3.5mm port. If you want to get the same audio through 3.5mm that you would get through USB, you need to charge it over USB before treating it like a regular speaker.
Based on its small size, it’s hard to imagine the Nuforce Cube can put out a lot of sound. It does get surprisingly loud and pleasantly clear, however. But with a few caveats. The Gipsy Kings’ cover of “Hotel California” came in crisp and warm, with the subtle strings of the opening of the song filling my workspace. However, the speaker failed at our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout.” It distorted immediately and only became crunchier and further warped as the song progressed. While the speaker might work suitably for jazz, classical music, and rock, don’t expect metal or dubstep to be close to listenable.
The Nuforce Cube looks cool and puts out a lot of sound for its size, but its $120 price tag and poor bass handling make it a novelty speaker. If you want decent sound with more features for less, the Logitech Mini Boombox ($99, 4 stars) is wireless if your computer supports Bluetooth, has a 3.5mm audio input if it doesn’t, and can work as a speakerphone and portable speaker for your smartphone or tablet.
By Will Greenwald, PCMag