Update: price officially now reduced to £350 since this review and also includes an rWand iPod dongle.
"The world's best iPod/iPhone Speaker Dock".
That is one ballsy opening sentence, but it is exactly how Arcam introduced the rCube, a dock which arose from over three years of R&D. "No ifs, no buts - the best iPod sound system so far," it continues - and the thing is, Arcam's right…
Pull the rCube from its box and you wouldn't expect to draw such a conclusion. Not because the dock is poorly made, but because it doesn't announce itself with the pomp and ceremony of incumbent champ the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin. Whereas the Zeppelin's stretched oval lines are a bombastic fashion statement that demands your attention the rCube is, well, a cube.
It isn't even a particularly big cube. At 200 x 200 x 200mm it takes up less physical space than a football and isn't a patch on the domineering 640 x 198 x 208mm of the Zeppelin. At just 5Kg is it also 50 per cent lighter than B&W's masterpiece. For the audiophile with little space to spare the rCube is a wonderfully compact, timeless piece of engineering.
Look closely and expectations rise further. Its lid and base may be finished in our favourite love-to-hate-it piano black (dusters at the ready), but the build quality is first rate feeling every bit as solid as its design suggests. The touch sensitive controls are kept to a minimum with just source, WiFi (more of later), power and volume buttons along the top while mute is neatly enabled by pressing volume up and down together. You don't need to be a technical wizard to operate the rCube.
Along a strip at the back you'll find auxiliary, component and composite inputs with a USB port for firmware updates and a bass button. We'll get to these in good time, but first we need to look at some specs.
For a box so small the rCube has mind blowing internals. There's a 100mm bass/mid driver with bucking magnet to reduce magnetic interference and 25mm tweeters. These are backed up by a total of three amplifiers with two used in bridge mode for the bass/mid and in stereo mode for the tweeter. The result is a whopping 90 watts rms. We expected it to be impressive, but we weren't ready for what came out when we switched it on…
I'm not a fan of endless superlatives so let's place this section in some context. I unpacked the rCube while having tea with a friend who has been in the professional audio sector for over 30 years. Five minutes into some of his more exotic Nigerian blues (!) came the proclamation: "That is the best speaker dock I've ever heard!" "That's what the marketing claims" was my response, followed by a broad grin. "Dammit they're right, aren't they?!" Queue much slow nodding.