Billed as the ‘ultimate one-box sound system’, DALI’s stereo soundbar aims to deliver audiophile sound quality from any source, including TVs and Bluetooth devices. It’s designed to be a jack of all trades and a master of them, too.
Having reviewed DALI’s stunning Fazon, Zensor and Epicon speakers, we’re already big fans of the Danish brand’s avant-garde designs and pristine sound quality, and we’re hoping Kubik One offers more of the same. In fact, at a hefty £800 we’d expect nothing less.
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From a design perspective, Kubik One is an absolute stunner. It’s cut from the same cloth as the Libratone Lounge and Sonos Playbar, boasting a funky, minimal look with cool curves and an eye-catching colour scheme. As a self-contained unit with no external subwoofer, it can easily be hung on the wall or placed upright on a TV stand or shelf.
It comes with red, black or white grilles as standard, but there are six more optional covers to choose from – Azur Blue, Lime Green, Orange, Purple, Misty Grey and Petrol Green. Our sample came bearing the Misty Grey grilles (above), which feels suitably Christmassy.
Build quality is sublime. Behind the pretty exterior the unit is a single piece of extruded aluminium with enough heft and strength to withstand a bomb blast. The use of aluminium enables a compact cabinet with thinner walls than traditional materials would allow, but without compromising on bass depth or cabinet rigidity. Dark grey aluminium panels bookend the bar, with a brushed strip visible at the bottom.
Most of the unit is covered by the grilles, except for a thin black strip in the middle where illuminated icons display the selected input. They’re tiny but just about decipherable from the sofa. In lieu of a full LED display, the light blinks when adjusting the volume to let you know it’s receiving a command. On top is a panel of buttons covering power, volume, input selection and the IR learning feature.
Connections are tucked away in a recess on the back with grooves and clamps to keep cables tidy. You’ll find two optical digital inputs, analogue stereo input and a subwoofer output. It’s a shame there are no HDMI inputs, but that’s likely indicative of DALI’s music-led approach.
There’s also a Micro USB port that lets you connect a PC or Mac and take advantage of the Kubik One’s 96kHz/24-bit digital-to-analogue converter. A 3.5mm minijack input is found on the front, allowing for quick connection of portable music players. The physical connections are ably supported by Bluetooth with apt-X support for CD-quality music streaming.
Sound is supplied by two 5.25in wood fibre cone mid/bass drivers and a pair of 1in soft textile dome tweeters. The Class D amplifier features an all-digital crossover and delivers 25W to each driver individually, resulting in a quoted total power output of 100W.
The unit is controlled using a horrible blister-button remote, which is too small and awkward to use. Most of the buttons are unhelpfully huddled together in the middle and are labelled with icons rather than words. DALI should take a leaf out of Roth’s book and spend time developing a better-looking and more user-friendly remote – particularly for such a style-focused product. Our advice is to use the IR learning function, which lets you control the unit with your existing TV remote.
A switch on the rear panel offers a choice of Neutral, Bass Enhance and Bass Boost settings to increase output in larger rooms. There’s no hard and fast rule about using these, just experiment to find which one sounds best. A separate Gain Adjust control lets you match the analogue input level to the digital input if there’s any discrepancy.
Whether you’re listening to movies, music or TV, you can hear every penny of the £800 price tag pouring from the speakers. Kubik One’s sound is open and detailed, with forcefully-delivered dialogue and a deep, punchy bottom end. The sound isn’t tainted by daft processing or overstressed, unnatural treble – it just serves everything up in the clearest way possible.
Starting with movies, Tom Cruise sci-fi romp Edge of Tomorrow is thumping good fun and the Kubik One captures that spirit with a lively and powerful performance.
There’s plenty of muscle, making the movie’s beach battle scenes sound loud and full-bodied. Big explosions hit hard and fill the room, revealing the woofers’ impressive bass reach. We won’t pretend that it doesn’t benefit from an external sub, which helps dig out low bass frequencies that the DALI can’t reach, but we could quite happily live without one.
You get a terrific balance across the frequency range and bass integrates with the midrange seamlessly, best demonstrated when Cage shoots his machine guns. The woofers are quick and agile, and don’t suffer excessive overhang. Bass Boost and Enhance modes are a little full-on – Neutral does just fine.
The Kubik One has a crisp, biting tone without going overboard, so you can happily listen at loud volumes without wincing as cars get smashed into pieces. The soundstage is laden with detail but it’s not too clinical or forced, resulting in a natural and absorbing sound.
It’s worth noting that there’s no surround sound processing, which is a blessing. The Kubik One’s direct and focused stereo presentation allows you to enjoy the movie without distractions, but the unit’s power and wide-dispersing drivers make you feel reasonably enveloped anyway.
Kubik One is as much a music player as a TV speaker and it delivers a really fulfilling sound. Its rendition of The Changing World by George Benson is mesmerising – the guitar licks sound pure and clean, backed by rich, warm Rhodes chords and robust double bass.
Even with a relatively low-quality 320kbps file beamed over Bluetooth, you can hear fine details like the highest string notes and the husky edge to the oboe. As with movies, it’s remarkably transparent, offering the sort of clear and faithful reproduction that you rarely get from a soundbar.
Kubik One is undeniably expensive, but justifies the outlay with outstanding build quality, fresh, modern aesthetics and fantastic sound quality. It’s a versatile performer that makes music and movies sparkle, while its wide range of connections makes it easy to access your music.
Rivals like the Q Acoustics Media 4 and the KEF V720W might offer comparable sound quality, but neither can touch the Kubik One’s living room friendly design. The remote is terrible, there are no HDMI ports and you might need to add a subwoofer to bring out the very best in movies, but none of this is enough to deny the DALI an emphatic thumbs-up.
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DALI’s delectable soundbar delivers a performance to die for with movies and music, while its opulent build quality and eye-catching design put the hefty price tag into context