Cast your mind back and we mentioned WiFi. The rCube comes with lossless streaming built in. This can’t be achieved by ordinary Bluetooth so Arcam has teamed up with maestros Kleer, the company behind such revolutionary products as the Sennheiser MX W1 earphones. The result is signal that transmits at up to 2.37MB per second yet has power consumption 10x as efficient as Bluetooth. You’ll need a Kleer USB wireless dongle or dock connector dongle to pair with (whisper it: £79.95 and £69.95 respectively from Arcam), but then true wireless freedom is yours. The rCube pairs with the dongles too, not the devices they are connected to so pass a dongle around a house party and let everyone have a go at playing something from their devices.
That’s cool aspect one and there are three, count them, ”three” more.
One. Every rCube can pair with up to eight more rCubes using its Kleer technology. This meshed network can be centrally controlled from any rCube creating a true Sonos rival for house wide audio. Two. Earlier I also mentioned a composite port. This enables the rCube to output video of up to 720p HD to any High Def TV with the cinematic audio provided by the dock itself. With handsets increasingly supporting this level of resolution it makes the rCube part sound dock, part home cinema video player and sound bar.
Three. Battery. Yes we finally have a high end sound dock with its own power supply to give the Bose SoundDock Portable a run for its money (and when I say “run” I mean drag it along the floor chariot style in the manner of Ben-Hur). Battery life is outstanding as well lasting up to eight hours on moderate levels and four to six hours on maximum volume. The flip lid on the rCube cleverly reveals a handle when open. It may cost twice the price of the dock you had your eye on, but when you can take the rCube all over the house with you then you don’t need to buy multiple docks for different rooms… at least until that bonus comes in and you buy another one and mesh them together!
So the rCube is flawless? No. The power brick is as big as that on a desktop replacement laptop and HDMI would’ve been cooler than composite for video. Meanwhile it would’ve been nice to have one Kleer dongle bundled. If we’re being really picky, for all its power, the rCube could also be fractionally louder though you will need to live in a mansion to notice it. This is all nitpicking though because for once the marketing hyperbole holds up, Arcam has indeed made “the world’s best iPod/iPhone Speak Dock”.
The Arcam rCube may have come too late to be entered into our 2010 Awards, but for me it would have been my product of the year. As it stands it is day one of 2011 and it will take something truly special over the next 364 days to displace it in my heart. The B&W Zeppelin ruled the speaker dock roost for nearly three years, but its reign is over. At £500 the rCube isn’t cheap, but its acoustic performance is unmatched, its form factor minimal and its functionality way beyond that of its rivals.
Score in detail