Sonoro Cubo Compact System
Sonoro is a German audio manufacturer. The company recently commissioned a survey on the listening habits of 560 consumers. Thirty-nine percent of them named FM radio as their number one audio entertainment source, beating iPods and other MP3 players at 23 percent. That was interesting, but when I visited the Sonoro site, I found something even more interesting: the Cubo system.
It's bigger than it looks, at five inches high, 8 wide, and 9.5 deep. Available colors include numerous sedate earthtones, plus red, pink, and the sweet lime green I chose for the review sample. It comes packaged with a pair of white linen gloves to prevent your fingers from marring the glossy surface of the unit or its dock. The front panel includes a large backlit amber liquid crystal display, with tuning buttons to the left and volume buttons to the right. Below the slot-loading CD mechanism are transport keys. On the top is a single full-range speaker surrounded by station presets and other radio-related controls.
The Cubo comes with the best iPod dock every invented--or at least, the one I like the best. It consists of two pieces of transparent plastic that fit together to form a cradle. There's no iPod docking connector, perhaps making this a kind of non-dock. Instead, a mini-plug cable fits underneath into the iPod's headphone jack. True, a line-level connection through the docking connector would be audibly superior to going through the iPod's flea amp. And the Sonoro docking method won't charge the battery or perform other functions enabled by the docking connector. Why, then, do I prefer it?
Because I don't like charging the battery every time I connect one of my iPods to a system. I prefer to run the battery down to at least 25 percent before recharging. Even a lithium ion battery may lose some of its running time if charged constantly after brief uses--this is why Lenovo laptops include software that intelligently charges the battery as needed. If anyone would like to dissent, please do so in the comments field.
Sound is full and rich. With talk radio, there is definitely a bit of tubbiness with both male and female voices. The Cubo is more for music, which it enriches with a meaty rhythm section sound and a slick upper-midrange rolloff that takes the sting out of heavily equalized pop music.
Price: $350 via Saks Fifth Avenue.
Mark Fleischmann is the author of the annually updated book Practical Home Theater and tastemaster of Happy Pig's Hot 100 New York Restaurants.