Review: Ultralink UCube Compact USB Digital Speakers

As a lazy musician (redundant, yes) with a bad back, it have nurtured an enduring fantasy, that of discovering a 3-inch-cube loudspeaker that weighs less than a kilogram but delivers the output of a 15-inch JBL D-130.

Ultralink — the high-end cable people – haven’t quite yet worked this particular miracle, but they’re clearly on my wavelength with their new desktop audio solution, the UCube. (And may I add how happy I am someone has moved on to the second person for their iMonniker?)

Like not a few other desktop loudspeaker solutions, the UCube is indeed close to cubical, 3-1/2 inches to the side. Where it differs from many is, first, by connecting to the source component via USB only (there is no analog audio main-in), and second, in eschewing the “subwoofer” (more accurately termed a bass module) upon which most computer-speakers with any audio-quality pretensions rely for some semblance of low-frequency extension.

Third, and just as noteworthy, there is no external power supply “wall-wart”: the UCubes derive their power exclusively from the host’s USB bus. While this is strictly limited by USB specs to 500 mA, Ultralink claims an innovative design that stockpiles power during quiet passages to provide dynamic reserves to its efficient, Class D amplifier circuits. (They further claim “a full 15 watts equivalent” power — which since the pair can at most draw around 3 watts from the host is quite a trick, though come to think of it they don’t say equivalent to what…) Thus, the UCubes are eminently suited to the mobile life: they can run off a laptop or similar operating on battery power, though the host’s time-to-recharge will necessarily be somewhat reduced.

Visually speaking, Ultralink’s cubes are very handsome indeed, with elegantly machined brushed-aluminum tabletop stands and a gloss black (silver, red, and white are also available) lacquer finish. Makes me wish I lived in a sleek office like those seen in Apple commercials, instead of one that looks more like a Booth cartoon.

Setup consists simply of connecting the left speaker to the source via the provided mini-USB cable, and the right to its mate via the analog audio RCA cable also supplied. (As befits the Ultralink name, both cables are well above average quality.)