As much as we do enjoy compact mainstream audio products’ visuals, such items rarely score as equally high notes on sound quality count. However, today’s very modern lifestyle hardware – soundgil Cube – is said to be capable of pulling this stunt exactly. Well, is it?
There’s a number of perfectly valid reasons why High End Munich is the most important European attractor for industry people such as myself. Press attends to this event to see and hear new stuff, book reviews, shoot the breeze with exhibitors, gather enough material to proceed with reports and so on so forth. Many of us plan in order to not get lost in this audio madness and my usual pre-show routine is straightforward; cherry-picked brands and associated locations extracted from the on-site exhibitors list then land in the go-to file followed once I’m on the German soil, simple as that. However, it’s impossible to be prepared for everything, which Munich’s event has been proving me quite clearly for years. Discoveries neither scheduled, nor expected or heard before oftentimes reveal themselves as no less interesting than those already known and looked forward to. This review is all about one such a find.My usual Munich routine always involves several manufacturers I’ve worked with in the past. The fidata team secured a small booth this year and – as a happy user of their HFAS-S10U server/streamer – I was deeply interested in learning about upcoming hardware in their pipeline. Nothing new other than upgraded fidata app was on, however a set of small, finely made and unusual speakers found in there piqued my curiosity. Even though noisy conditions at MOC’s halls worked against me as they usually do, these inconspicuous petite boxes indicated sound quality usually off the table for such casual goods. Bells rang mildly, Srajan already reviewed this item here, yet this particular writing of his I skipped due to personal interest in such hardware mild at best. However, soundgil Cube on duty at fidata’s booth delivered potently enough to net my full attention. I was told that this operation’s CEO had his own room just one hall away, hence naturally I went there to meet the man himself and know more about his portfolio opener.Today’s soundgil company is the subsidiary of Technics Electronic Co., Ltd. located in Taiwan’s city of Kaohsiung, and was established by Mark Chang. This Chinese businessman rolls daily with MBL’s TOTL 101 Extreme system, which easily labels him as none other than an audiophile of the heaviest caliber there is. Through this hardware he got in touch with audio engineer Peter Pu, who is associated with MBL and Onix and has 30 years of experience in the industry, whereas J.K. Kim runs his own consulting company and is soungil’s chief designer responsible for visuals. The two gents mentioned above helped Mark to accomplish a specific task, namely to develop a top quality easy to use audio item meant for people not sold on the idea of having a rack full of costly hardware. Sounds like mild marketing fluff? In most cases it surely is, however not today.Many casual audio all-in-ones are already out there on the market, however to my memory none of the sort impressed me as much as this review’s hero. Enough evidence was collected inside of the soundgil’s booth at MOC to view this brand’s petite affair as something truly unusual and promising. As a happy owner of MBL’s craziest stack, Mark Chang has to be very serious about sound quality. With such a benchmark, who wouldn’t be? But were his priorities on this count in perfect check in case of today’s product? Was it truly fit to be considered as ‘the first step to high-end’, just as the on-site description stated? And Mr Chang’s not only ultimate, but also honest goal? To ask for a loaner was the only way to know answers to all these questions, Sunny Sung responsible for European marketing liked the idea of me giving the Cube a go and that’s how this publication came to be.
The suspiciously compact yet heavy package was sent my way. The box tailored to nicely fit the main dish with all included accessories wasted no space inside at all. Precisely cut thick foam form found on the bottom had it perfectly secured, whereas the upper deck sported numerous storage compartments for its SMPS PSU with a suitable AC cable and six additional ones on top of that; four umbilicals (2x118mm and 2x400mm) to connect all speakers, one analog (3.5mm-to-3.5mm) and one optical leash. A handy manual was found inside and so was quality aluminium RC with all buttons one might need to operate the product. Packaging was nicely executed and thoughtfully planned, I wouldn’t change a thing in it.At first glance soundgil Cube looks like a set of four identical enclosures with the very same transducers on-board, all hid behind nice black grills. In reality two of the product’s cubes are standalone and the remaining pair is fixed as a double-sized box loaded with all necessary electronics. Think regular 2.1 stereo setup, in which two separate squares are channels left and right and the bigger unit in-between them is the woofer. All boxes weigh 5.2 kilograms in total, which is quite substantial considering their very compact form. A single cube measures (WxHxD) 116x116x116mm, the bass module is twice as wide. Total output power of 4*50W into 4Ω indicates class D topology, FR is 55Hz-26kHz, SNR@1kHz is 85/90dB for analog/digital signal respectively, whereas 0.03%@1W distortion seals the deal. All four 3″ full-range drivers are fed via TPA3116D2 amp module by Texas Instruments, whereas ST309A DSP handles time coherency and bass adjustments.Subjectively speaking, soundgil Cube looks stylish and utmost minimalist. It’s quite impossible to go wrong with nicely executed aluminium housings free from any visual excess such as today’s. Exactly the same transducers and black grills all across the board net very uniform clean view. If one doesn’t like silver option as shown in this review, gold, rose gold and black finishes are also available and sold for the same coin. This writing’s product not only scores high on looks, but its assembly quality and durability are in check as well. Goods of similar sort oftentimes feel tacky, however this one’s pleasantly substantial on this count. There’s a good reason for that, each of its drivers occupies inner chassis, which sits inside its outer shell. The effect? Clean look, pleasant heft on hand and no hollowness, not in the slightest. Truly nice work.Each satellite’s rear sports one proprietary input, whereas four rubber washers plus one thread meant for decoupling feet are found on the bottom. The bass module’s front is occupied via two transducers and a multi-coloured soundgil logo in-between these. This handy indicator can cycle through six different tints to communicate standby mode, AptX 4.2 Bluetooth turned on, USB readiness or one of three auxiliary inputs engaged. A small panel on the back of the main enclosure houses host ports for both speakers, one USB type A socket, DC in and a 3-in-1 (analog 3.5mm + coax + Toslink) combo auxiliary port.All available inputs provide quite the wiggle room as far as product’s connectedness goes. A smartphone’s/tablet’s Bluetooth married to the Cube’s receiver would be the most straightforward Tidal/Spotify feasible way and I strongly think that that’s how the product should and will be used in the first place. Purists might say ‘nay’ to streaming, though. Here quality DAPs loaded with hundreds of lossless files kick in swiftly. Many are equipped with proper line and digital outs, which makes a connection with today’s item a breeze.The alternate route would be a FAT32 formatted thumb drive or HDD loaded with music, plugged into the Cube’s USB type A port. In such a scenario soundgil’s own app (available for iOS and Android) installed on a smartphone steps in as a remote control. This would create quite Lumin alike environment, though based on Bluetooth and not LAN, hence router-free. The app itself would list all tracks and provide wireless functionality, yet the content feed would happen in wired not streamed fashion. The software is very basic but does the job. It enables boost bass, input selection, the product’s location (standard or in a corner) DSP and it also serves as a handy playback UI. Interestingly, one can i.e. change volume or switch between stored tracks within this app or soundgil’s own aluminium RC. That’s the magic of unified Bluetooth standard at works.
In order to review soundgil Cube, it was placed on two speaker stands merged together in one of my listening room’s corners, and then it went on the main rack in there. Past these experiments the product performed for a while in my living room, just under the TV. Both short and long umbilical cords were used to have both satellites and bass module cheek to cheek and then spread wide. I’ve tried Spotify streaming just for pure convenience and laziness, though in critical listening mode either a pen drive loaded with FLAC files or HiBy R3’s own library and coaxial output were used.For a reason products such as today’s aren’t viewed as truly audiophile goods. Their casual appearance and living room friendliness efficiently prevent that, whereas limitations on sheer performance count can be quite severe. In order to sound bigger and better than they usually are, purposely small all-in-one audio systems oftentimes play tricks obvious to trained ears; boosted bass, elevated highs or at times both. If used carefully and with most other things in check, these measures exploited additively to increase a given product’s impressiveness aren’t bad at all. However, audible FR upped on any end in order to mask subpar performance or simply make it beefier and shoutier is asking for trouble. This clearly works for many individuals not used to quality audio hardware, but enthusiasts with well-developed taste will see through schemes of the sort in a jiffy. In this context, probably the most important thing to know about soundgil Cube is its very intelligently executed and honest voicing, it avoids listed stunts truly well.Today’s product doesn’t play any games or pretend to be something it’s not. It’s heard very quickly what’s been done with its sound characteristic. Neither it sports boosted downstairs nor shiny highs. Quite the opposite in fact, both its ends neatly trimmed leave midrange as the main attractor and several interesting successions follow. In short, soundgil Cube performs along the lines of a fine British monitor, feels like it and as such is free from juvenile element and showiness. This writing’s product is all about sophistication and quality instead of quantity and grandeur falsely amplified via overstretched ends. It also goes without saying that tuning Mark Chang introduced could be only achieved as a result of pursue after music from its most fetching side rather than anything else. In other words, all this not only can’t be the effect of mere struck of luck, but also shows clearly that Mr soundgil has to be none other than an audio connoisseur with all associated priorities in check indeed.Let’s get back to the ‘the first step to hi-end’ bit for a second and think what it might actually stand for, what a product must do to be labeled as one. Of course there’s no simple answer to this, but yours truly strongly believes that audio is a game of compromises, hence naturally less drawbacks and more virtues is a solid start. Speaking of which, soundgil Cube doesn’t reach very low, however has enough bass presence, textural generosity, moisture and flexibility to feel coherent on this particular count. But most importantly, there’s no struggle even during louder listening or complex passages, the product provides palpable bursts of moved air to net the pleasantly lively effect. Vividness of this specific sort is not common among regular audio hardware, let alone petite speakers along the lines of today’s. That’s impressive.To move on, midrange centric presentation puts i.e. vocals in the spotlight and finely delivered these are. There’s not a hint of sharpness in them, dryness or veil, but substantial amount of smoothness, calmness, adequate clarity and natural hydration instead. With soundgil Cube it’s less about pinpoint accurate chiseled shapes and more about voluptuously organic, hefty and still very visible silhouettes. Although slightly dim, upstairs sports sufficient decay and density, yet is never nervously itchy or in general too hot, not at all. Along with bass it acts as quality support for midrange, whereas the natural effect of such a well-thought cooperation are natural easygoingness and coherence.soundgil Cube clearly was about music and maturity instead of dissected sounds and any juvenile stunts. But via performance free from dilution, veil or excessive warmth, it swiftly avoided the usual traps. Mark’s product sounded pleasantly soft and smooth and still provided generous insight into music. Soundstage made by such a compact specimen can’t be extreme, however I appreciated how dark musical canvas and all layers the Cube was able to portray. Presumably that’s the reason why detail intake was utmost easy and natural with this petite machine. In critical listening mode the sensation of impressively refined polished performance was constantly on. The more hours were in the past, the more clearer it became how well the Cube performed by not aiming to do everything. Instead it skillfully worked within its own limitations, which I’ve found very smart. The end result? Blissful joy free from fatigue, restraint, bloat or abnormal tension. Tasteful, nicely seasoned and involving performance of this particular sort I’d easily consider as the very first step into hi-end indeed.
At first glance, soundgil Cube can be easily viewed as yet another casual audio specimen miles away from the audiophile turf, which its inherent living room friendliness and stylish minimalist visuals imply rather well. Nonetheless, this inconspicuous newcomer not only scored as equally high on performance count, but also went far beyond what similar goods usually offer.
All-in-one speakers are aimed at audience primarily into nice looks, hassle-free operation and compact frame. This review’s item dressed to impress clearly fits the description, ticks all listed checkboxes with no questions asked and it’s quite clear that a lot of thought went into it. Admirable put-togetherness, robustness and numerous inputs make soundgil Cube no less than a very modern very practical audio hardware. Casual and pretty on the outside, well-engineered inside.
The ability to merge tasteful design with truly impressive music focused voicing revealed itself as today’s greatest strength. This full care package potently showcased that sanely priced compact mainstream audio hardware can sing as good as it looks. Yes, very. If you’re after such a product, then soundgil Cube is the one to get familiar with pronto. ‘Till next time!
- Transports: iPhone 7, HiBy R3
- Rack: Franc Audio Accesories Wood Block Rack
Retail prices of reviewed components in EU (excl. VAT):
- soundgil Cube: €999