TDK Wireless Soundcube Review
I have owned numerous BT (Bluetooth) speakers over the years so I feel somewhat qualified to rank and rate some of the units I come across. My earliest speaker was an all-in-one 2.1 system that had awful BT quality. When no music was being played you could hear the hissing and bumps of the BT signal connection and then things weren't much better when music was being played.
Then I tried apt-x BT speakers using mainly Creative's line of speakers which are far superior, offering no background hissing and a much more friendly approach to operation (more so than this TDK unit, more on this later).
But my fascination with BT was always more of an experiment, I wanted to see if I could create a wireless home sound set up, directing music from one area of the house to another without spending the earth on something like the Squeezebox or Sono's setup which usually come at a far higher price.
I've had some success and some losses in this regard, and the losses usually come from the limitation of Bluetooth technology and not necessarily the speaker quality itself.
For example, where my PC sits in the home is fairly central to our small little cottage. I used to have wireless BT speakers in the kitchen, but the constant traffic of little people and adults going between the transmitter (usb module) and receiver (speaker) would amount to lots of cut outs and stuttering (after all BT hates water, and people are mainly walking bags of water). So in the end I had to admit defeat and use a wired connection here instead.
Still this problem exists elsewhere in my home such as PC>Veranda, I can navigate the issue somewhat by placing the speaker in a more remote part of the area where it see's less traffic but then that might not be the best placement for hearing the speaker.
I've had enough practice now to come to the conclusion that BT speakers are really only useful for situations whereby there is minimal house traffic (certainly not parties like so many are advertised!) and that you want to bear in mind the line of sight of the transmitter and reciever and not want anyone to be in-between this. For my household this situation isn't really practical so in a couple of years time or so I will eventually be looking for some other streaming capability.
Anyway, on with the review.
Before talking about the TDK cube I should list the other notable speakers I have or have tried.
Creative D5 - Price $279AUD (can be bought for $150 currently)
Creative T12 - Price $100AUD (can be bought for less)
Creative S2 - Price $79
Out of those three the T12's are the worst, by far, tinny with little bass. I bought them because I thought that bookshelf speakers would suit my kitchen setup the most, but I needed more bass. Eventually I admitted defeat and went with a non BT 2.1 Edifier system, wired it all up and got creative with the subwoofer placement, was alot of work unfortunately but I now have a stable connection and sound quality that is adequate when cooking
The D5 is probably my favorite speaker out of those three, it's loud holds the bass fairly well and whilst not battery powered - due to it's size - is still quite portable, I take this unit on holidays with me. It lives in the bathroom up high on the wall, positioned down. This height seems to assist in bringing a more stable connection, and there is just less human traffic going between my PC and the bathroom anyway.
The S2's are surprisingly decent especially for the price, just not very portable.
The TDK was really an impulse buy (a bit out of the ordinary for me), but the price I saw it for was $99AUD and I recall seeing this unit in store around 9 months ago for close to $300!
I was under the impression this speaker was also battery powered, alas it is not. It's not a deal breaker for me, I wanted a portable speaker that provided decent sound and I could pick up easily and take from one area of the home to another, in this regard it does fine. I have a few universal power supplies whereby I can match the voltage and tip etc so if I do take it to another area I don't even have to unplug and carry the power supply with me, just pull the plug out the back and reconnect to another one in a different room/area.
Don't let those knobs fool you, they are plastic and my first go turning one I pulled it off!
Not having speaker grills might look cool but it's pretty unpractical for someone like me who gets lots of little visitors to the house, they just scream 'poke me!'. Suffice to say I usually place the speaker up high and away from prying hands when I get forewarning.
I don't really have anything other to say in this regard, it looks premium but isn't really, fine for $100, not for $300.
This is where the unit comes up trumps. It provides a very decent level of sound quality, so much it's probably the best out of all the BT units I own.
I don't know much about the BT technology that resides in the speaker itself, I was still using the BT apt-x Creative usb modules to transmit but to my ears it sounded as good as the apt-x connection (even if it wasn't using it).
As you can imagine it handles bass very well, doing best in the mids and lows and worse in the highs. You can throw the volume up turn the bass up highest (yes it has a bass and treble adjustment) and still little or no distortion occurs.
Is it sound quality deserving of $300? No. $100? Most definitely yes.
The introduction of having an eq of sorts is a welcome addition. I like my sound bassy so I pretty much have that dialed all the way up with treble in default neutral. What is odd is that everytime you use the unit again (once it goes off and back on again) it seems to reset the bass and treble back to zero (despite what the dial is saying). I only noticed this recently, my ears were telling me that I had previously attained higher amounts of bass, I went to check the bass, it was saying full and I turned it backwards slightly (a bar or two) and then back to full and voila the Bass had returned. So that seems to be a bug somewhat, and an annoying nuisance.
There is the option to direct the sound evenly (360 degreeish) or more directly to the user.
Bluetooth. But here is where the whole 360 sound idea falls over. If you place the speaker in the middle of a room say and people are getting up, moving around and the transmitter is located outside of the circle, expect cut outs. People need to understand that BT likes people stationary and not in the direct line of sight between the transmitter and receiver, so much so a wire lying taped across the floor is less of an inconvenience.
Aux is the other connective option and of course a more stable one.
Creatives D5 and S2 do the operational side of things best. I have two usb BT transmitter modules in a usb dock connected to the pc. This usb dock has buttons to toggle individual usb ports on and off. I have one usb port marked 'Bathroom' and the other 'Veranda', how it works in practice is I simply push the dock button for the corresponding area and that in turn switches the actual speaker on! (the exception to this was the T12's didn't do this, u also had to turn the speaker on manually). Then I would enter into foobar (my music software player of choice) and select which sound-driver to use (in this case Creative) and music would start streaming to that speaker. Fairly simple, push button, select sound, Done.
TDK doesn't work like this, you also have to manually walk over and switch it on, redo the bass and then do all of the above. Creative gets it right, TDK doesn't.
Although to be fair TDK do supply a wireless remote to change volume, on/off and select BT/Aux (but no bass/treble adjustment), but seeing as more often than not the user will change volume using the transmitter device it's a little bit of a redundant feature.
Overall I am happy with the unit. I have something I can take from one room to another easily, connect via my PC using BT or my mp3 player using aux cable. I have to be careful with traffic going between the speaker and PC but then that's not so much a criticism of this speaker but rather BT technology (a problem that exists with my Creative speakers as well).
The biggest Pro is the sound quality and price. I tried many portable BT speakers that perhaps were genuinely more portable (internal battery) but offered far less sound quality and three times the price tag. Units that were soley ac powered but cost 3x the price were often similar in output. I guess the lesson here is if you see a speaker you like just wait and grab when in a sale or nearing the end of it's line, as in my experience nearly all these speakers are overpriced.
Price ($100 is ok, $300 is not)
USB Charge (did I forget to mention this has a regular USB 2.0 port to which you can charge a device such as yer mp3 player while in use. Yeh that's because I don't use it much).
360 degree sound, nice to spread the sound around but can come with a price (read review above)
Pretty to look at, well I think so at least.
Pretty naff build quality
Lack of protection for woofers.
EQ settings reset after unit goes off (despite what the dial might suggest)
BT (as a technology) is pretty limited imo
Connecting the unit is more long drawn out process than one would like.
SOURCE: Xclef (gone) | Cowon X5(gone) | Cowon D2 (dead) | Sansaclip+ RB | Sansa ClipZip RB | Cowon i9+ (32gb) | Cowon C2 (4gb)
HPs: Soundmagic E10's | Hippo VB's | UE 600's | Superlux HD 668B | Superlux HD660 | Sony XBA3 | Sony XBA2VP
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