A lot of manufacturers are getting in the Bluetooth speaker game, or at least upping the ante with their new and current products. Some are going bigger for better sound and quality, while others are designing ones to appeal to those looking for something compact and portable.
“Compact” can be subjective and relative at the same time. Matrix Audio’s most recent speaker release, the Qube2 Bluetooth Mini-Speaker, doubles up on size and power versus the original Qube. Even so, it’s still much smaller than most other compact speakers out there. Despite the size, the Qube2 stands out and captures quite the attention.
Design & Connectivity
I happen to really like how the Qube2 looks. What can I say, except that I’m a sucker for anodized aluminum. This speaker is classy and modern, yet unique with the way the rectangular shape is smoothed out with the heavily-rounded corners.
The Qube2 features a one-piece design that is solid and durable. The dual speakers are covered by a firmly attached grill. What’s fun is how the appearance leads to a bit of intrigue.
With the speaker facing away, the Qube2 can look almost like anything. Is it an external hard drive? Paperweight? Geocache capsule with nifty sekrit stuffs in it? Magnetic paperclip holder? Imagination is the limit!
Controls and operation are basic. There’s only one button for power, which also doubles for play/pause as well. Track and volume control are meant to be handled by connected devices. Instructions come with the speaker, but Bluetooth connected without a hitch for me.
The Micro USB cable is a hybrid for USB charging as well as 3.5mm audio connectivity.
This lets the Qube2 work with older non-Bluetooth devices, which is pretty nice. Though not as short as a Nomad ChargeKey cable, this cable folds up and stashes away easily.
The included wrist strap is a nice touch, and is especially useful if one carries gear without a bag or backpack. The strap frees up a hand to hold a smartphone, book, keys, or something like that. It makes it easy to bring along wherever I go. While the speaker can fit (i.e. cram) in a pocket, it’s not so comfortable. I tried.
The Qube2 speaker provides outstanding volume, trumping those of smartphones, tablets, and even laptops. The quality is also an improvement too. Ideal for local/private listening, the Qube2 doesn’t quite have the power to carry music to all ends of a room. Sure, audio can be heard and sung to, but the details dissipate quickly as you move further away.
I’ve found the ideal listening volume to be around 50-65%. Beyond this point, the highs start to wash out and distortion increases all through the mids. Even at 50%, the noise output is still pretty loud, especially compared to what tablets and smartphones can do.
With a form factor this small, one can’t expect to have the dynamics and imaging that larger, better-equipped speakers can deliver.
Even though the Qube2 has two speakers, music comes out sounding closer to mono instead of stereo. But it does have enough guts inside to keep tunes from sounding completely flat.
Although much of the instruments represented in the highs tend to sound tinny and pale, vocals that peak in the upper registers remain steady. In fact, the Qube2 delivers excellent, forward vocals throughout. They come out clear and powerful for such a little speaker.
The best detail comes out of the mids, which is also why the vocals are so strong. There’s some good punch and energy right in the middle. Guitars, in particular, sound great and low-mid bass strings deserve a nod, probably since they saddle partly into the lows.
I like that I can listen to Primus and hear the twang associated with Les Claypool. Although the lows tend to have anemic-sounding hits, it doesn’t sound half bad.
Slappy in terms of force, but it’s more than made up with by having a good tempo and snappy attack.
Again, the size of the Qube2 is the limiting factor in terms of low-end reproduction. The lows do a fine job in terms of rounding out the music and preventing an emptiness below the mids. While bass-heavy music such as hip hop or metal may sound lacking, other types of music do shine.
Artists such as (but not limited to) Ingrid Michaelson, Modest Mouse, Jamiroquai, and Van Morrison play to the strengths of what the Qube2 can deliver: strong vocals with instrumental focus around the mids. The Qube2 does better when the highs and lows support the mids instead of taking the spotlight.
Most music, including rock, sounds good, but I’ve discovered that songs tend to be quite sensitive to the volume level. What would normally be considered as depth quickly turns into a muddy distortion that washes everything out. This aspect is dependent on track recording and volume more than artist or genre.
Despite the acoustic criticisms, the Qube2 is very fun and enjoyable to listen to. The strengths lie with how it provides greater volume than the stock speakers of most mobile devices. It’s not just volume; the Qube2 presents better clarity and tone by comparison, too. All this is wrapped up in well-built, ultra-portable aluminum body. It’s rather impressive.
Sure, one can’t expect a whole lot of depth and audio quality from something this small.
The Qube2 is ideal for casual listening, adding background music anywhere, or even staying above general noise levels so you can actually hear your music or movies playing. If you want volume without so much added mass, and also without having to resort to cheap crap, the Qube2 might just be what you’re looking for.
The price point, however, puts the Qube2 in a tough position. One can pony up another $20 and select from a respectable number of Bluetooth speakers with far better sound quality. While those other options won’t be as small and portable – about 3+ times larger than the Qube2 – they’re still going to be compact and (fully) palm sized. But if you manage to snag a deal and get the Qube2 Bluetooth Mini-Speaker for somewhere around $50-$55, you’ll be happy with the product’s price and performance.