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Focal iCub iPod 2.1 speaker set

Just too good for its target market?

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Review With demand for iPod accessories reaching fever pitch it seems there's no stopping manufacturers from claiming their generic audio products are really for the add-on market. French outfit Focal seems to have taken this claim to the extreme with the iCub, a high-end 2.1 speaker system it's pitching at MP3 player owners.

Focal iCubThe small, cube-shaped speaker system (sub-woofer measurements: 33.3 x 30 x 30cm) comes in black rather than the now-standard white. This unit is so high-spec that to get the benefit of the system your music files have to be encoded at least 192Kbps rather than the more common 128Kbps, if not higher.

This has its drawbacks. For starters, only Tesco offers music downloads in the UK using this degree of compression. Files are bigger, which means there's less music on your MP3 player, and while this won't make a huge difference to a 20GB model, it's certainly a point to consider if you use a Flash-based device.

So you've got your 192Kbps songs, what do you do now? Play them of course. The volume is controlled using a glowing knob on the top of the sub-woofer. We can't fault the sound quality and performance coming from the three BASH amplifiers, with a maximum capacity of 400W and the high-precision 20-bit DA converter (ST TDA7535) used for the speakers. The balance between treble and bass is just right and there's no doubting this is a top-notch system that any self-respecting audiophile would be happy to own. Couple that with multiple inputs, including optical digital, all with automatic detection so there's no need to manually turn iCub on or off when you change sources and you've got a pretty impressive machine on your hands.

What's the catch? The Focal iCub will currently set you back a cool £450, some £250 more than a 20GB iPod, so this really is at the extreme end of the iPod accessory lines. If you're so into your music that you're willing to spend £450 on two speakers and a woofer - are you likely to want to plug your iPod into it? Probably not.

Verdict

We thought the Bose iPod speakers were expensive and then we met the iCub. In all fairness the speakers are very good, it's got gold banana plugs everywhere and the design, although on the large side, is pretty snazzy too, although we think placing the volume knob on the top of the sub-woofer is a bit annoying as it means you can't hide it out the way.__ This is a top-notch set that outclasses the iPod it's geared towards.

Review by
Pocket-Lint.co.uk

Focal iCub
 
Rating 70%
 
Pros Impressive sound range; its looks; the sound quality.
 
Cons The price; the target market.
 
Price £450 inc. VAT
 
More info The Focal site

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