Let's be honest: Wireless speakers are a dime a dozen. The options are seemingly endless, and new ones arrive on an almost daily basis. Companies have begun to push the boundaries of design as of late, making options that are an aesthetic step above the larger outfits. Tubecore's Duo certainly does that, but it's also so much more.
It may be easy to gloss over the Duo spec sheet and skip right over to the Moto X-esque customization page, however it's there that the real standout features lie. What's immediately clear from the first glance is the vacuum tube-driven preamp. It's a 48v Class A unit that relies on that pair of tubes to deliver "vintage studio hi-fi." The folks at Tubecore say that this allows you to beam audio from any source and get a taste of analog high-fidelity listening. A 24-bit DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) lends a hand there with the help of the standard-issue Raspberry Pi, and the signal is filtered six times to remove any excess noise that might be picked up by the system's components.
All of that leads to uncompressed audio from all input sources in a package that's built to be hacked, moded and upgraded based on the needs and preferences of the user. "Because Duo is high-powered, it's definitely more expensive to manufacture, but the quality is uncompromising," says Tubecore President Jason Perkail.
But the thing looks great, and its industrial design is more than skin deep. Perkail told me that the Duo's cabinet was designed in a fashion similar to an electric guitar, with a heavy dose of inspiration from the analog API Legacy 4x4 console in Ben Folds' Studio A. In fact, it's built in a similar fashion to a six-string and this construction is what gives the speaker a full 10Hz-20kHz range.
"Because DUO is high-powered it's definitely more expensive to manufacture, but the quality is uncompromising."
What's more, the controls are simple. There's a single 4-inch aluminum dial that mimics classic hi-fi knobs up top to wrangle volume, inputs and system preferences powered by an embedded Arduino MC. In terms of connectivity, there's Bluetooth for wireless streaming with WiFi, line-in, RIAA-equalized phono in and the onboard computer's USB ports. This will allow you to connect nearly everything to the speaker from a TV to mobile devices and computers -- easily fitting in as part of a home entertainment system. As you might expect, Android and iOS apps will accompany the Duo and will work alongside Estimote Beacons to track users as they move around the house, blanketing the same experience in configurable zones throughout.
If the aforementioned customization is what you're after, that's certainly a hook here too. There are 10 standard grill covers and 27 custom grill covers (for an additional $19) -- all of which are magnetic -- for adding a splash of color to the wooden speaker. For those looking to dig deeper with the modular add-ons, three tube upgrades range from $25 to $75, and the option to swap out that Raspberry Pi for a UDOO Quad tacks on $110. All of those bits are tacked on to the $649 base price, which is currently discounted for those willing to opt in early to an attractive $479 pre-order rate.