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Tubecore’s Duo weds the best of analog and digital in hardwood harmony

Just when we were beginning to think the well of innovative, wireless speaker solutions may have dried up, along came the Tubecore Duo. This gorgeous, handcrafted, tube-driven piece of audiophile awesome is truly unlike anything we’ve seen before. From the outside, the Duo looks like a hip, hardwood tabletop speaker, but at its heart is a custom-built computer and premium audio components that could let you swipe your media center clean of all those little black boxes, replacing them with one beautiful, highly-customizable work of electronic art. 

The Duo started out as a Kickstarter project, which blew past its initial $20,000 funding goal, finally reaching $136,640 in September 2013. Due to its success, Tubecore has worked to refine and finalize the Duo’s design, adding in even more functionality and options than originally intended. The stock version of the Duo is priced at $649, with a $170 pre-order discount bringing it to $479, but there are plenty of upgrades that can push the final price up to $670 and beyond. Tubecore expects to begin shipping in June. 

Tube preamp, 100 watt A/B amplifer and 4-inch full-range drivers? By the specs alone, the Duo should sound awesome.

The stock version of the Duo speaker features a dual-tube, class-A preamp stage and a class A/B solid state 100-watt amp driving two ported,  full-range 4-inch speakers. Connectivity includes one HDMI output for your HDTV, Ethernet or Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, two USB ports, a phono input (RIAA) for turntables, a line input jack, headphone jack, and a coaxial video output for older displays. By the specs, this thing should sound awesome. And if you’re thinking you might want more bass, we’re told a matching subwoofer is in the works. 

At the top of the speaker is an anodized, aircraft-grade aluminum control knob, which pulls several functions, including volume control and source selection. However, for more advanced functions, Tubecore’s app (called CONTROL) must be used.

The stock Duo’s cabinet is carved out of Sapele, a tree native to tropical Africa, but Dimitri Furman at Tubecore told Digital Trends that it has forged a relationship with a hardwood supplier that should make nearly any type of wood an option for buyers. From there, you can choose from up to 37 different grill cover colors. The next option involves one of four different types of vacuum tubes for the pre-amp, each with its own distinct sound properties, including the rare and drool-worthy Genalex ECC82/B749 Gold Lion Custom. Finally, users can choose either a Raspberry Pi computer loaded with XBMC Gotham, or an UDOO computer, which can be configured with a quad-core processor. All design elements are completely open source, so when you receive your Duo speaker, you get all the plans and schematics your inner-engineer could desire – when the computer comes due for an upgrade, advanced users should have no problem swapping it out. If you aren’t a hard-core Linux geek, don’t let all that tech-y stuff scare you off, because the Duo is designed to work well for anyone, right out of the box.

Tubecore DUO SoftTouch Control

Those who will use the speaker to stream audio have multiple ways to play. But when it comes to streaming video, the system is a little more limited out of the box, though with plenty of potential through customization.  While the built-in computer with XBMC will give those with media servers a clean and easy way to access their media over a network, the Duo speaker lacks the typical apps folks who own a Roku or Apple TV might be familiar with. But as enthusiastic customers/developers get their hands on the speaker, new ways stream may open up soon – that’s the beauty of the open-source architecture. 

What do you think of the Tubecore Duo? Is the addition of a built-in computer with media center capabilities something that interests you? Or are you having trouble staring past that beautiful cabinet and glowing tubes? Let us know in the comments!

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