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!

Home Theater

Roland’s Amazon-exclusive BTM-1 Bluetooth speaker doubles as a guitar amp

Roland, long known for its many digital instruments, has made an Amazon-exclusive Bluetooth speaker for musicians on the go. With a guitar cable input and overdrive effect, it might be the perfect portable rig for guitarists.
Home Theater

From home theater to home studio, these are the best speakers you can buy

Whether you’re looking for a spiffy surround sound setup or a small system to listen to Spotify, a great pair of speakers can make all the difference. These are the best speakers in all shapes and sizes.
Home Theater

Six sensational subwoofers that will shake any room on any budget

Whether you're a film buff or a music junkie, sometimes you just need to go lower. Luckily, we've put together a guide to the best subwoofers, so you can feel your favorite movies instead of just hearing them.
Home Theater

Rock out, dance, or just nod along with the best Bluetooth speakers

The market is saturated with wireless audio solutions fit for any and all circumstances. Check out our picks for the best Bluetooth speakers available, whether you'll be listening in the kitchen or on a mountaintop.
Home Theater

These awesome A/V receivers will swarm you with surround sound at any budget

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to shopping for a receiver, so we assembled our favorites for 2019, at multiple price points and all loaded with features, from Dolby Atmos to 4K HDR and much more.
Home Theater

Don’t cash in that 401(k)! These are the best 4K TVs you can get for under $500

These days, you can land a pretty epic 4K TV for under $500. Still, sorting through the litany of options online can be both time-consuming and overwhelming. Check out our list of the best 4K TVs under $500 to cut through the clutter.
Product Review

Sony’s Z9G paints a bright, beautiful future for 8K TVs

The Sony Z9G 85-inch 8K TV is majestic to behold. No doubt, this TV is a looker, and you’ll know what we mean when you see it. Does this TV make sense, though? Should you buy it? We have the answers.
Home Theater

The best noise-canceling headphones paint your music on a cleaner canvas

Drowning out the sound of babies, jet engines, and the outside world isn't as difficult as it seems. Here are the best noise-canceling headphones, whether you're concerned with style, comfort, or sound.
Home Theater

Block the outside world, tune into your own with the best in-ear headphones

Over-the-ear headphones offer top-flight sound, but they're not so easy to take along with you. If you're looking to upgrade your portable sound, check out our favorite in-ear headphones -- there's a model for every user and every budget.
Home Theater

5 gorgeous turntables that spin stacks of wax in style for less than $500

Vinyl records are awesome, but they're also finicky. To get the best out of your stacks of wax, it's best to play them on a quality turntable. Here are the best turntables to be had for under $500.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Alexa knows where you live, lab-grown meat, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we discuss how Amazon Alexa's audit team has access to locations, additions to Verizon's 5G road map, the future of food technology, a review of Sony's 8K TV, and more.
Home Theater

The best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2019.
Movies & TV

The outlaw days are over in new trailer for HBO’s Deadwood movie

This spring, HBO's long-awaited Deadwood movie will explore what happened 10 years after the events of HBO's award-winning drama, giving the series a finale 13 years after the show was canceled.