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!

Product Review

SVS's stunning Prime speakers go wireless with (mostly) brilliant results

The latest offering from SVS is a wireless way to enjoy the company’s incredible sound. While they do come with a few caveats, those looking for gorgeous sound in a stunning package will want to give them a long look.

How do the revised Xbox One and PlayStation 4 consoles stack up?

Microsoft's new Xbox One S and Sony's PlayStation 4 "Slim" have bucked the generational gaming console trend. But which of these stopgap systems is worth spending your paycheck on?
Smart Home

Google Home Mini vs. Amazon Echo Dot: Which smart home speaker is better?

We put the two most popular smart home speakers -- the Google Home Mini and the 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot -- together and tested them on appearance, audio, and abilities. So which should you buy? Find out how they did in our showdown.
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 more 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.
Home Theater

Bose’s technology patents could save an earbud’s battery life

Possibly taking a cue from Apple's popular AirPods, Bose filed a patent application for earbud IR technology that could save battery life, improve sound quality, and possibly help people locate lost earbuds.
Home Theater

ATSC 3.0: The next-gen TV update explained

ATSC 3.0 is the next major update to the broadcast standard we use today. Will this be the second coming of free, over-the-air TV? We're here to explain everything about the new standard.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.
Home Theater

Still listening on tinny, muffled TV speakers? Try one of our favorite soundbars

You no longer have to sacrifice sound for size when selecting home audio equipment. Check out our picks for the best soundbars, whether you're looking for budget options, pure power, smarts, or tons of features.
Home Theater

Samsung will stop releasing new Blu-ray players in the U.S.

Samsung, the first company to produce a 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray player, is now exiting the Blu-ray market entirely in the U.S. The move comes after Oppo Digital also dropped out of the market last year.
Movies & TV

The Breaking Bad sequel might air on Netflix before it arrives on AMC

A Breaking Bad sequel starring Jesse Pinkman (and, possibly, Walter White) is on the way from series creator Vince Gilligan, and you might get your first look at it on Netflix, not traditional cable.

The best Presidents’ Day sales 2019: Amazon, Walmart, Dell, and more

Presidents' Day sales are a great chance to score electronics, clothing, home and office stuff, and other goodies at a discount. We’ve smoked out a large handful of the best of these Presidents' Day deals, from tech to bedding, to help…

Take a gander at the best deals on 4K TVs for February 2019

There's no doubt that a good 4K smart TV is the best way to take your home entertainment setup to the next level to enjoy all your favorite shows, movies, and games in glorious Ultra HD. We've got the best 4K TV deals right here.