Gadgets for humans

After your first pair of bookshelf speakers? Then say hello to the Kurbis

Price $ 90 ProductKubris by Thonet & Vander

Sorry I’m awfully late to this review. German audio brand Thonet & Vander sent me these bookshelf speakers around last September, and I just hadn’t gotten around to ‘living with them’ at the time. In any case, we’re here now, and I’d like to tell you more about whether the Kurbis speakers should be granted space next to your favorite tomes.

With the Kurbis set, T&V appear to be attempting to strike a balance between performance and good value, and it mostly achieves that. These aren’t particularly distinctive in their design or packed with features, but they’re a neat set for those who are simply looking to enjoy crisp, clear sound in their bedroom or small living room. Here’s what you get for your money.

Design and features

T&V kept things relatively tame with the look of the Kurbis speakers: they feature traditional rectangular cabinets made of a natural polymer called Wood HDAA and wood grain-style exterior finishes in matte black. The only eye-catching detail is the bright yellow used for the speaker cones, but you can’t really see them unless you take the front grilles off. You may not mind this if you’re in the market for a discreet set of speakers.

 

Thonet & Vander's Kubris speakers are a handsome, discreet pair
Credit: Abhimanyu Ghoshal
Thonet & Vander’s Kurbis speakers are a handsome, discreet pair

As with many bookshelf models from other brands, there are controls knobs for volume, bass, and treble on the side of one speaker, and the inputs are on the back. There’s no remote control, so you’ll likely want to spend some time setting the speakers up the way you want them to sound, and then controlling volume from your phone or other streaming device.

These speakers measure 27.6 x 7.2 x 22.1 cm and weigh 4.5 kg each, which means they’ll take up a fair bit of room on your bookshelf, and may tax floating shelves unless they’re properly supported.

The Kubris speakers have their inputs and power switch on the back, which isn't ideal
Credit: Abhimanyu Ghoshal
The Kurbis speakers have their inputs and power switch on the back, which isn’t ideal

You can connect to these speakers via a 3.5mm input, RCA stereo cables, and Bluetooth. The two speakers are connected to each via cables and spring-clips mounted on the rear; I’d have liked to have seen binding posts instead, which are easier to use. It’s also a pity that the controls aren’t top-mounted for easier access.

Performance

When I first heard music out of the Kurbis set, I was instantly turned off by how sharp they sounded. A quick tweak of the EQ knobs helped a great deal in taming the highs and adding body to the low end. Setting the treble to 10 o’clock and the bass to 2 o’clock did the trick for me for most genres of music.

You'll definitely want to tweak the EQ on the Kubris speakers to suit your taste
Credit: Abhimanyu Ghoshal
You’ll definitely want to tweak the EQ on the Kubris speakers to suit your taste

Once that was sorted, things were more enjoyable. Pop records like Dua Lipa’s Don’t Start Now came through great and sounded lively, with plenty of presence and clear articulation.

However, I wouldn’t opt for these for more dynamic records like Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells or anything by Bela Fleck & The Flecktones. The silk tweeter does a good job of reproducing details, but there’s not a lot of room to breathe, and the soundstage feels rather small.

The same can be said for more intense tunes, like British modern metallers Loathe’s new disc, I Let It in and It Took Everything. There’s power and punch in spades, but my listening experience wasn’t elevated beyond what I felt when I heard this album on mid-range in-ear headphones.

That said, these speakers can comfortably fill a large room with their output of 68W RMS, and didn’t succumb to distortion and sibilance issues easily. They’re also fine for watching TV shows and movies, though they won’t immerse you in sound or make you feel like things are coming at you from all directions. The Bluetooth system worked well too, pairing instantly and staying connected without any fuss.

Who are these speakers for?

The Kurbis speakers are not particularly special in their feature set, looks, or performance — and for the price, that’s not unexpected. It’s also worth noting that the speakers are now significantly cheaper than in 2019; T&V currently list them at $125 on its site (half its launch price of $250), and they can be had for just under $90 on Amazon in the US.

At that price, these are a no-brainer. They can easily replace your crummy desktop speakers, or grace your living room and deliver enjoyable audio that’s good for personal listening or a small house party. If you listen to a lot of pop and dance, these speakers should put a smile on your face without breaking the bank.

Credit: Abhimanyu Ghoshal

If you’re shopping around in this price range, you’ll also want to consider this pair from Edifier, which includes a bunch more inputs, a remote control, and a natural wood finish option.

Find the Kurbis speakers on Amazon in the US at $90.


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Published March 12, 2020 — 10:07 UTC

Price $ 90 ProductKubris by Thonet & Vander

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