Das Boom: Thonet and Vander Kurbis BT Speaker Review

Thonet and Vander Kurbis BT
Thonet and Vander

As someone who owns a sporty German car that’s had problems with everything from door locks, window regulators, oxygen sensors and other assorted issues, I’ve adopted a less rose-colored outlook when it comes to universal claims of German engineering excellence. I mean, my old Toyota RAV4 may not be as fun to drive but at least the windows and locks work fine even after nearly two decades.

In short, seeing claims of German knowhow on a product no longer earns automatic admiration from yours truly. If anything, it invites closer scrutiny. So when I saw the words “German Engineering and Design” being trumpeted on the box of Thonet and Vander’s Kurbis BT speaker, my initial reaction was, “Oh yeah?” Sometimes, it’s hard to tell when claims like that are done as a matter of national pride or as some sort of marketing diversion to take one’s attention from the fact that the product is, say, made in China.

For its Kurbis BT, Thonet and Vander opts for the traditional twin approach with right and left speakers instead of a single cabinet. The speakers are also housed within wooden cabinets, which is a plus for certain audio purists who feel that wood cabinets provide a more brilliant, warmer sound than plastic or synthetic material. In addition to the speakers, the box also includes a Y audio cable, speaker wires for linking both speakers together, as well as a prong cable for supplying power. The solo end of the Y cable uses a 3.5mm plug, allowing you to connect it to your smartphone, tablet, laptop or MP3 player. The stereo end of the Y cable, meanwhile, can be plugged to red and white ports in the back of one of the speakers. Otherwise, the Kurbis BT also has a 3.5mm port if you prefer to use a double ended 3.5mm cable, though you’ll have to supply the cable yourself. The speaker also does not include a 1/4" audio cable for folks who would like to link the Kurbis to a studio monitor, for example, so you’ll need to get one as well or acquire some sort of adapter.

The main speaker also comes with three knobs for added control. One acts a separate volume knob while the other two control treble and bass. Personally, I like speakers that provide bass and treble control options as it gives me more flexibility to fine tune my music, especially when using an audio source that does not have an equalizer.

Of course, sound quality is where it’s all at when it comes to speakers and the good news is that the Kurbis BT doesn’t disappoint on this end. Sound is quite dynamic with lots of punch and can be pushed volumewise with minimal distortion. For folks who like their speaker to come with throaty bass, just crank up the bass knob on the speaker or your MP3 player EQ and you’ve got enough low end to fill a room. I haven’t reviewed a portable home speaker with this much bass since the iNuke Boom Junior, except the Kurbis also comes with more refined highs and mids. Otherwise, folks who prefer a more flat sound can dial down the bass and treble knobs as well. For those who prefer to stream audio from their iPhone, iPad or an Android phone such as the Galaxy S6, the Kurbis comes with Bluetooth capability with an optimal range of more than 10 feet. I was able to stream sound from the second floor of my house with no issues. Otherwise, you can connect an excellent MP3 player such as the Sansa Clip+ for even better sound.

Pricing can be a bit high for some folks at about $200 but compares favorably to other speakers in its class. I also wish its regular volume was a smidgen louder as you’ll need to have the speaker volume knob maxed out and then crank up the volume on your player as well to get really loud sound. Overall, though, the Kurbis BT is an excellent speaker with excellent audio balance and dynamic sound. In this case, claims of German engineering, thankfully, aren’t just for show. Wunderbar.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Jason Hidalgo is About.com’s Portable Electronics expert. Yes, he is easily amused. Follow him on Twitter @jasonhidalgo and be amused, too. For more portable audio reviews, check out the Headphones and Speakers hub