Bluelounge's newest offering is a yet another stylish organizer in the form of a cable sleeve router. The Soba, as Bluelounge calls it, is a lengthy sleeve tubing made out of a braided nylon fabric material that can expand to fit a mixture of power and data cables while auto-coiling all on its own to snuggly bind your cables into one resilient loom using a so-called Vortex technology in an attempt to rid you from that awful-looking cable clutter lurking behind or underneath your desk in arguably the most professional way possible. While not the first of its kind, the Soba is the most aesthetically pleasing cable routing solution we've seen yet. But is it also the most effective and least frustrating be-all and end-all cable management accessory? Be sure to catch our full review down below to find out!
If you take a look at the back of the Soba's packaging you'll see the Soba in its ideal usage case scenario. And that is routing most if not all of your power, Ethernet, Thunderbolt, HDMI, USB and/or audio cables from point A to point B in the neatest and most attractive way possible. It'll cost you $25 and it's available in black and in white. But before we get down to how all of this plays out in practice, let's see what's inside the box.
The Soba comes flat packed and coiled around on a plastic tray along with some accessories that help complete the picture, all of which are made out of a glossy black plastic including a cable installation ring tool which Bluelounge calls the Soba zipper, a wall/desk mountable Y-shaped cable splitter with an adhesive bottom, five rubber bands (pre-fitted onto the ends of the Soba), two end cap snaps with a dual-way cable split opening, and three mounting caps with an adhesive bottom (an optional accessory used to anchor down parts of the Soba cable tubing after you've finished installing your cables inside of it to your desk or wall). Be careful where you stick these adhesive mounts as they have a very strong and secure stickiness to them that might be difficult to remove from surfaces with the potential of causing damage to surface finishes and even leaving behind residue.
The Soba's Vortex fiber impregnated woven fabric material is very similar to that of braided mice cords. It's flexible and seems to be very durable until it is cut. Like any braided fabric, the Soba will fray at the end if it is cut. You can use a lighter to seal the edge again if you do end up having to cut it, which is perfectly acceptable and even instructed in the user guide. However, it's worth noting that Bluelounge did not mention anything about heat-sealing any freshly cut ends and that's unfortunate. It only takes two seconds under a small flame, and we would suggest that you do so in order to avoid causing damage to the braided material and to insure a long-lasting finish.
Instructions are included of course, but in my opinion they are a bit lacking and too basic for most people to understand. The installation shouldn't be hard, but it isn't exactly straightforward either. And that's partly due to the way Bluelounge designed the Soba's so-called zipper tool. It's essentially a C-shaped, double-walled round ring that you have to slip over the ends of the Soba tube until it is wound inside the inner wall of the zipper ring. The process isn't what I'd call easy and does require force as you twist the zipper against the Soba's natural Vortex coiled design so that you can create a U-shaped opening where you can start to lay down your cables as you move the ring further down the tube.
As you move the ring along the Soba, it will act like a zipper, closing the gab and allowing the Vortex technology of the Soba's coiled sleeve to tighten and wrap around the cables inside as you move down the tube. It helps if you put your index finger down on the cables as you're holding the zipper whilst you move it so that you can slide it across more easily and with less friction.
If all goes well, the zipper should do its job fairly well as you slide it across the tube covering your cables with the Soba's tight twisting grasp. But you also may experience some along the way like the zipper sliding off of its track or parts of the Soba's sleeve not properly wrapping around the cables. Don't expect to get everything done in a matter of seconds. Wrapping a set of lengthy cables with the Soba and adjusting to its zipper installation method can take up your entire lunch break.
It's worth noting that you can never really unzip the Soba using the zipper tool since the sleeve automatically wraps over behind the ring as it moves across. If you need to pull a cable out, you simply need to pull the cable and it will easily slide out of the sleeve without damaging it or unravelling the loom thanks to that Vortex technology, which I might add is very strong at forming a tight and secure twisting wrap-around despite being made out of a very flexible material. After a couple of cable sleeving attempts, the Soba has yet to show signs of it losing any of its tight, and albeit expandable, grasp and natural coiling effectiveness, which is always a good sign of quality materials being used in the construction.
To finish the job, you can use the included rubber bands to hold the ends of the cables and sleeve tightly while you snap on one of the end caps to create an aesthetically pleasing finish to your cable loom. Taking a close look at these end caps we can see that they offer a two-sided cable split that separates your cables apart. I'm not sure why this is needed as it only causes trouble when using thicker cables. There are only two of these end caps included, so if you're planning on introducing an intersection Y-splitter cap, you won't have any left to cover the opposite side of the cable loom. So you'll end up with an unfinished looking side. It looks like Bluelounge haven't thought about that at all.
The length of the Soba out of the box is 118-inches (3m) giving you plenty of room to work with. You can cut the Soba down to fit the length of your cables just right, or if you want to use the included Y-splitter cap, then you would need to cut the necessary length of tubing to create a secondary cable route which you would then neatly cover using this Y-shaped cable splitter cap that Bluelounge cleverly designed. After you've wrapped and installed your cables inside of the Soba, you can start to pull out the cables needed from the end of the Soba sleeve without using the zipper until you reach the desired location from where you would like to implement a cable intersection using the provided Y-splitter mounting cap. It's worth mentioning that you can also achieve the same cable split routing from a single loom with other notable alternatives like TechFlex, but the Soba does it more professionally using a more forward thinking design thanks to these plastic caps you can snap on to customize your cable routing.
As we mentioned earlier, the Soba's Y-splitter and three mounting caps have a very strong adhesive that enables you to stick them to your wall as you route the cable to its final destination. We appreciate the versatility that comes with the Soba compared to other existing cable tubing alternatives.
Now you can obviously use the Soba in many different situations, but my personal use for it I found was to set my cable-cluttered wireless modem straight. I have three cables in total being connected to the back of my AirPort Extreme tower including two Ethernet and one two-prong power cable, which despite being colorful, had to be put in order. As expected, the Soba did an amazing job putting all three cables into a single and more organized fabric sleeved cord with a more pleasing and clean appearance.
Here’s where things get a little more complicated. Bluelounge says that you can use up to three large or small cables with the Soba at any given time. But the type of cable thickness varies and depends on the mixture of cable sizes you have have wrapped inside the tube. For example: you use the Soba to route a somewhat thick power cable along with two other smaller cables like a USB cable and a Ethernet cable, but mixing in a large grounded power cable such as an iMac or Thunderbolt Display cable with another thick HDMI cable for example, leaves no room to effectively fit an additional third cable nor will you be able to fit the supplied end cap over the sleeved cable bundle you've created. Again, it doesn’t look like Bluelounge put in the effort to research and finish their homework on what works best with what before claiming that the Soba is capable of fitting up to three large cables at once.
While we found that the Soba can expand to fit thicker HDMI and 3-prong (grounded) external monitor power cables, the aforementioned end cap will not fit around that kind of cable configuration. We think that the one size fits all hardware design of the Soba doesn’t work well enough for all cable types. Needless to say there should have been more end cap and adhesive-backed mounting cap options included with the Soba in order to maximize the chances of compatibility. So really the Soba has its limitation, and I’m afraid it won’t work for everyone’s needs. One way that you can bypass this restrictive end cap splitter is to use on of the mounting caps instead, which have one large opening better suited for thicker gauge cable.
As many of you know, Bluelounge is one of the go-to brands when it comes to cable organizing needs. The company has built its reputation on making beautifully designed products that help make our everyday tech-savvy lifestyles more convenient with problem-solving accessories like the Jimi, Kickflip and CableBox – to name a few. The Soba is yet another one of those products designed to conceal your wires in a neat and orderly way, which might we add ends up looking very professional. For the most part, the Soba completes the job as advertised, unless you start using very thick cables with it. Like we mentioned earlier, a TechFlex cable will work just as well, but if you dislike that mesh material it's made out among other things, then the Soba is definitely a more premium option with a versatile set of added features and a relatively user-friendly installation process at a reasonable price. It really is a fancier version of TechFlex with a softer and denser braided fabric outer layer that's better suited for use in directing computer cabling around a desktop environment, whereas we see TechFlex being more of an industrial solution. Both will still offer an additional layer of protection against chew marks if you have pets around the house with an appetite for cables.
As much as we appreciate the Soba's thoughtful cable management features, it isn't perfect. It lacks additional adapter cap sizes to enable more flexible thick cable gauge usage like grounded power cables. It's also worth noting that in our experience, using the zipper tool to install cables into the Soba can be a bit difficult at first. That being said, the Soba offers a much sleeker way of sleeving your cables compared to using cable ties or nothing at all. If you're going to use it with Thunderbolt/DisplayPort, Ethernet and various small cables, the Soba is a compelling solution for bundling all of those loose cables into one attractive, mountable cable.