With Amazon currently offering more smart speakers than Arsense Wenger has excuses, you may wonder exactly where KitSound hopes the Voice One Smart Speaker will find its niche. Audiophiles? Probably not. Style gurus? Maybe. Bargain hunters? Not at £120. But while there’s no obvious slot for the KitSound Voice One Smart Speaker, you may just find yourself wanting one.
KitSound Voice One review: Sound quality
We’ll start with the all-important sound quality. The good news for bass lovers is that the KitSound Voice One packs plenty of punch. If you’re looking for party speakers then you’ll love its room-filling abilities. No wonder, perhaps, considering its size.
The bad news is that it lacks the clarity of rival Echos. By comparison, it sounds more woolly and more hollow.
While it’s true that there isn’t enough precision here to satisfy audiophiles, I have one big caveat: the only way I really noticed this (as someone who sits plumb in the middle of the bell curve when it comes to audio appreciation) was when I jumped between the new Amazon Echo, the Echo Plus and the KitSound speakers. If I was just sitting there, working away with the music on, I was more than happy with the KitSound’s output.
It appears that I’m not alone either. Some of its Amazon reviewers criticise it for audio quality, but it mainly gains praise.
One final thing: I wasn’t able to test this, because I only had one speaker, but two KitSound Voice One speakers can be paired to create a stereo effect. I suspect that’s a potent combination.
KitSound Voice One review: How smart?
If you’ve used an Echo or Google Home speaker, you’ve probably been impressed by how well it picks up your voice, even when loud music is playing. Amazon and Google achieve this by squeezing multiple microphones into the body of the speaker, whereas KitSound makes do with two. During my six weeks with the KitSound, it’s been sitting on my main desk, so I’m only a couple of feet away from it. From that distance, it had no trouble picking up my voice with music rattling out.
Other people have reported that it struggled to pick up their voice from distance, but again I had no such issues. Even with the volume at close to near-maximum I only needed to use my normal voice and it would recognise “Alexa”. The weird bit is that it cuts off all music after it hears the voice command, which seems odd when you’re used to Echo speakers merely minimising whatever’s playing.
Where the KitSound struggles, compared to the Echo speakers, is understanding what I’m asking of it. I found I needed to repeat myself more often, which was a mild irritation. Another minus is that the output occasionally stuttered, as it struggled to sync with the music streaming from my phone. It didn’t always happen, and it did settle down after a couple of minutes, but again – a mild irritation.
Other than this, it’s every bit as smart as an Echo. You can use any of the Alexa skills, and even have the choice of a British or American accent. You can’t change the activation word – you have to call it Alexa – but that’s not a huge hassle.
Another very mild drawback compared to an Echo is that you need to install KitSound’s KSOne app to set it up. There is a positive side to this, because KitSound shows its independence by integrating TuneIn, iHeartRadio, Spotify, Tidal and Napster. Right now, for instance, I’m listening to an Austrian version of Lounge.fm via TuneIn. While I could, of course, install TuneIn and then stream direct to the speaker, it’s a neat bit of integration.
KitSound Voice One review: Design & features
The Voice One has the edge on physical controls. I’m not a fan of twisting the top of the Echo Plus to adjust the volume, and even less so of pressing the small buttons atop the Echo. Yes, of course, I can use voice to do the same, but it’s satisfying to reach out and twist the knob on the KitSound Voice One.
I also love the remote control. While this may seem old hat in 2018, pointing a remote control to pause music, skip tracks and control volume is often more convenient than barking out instructions (albeit not when you’re right next to it, as in my staged photo below!).
The control also duplicates one of the most handy features of the KitSound: the easy switching of inputs. Press a button and it flicks to from Wi-Fi to Bluetooth to line-in. As with the Echo speakers, there’s also a microphone mute button: press this and the circular light, which is usually white to show you’re connected to the Wi-Fi, turns red. It turns blue in Bluetooth mode and green in line-in mode, which are again handy indicators.
The final big point in the KitSound’s favour is its multiroom support. You can have up to eight of these in your house, streaming music wherever you happen to be. And that line-in mode means it could be connected to your hi-fi and let you listen to those vinyl LPs you own that aren’t available on the streaming services.
KitSound Voice One review: Buying decision
Before you buy, you need to be aware of the KitSound Voice One’s limitations. For overall sound quality, I’d place it in between the Amazon Echo and the Echo Plus, and when it’s priced almost bang in the middle of the two that seems to make sense. Other key limitations: it isn’t as good at recognising voice commands as the Echo family, and you have to install the Alexa app separately if you want to access its smarts.
The pluses? Well, while it’s physically larger than the Echo Plus, I prefer its styling. That’s personal preference, of course, but the Echo Plus (particularly in its white incarnation) is too clinical for my tastes. I’m also a fan of the remote control, despite the fact it isn’t 2003 anymore, and the Voice One’s multiroom abilities. Nor does it cost a fortune. Oh, it’s a British company behind it, too.
So we go back to our original Big Tech Question: is this KitSound Voice One a credible rival to the Echo speakers? Absolutely, yes.
Now read this: How do I make Alexa play exactly the music I want?