I purchased the first generation Amazon Echo thinking it was the best Alexa-enabled speaker available — at the time, anyway. While the Echo does all right in a smaller room, the speaker is anemic at best. But I’ve had the opportunity to check out the KitSound Voice One Smart Speaker recently, and I’ve found it to be much better.
If you’re using an echo dot, and you have it connected to a separate Bluetooth speaker, then you’re probably happy with the sound you’re getting when listening to Spotify or when Alexa is answering your questions. But if you want an all-in-one speaker with Alexa capabilities, The KitSound Voice One is a much better choice than the Echo.
Included in the KitSound box are the speaker, an EU power cable, a US power cable, a UK power cable, a remote control (with coin battery), a quick start guide, and a Spotify Premium/Spotify Connect brochure (basically telling you that the speaker has Spotify Connect built-in).
Let’s take a look at the KitSound Voice One, and then I’ll tell you what it can do.
The Voice One smart speaker measures approximately 11″ tall by 5″ deep by 5″ wide; as such, it is a larger unit than the Echo you might already own (or were considering buying). On the front of this stain-resistant nano-coated fabric wrapped speaker, you’ll find the following: a standby & mute/unmute button, a volume dial with a tap to talk button in the center; there is an LED light ring around the volume dial that will light when Alexa is activated. Next is the mode button (Bluetooth, Aux, and WiFi), an action button, and a KS LED indicator — when the LED is solid or flashing, the microphones may not be able to hear you, so you’ll have to either reduce the volume or manually push the tap to talk button in the center of the ring or the remote to wake Alexa.
On the back of the speaker, there is a port for the subwoofer, a two-prong charger port, a USB charge port, a line-in port, and a WPS button.
On the top, there are two microphones so that Alexa can pick up your voice requests for either side of the room.
The sides and bottom are plain.
In order to get the Voice One Smart Speaker up and running, you need to download the KitSound Player app from Google Play or the Apple App Store. Setup from that point is simple — after opening the app, you’ll plug the speaker in, and it will enter a WiFi pairing mode that you can address through the app to get the speaker onto your network. You’ll need to sign into your Amazon account for Alexa capabilities, and you’ll have the option of adding your favorite music streaming services; I’ve narrowed my streaming music subscriptions to Spotify Premium, so that’s the music app I added.
If you’ve ever owned an Amazon Echo speaker, then you’ll already know what to do next. You’ll need to download the Amazon Alexa app to your Android or iOS phone (if you don’t already have it). Once you’ve set the Voice One up through its app, it will then show in your list of Amazon Alexa enabled devices. If you select it, you can further customize your location, if you want you can put the player on a schedule or set a do not disturb time. You can also tell Alexa if you want temperature answers to be in Fahrenheit or Celsius and if you want distance measurements to be miles or metric.
From that point on, the KitSound Voice One is a fully enabled Amazon Alexa smart speaker; it’s on your network, and you can wake it by saying “Alexa …” and then telling the digital assistant what task you want her to perform.
If you’ve never played with Alexa before, you’ll enjoy having a personal assistant who can answer your questions as they come up (“Alexa, who won the 1946 World Series” or “Alexa, what’s the temperature today?”, for instance), and one who can control smart home functions you’ve enabled through the Alexa app.
We have black Haiku fans throughout our home, and we use Alexa to turn them on or off; we also use “her” to control the lights built into the fans. Alexa is also paired with my smarter Dyson products — a 360 Eye and a smart air purifier with a heater. You can also use Alexa to control other compatible smart home services and devices; it’s much better than the clap-on/clap-off we had in the dark ages. Amazon is constantly adding services and tricks to Alexa, so its capabilities are always expanding.
So what makes the KitSound Voice One Smart Speaker better than the Echo? To start with, the Voice One’s overall size is larger, so there is more room inside for better speakers and a subwoofer. The sound produced by the Voice One is on par with higher-end portable speakers that aren’t smart — so that’s already a bonus. The music played is clear, deep, and mini-directional, so the speaker doesn’t have to be facing you for it to sound good.
The dual-opposing drivers produce immersive omnidirectional audio, creating a unique 360° listening experience. And the built-in bass reflex boosts the low notes, giving a warmer and richer sound.
The Voice One looks good in any room, and because its fabric covering has a stain-resistant Nano coating protecting, it can handle small splashes if you keep it in the kitchen. The speaker also has built-in multi-room technology so you can connect up to eight of them together wirelessly for full-house sound. The handy remote makes it easy to operate the speaker from across the room — no more yelling at Alexa when you need to stop or advance the music or mute her — just press the corresponding buttons on the remote. You can press the center button on the remote and say “Alexa … ” without having to yell at the speaker from across the room. There’s no microphone included in the remote, but it will silence Alexa so that she can listen.
In all honesty, I was surprised by the KitSound’s price; I’ve spent this much (or more) on dumb speakers that didn’t sound quite as good, and to get one at this price that is basically a better looking Echo on steroids is a bonus. One of my favorite things to do is say “Alexa, start my day …” at which point Alexa will start reading me the top news, weather, and traffic information through the Voice One. And yes, you can still place Amazon orders through the speaker, just as you can through any echo device. I have that capability turned off, though. 😉
The Voice One can also function as a normal Bluetooth speaker if you want to connect your phone or laptop to it to play media, and there’s a line-in option when Bluetooth isn’t available. That’s when the included USB charging port will come in handy; you can lay your phone next to it, stream, and charge without killing your battery.
If you’re looking for Amazon Alexa capability, but you aren’t impressed by the speakers sold by Amazon, then you should check out the KitSound Voice One. It sounds great, it’s smart, and it looks good; who could ask for anything more?
The KitSound Voice One Smart Speaker retails for £129.99 (approximately $175), and it is available directly from the manufacturer and from other retailers including Amazon [affiliate link].
Source: Manufacturer supplied review sample
What I Like: Multi-directional speaker will look good in any room; Can link up to 8 Voice One Smart Speakers throughout your home; Excellent sound; All the Amazon Alexa capabilities you rely on are present; Included remote with voice capability; Line-in Aux and Bluetooth capability; Built-in USB port so you can charge your phone
What Needs Improvement: I’d like to see voice capability added to the remote