KitSound Voice One Smart Speaker Review
Alexa, why should I buy the Voice One?
What is the KitSound Voice One?In the ‘good old days’, if you are old enough to remember them that is, everything that could keep you entertained was usually restricted to just one main room of the house or if you were really lucky you had a Hi-Fi or TV in your bedroom. Thankfully technology has moved on and with Wi-Fi now available in most homes, listening to music, watching TV or playing video games is no longer restricted to one room. A whole host of devices now exist that allow you to do pretty much whatever you want in any room of the house.
Back in August 2017 we reviewed the Reunion wireless smart speakers from British Hi-Fi audio specialists KitSound. Apart from missing a Wi-Fi connection, at just £99 they appeared to tick all the right boxes and offered an excellent sound with a decent specification. Our next review item from KitSound is another smart speaker, but this time with the sought-after Amazon Alexa built in.
The £129 KitSound Voice One has 20 watts of output, a stain resistant nano coating, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and multi-room connectivity for up to 8 speakers. KitSound claim the Voice One has a ‘room filling signature sound’, but can a single speaker at this price point really deliver that? Read on to see how this fares in our tests….
What about the Design, Connections and Control?As we found with the KitSound Reunion speakers we reviewed, the KitSound design team are onto a winner as far as we are concerned. The Voice One is no different, with a design that you would happily have on show, featuring a mottled Black and Grey stain resistant Nano coated woven grill and black plastic finish to the top and rear. It's compact too measuring 278mm high x 130mm wide x 130mm deep and weighs just 1.742kg.
Akin to Cyclops the Voice One has a single illuminated eye to the front which acts as the volume dial and can be depressed to activate the talk function (although just saying Alexa will do the same job). This eye will illuminate a rather evil looking red when muted, white when using Wi-Fi, Green for Line-in and Blue for, as you've probably guessed, Bluetooth. It also flashes additional colours when the lovely Alexa is talking and when she (it?) is thinking about something.
To the rear we have the power connection, USB charge output port, 3.5mm line-in and the WPS button. Not a huge array of connections and the likes of an optical connection are missing. A small remote control is also included which duplicates the functions of the buttons on the Voice One itself plus adds additional controls such as previous/next track. Strangely the remote is missing a standby button, so if you want to send Alexa away you will have to get up and do it manually. Neither the remote nor the Voice One unit have a power button to fully turn the unit off. If you have this in a bedroom the light is very bright, so pulling the plug is your only option here to turn that off. It does turn off eventually, but Alexa is still there ready and waiting.
Specifications and FeaturesThe KitSound Voice One features 2 x 10W output from the 2.5” full range drivers.
The drivers are dual-opposing to provide omnidirectional audio which KitSound claim creates a 360°
- Alexa Integration
- Multi-room connectivity for up to 8 speakers
- Spotify Voice
- Frequency Response: 60Hz – 20 kHz
- Bluetooth V2.1 + EDR
- Bluetooth Range: Up to 10 metres
- Wi-Fi Frequency: 2.4Ghz
listening experience together with a built in bass reflex.
How was it setup and tested?The setup of the Voice One was fairly simple, although with the addition of the Alexa integration it does take a bit of extra work, but should all still be ready to go within just a few minutes. After downloading the KitSound app, you simply turn it on, press the WPS button on the back, connect your Smartphone or Tablet to the KitSound Wi-Fi network that will appear and then follow the instructions in the app.
If you aren’t a fan of Wi-Fi, the Bluetooth setup is even quicker, simply press the mode button to select Bluetooth either on the Voice One itself or the remote, then pair your Smart device to it. An Aux-in cable is included in the box as well, so you should have everything you need to connect to the Voice One in the three options available to you.
We tested with a variety of music from dance, pop, heavy rock and orchestral, just to ensure we covered all bases! Priced at £129.99 including the Alexa Integration, we expected good things here and apart from a few issues which we will go into more detail shortly, we were reasonably happy.
PerformanceWith either of the three source options, Wi-Fi, Line-in or Bluetooth the maximum volume is more than adequate to fill a normal room size as we mentioned above, but at higher volumes it does struggle and becomes a bit thumpy with too much bass drowning out the rest of the audio for our liking. We found around half volume to be the sweet spot before it started to slowly deteriorate and get out of hand.
Whilst keeping in mind not to go too high with the volume, overall we found the audio quality to be good enough with the treble and bass set at just the right level for our liking. This is dependent on not trying to use it in a room that is too large for the 20W of power to cope with of course. Testing in our largest room available (about 23’ x 10’), with the volume at the required level to be loud enough to fill the room, it suffered greatly with a distinct lack of treble, far too much bass and general poor quality. It is of course also dependant on the quality of the audio you throw at it. Give it a low-res MP3 and you will quickly notice the poor quality source.
The Wi-Fi connection was rock solid, no disconnections or break up in audio were suffered. There is occasionally a 1-2 second input lag when using AirPlay for example but other than that we had no issues. If the Voice One is unplugged, when it is turned back on it will quickly reconnect to the Wi-Fi network. With Bluetooth the connection was also solid with no issues experienced. The range is stated as 10 metres with Bluetooth V2.1 +EDR and we couldn’t find an area in our house where it would cut out. As with Wi-Fi, when unplugged and turned back on, the Bluetooth connection will quickly be re-established, no issues with having to re-pair it.
KitSound Player AppAlong with using the App for the initial setup, the KitSound Player app, available on both Android and iOS, offers quick access to a whole host of audio streaming and music services. Spotify (Premium account required), TuneIn, Tidal and Napster for example are all there to use. The app also has access to any music on your device, so you can easily find that too. It’s a very easy to use app and well laid out with a search function and favourites feature. You can also quickly change from Wi-Fi to the Line-In and Bluetooth modes and, if you want to get back to WiFi from the app, simply select one of the online streaming services.
Alexa IntegrationClearly the standout feature with the Voice One is the Alexa Integration. Amazon’s own £90 2nd Generation Echo features a 2.5” woofer and 0.6” tweeter, compared to the Voice One’s 2.5” full range drivers so on paper the Voice One should sound far superior and based on our review of the Echo Plus, the sound is reasonable but nothing special.
In addition to the KitSound app, you also need to install the Amazon Alexa app to open up the Alexa functionality. Here is where you add all the Skills, without these Skills Alexa is limited in what it can offer. There are some skills preinstalled, if you want to know what the weather is or for basic controls such as setting an alarm for example, but adding Skills is key to getting the most out of it.
There are also Skills for Cooking, Shopping, Travel Information, Sport and many other categories. Also, a vast number of complete and utter dross Skills that appear to mostly offer just a single action such as asking Professor Frink when the next Simpsons episode is on Channel 4 for example. A lot of the Skills will require you to register first, so expect a load of spam from the various companies whose Skills you start using.
Alexa is one of those things that everyone thinks they want but then they get it and it just sits there doing nothing and this may be the case here, if you don’t work hard to make use of it. Many of the actions you can ask Alexa you can probably find just as quickly on your Smartphone such as the weather, directions or the nearest Indian restaurant for example. To get the most out of Alexa other than just asking it things you’d normally simply find on your Smartphone, you really need a lot of Smart Home devices. Alexa comes into its own when you set up a Routine and have it turn on the heating, turn on lights, make coffee and even turn the TV on, all in one command. But without any Smart Home devices you may find it just sitting there gathering dust as a music player.
- Simple setup
- Easy to use app
- Wi-Fi and Bluetooth
- Alexa Integration
- Attractive design
- Spotify not yet available via Alexa
- Limited range speaker quality
- No optical connection
- Not one for the Audiophiles
KitSound Voice One Smart Speaker Review
Should I buy the KitSound Voice One?At £129.99 the KitSound Voice One offers a lot for the money. A smart enabled 20W speaker with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth along with full Alexa Integration. The KitSound design is attractive with the woven grill and large illuminated control to the front. The ‘Room Filling Sound’ claims are true, but only with a bedroom or small living room sized room. Keep to that and you will find a decent level of audio quality, but exceed that and it quickly shows the limitations of the speakers. With the volume too high the audio quality deteriorates significantly with a overlay bass heavy feel to it.
The Alexa Integration works very well but doesn’t quite offer the exact same features as Amazon’s Echo at the time of writing, although Spotify Voice has just been added, but does provide you with plenty of Skills relevant to any Smart Home devices you may have (or anything else that takes your fancy), so you should be able to get the most out of it. As a result it's a feature that appears great on paper and will doubtless grow in usefulness over time.
What alternatives are available?The obvious competition here is Amazon’s own 2nd Generation Echo available for £90 (often reduced to £70) which has the full Alexa integration, but on paper doesn’t have the audio quality the Voice One has. There aren’t many other Smart Speakers with Alexa integration available at all, the only other likely candidate is the significantly more expensive £199 Sonos One which offers a similar feature set but should have a far superior sound and does include the full Alexa integration. The Voice One from KitSound at £130 is a Smart Speaker worthy of your consideration, if you can’t quite afford the Sonos One, but are looking for a superior audio quality than the Amazon Echo can provide.
Value for Money8
Our Review Ethos
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- Alexa Integration