Everything is getting smart with digital assistants like Alexa and although Amazon has its range of Echo speakers, there are alternatives out there. The KitSound Voice One is just one aiming to bag a space in your living room.
In the UK the KitSound Voice One has an RRP of £129 and it’s $179 in the US. However, you can pick the speaker up for less from Amazon – £103/$111 at the time of writing.
That’s not bad but it’s worth bearing in mind that there are cheaper alternatives. In fact, Amazon’s own Echo 2nd-gen is only £89. If you want a similar smart speaker with Google Assistant rather than Alexa, the Google Home has a matching price of £129.
Check out our round-up of all the best smart speakers for 2018.
Design and build
Rather than the cylindrical shape of most smart speakers, the KitSound Voice One has a vastly different design.
It’s slightly wedge shaped but stands tall and leans backwards a little. It’s a good looking device and the design could work would well for a building, we feel. Wrapped around the front and sides is a fabric which KitSound says has a nano coating to prevent stains and protect from splashes.
Instead of mounting controls on the top like rivals, KitSound has gone down the front of the speaker in a stylish fashion. There are buttons for toggling the microphone, changing source and play/pause.
The large dial in the middle is hard to miss and has a light in the centre to show when Alexa is responding among other things. The dial controls volume and turns endlessly, sadly is doesn’t have quite the satisfying action we’d hoped for – it’s a bit jerky.
It’s not obvious but the section inside the light ring is actually another button. Although you’ll use your voice primarily, this can be used to summon Alexa. Read our top Alexa tips and tricks.
Another option in terms of control if you don’t want to use your voice all the time is the included remote control. Smart speakers don’t tend to come with a remote but it’s nice to be able to adjust things like volume and playback with a bit more speed and ease compared to using voice commands.
Although the fabric looks and feels nice, we’re a little disappointed by the build quality over all here. As mentioned, the volume wheel is a little rickety and overall the Voice One is quite plastic. We’ve seen cheaper speakers that feel more premium.
Features and sound quality
Despite its relatively large size, the Voice One just has two fairly small 2.5in drivers. They combine for a total output of 20W with a frequency response of 60Hz-20kHz.
The speaker has a more traditional shape but the drivers face out to the sides rather than forwards. The idea is to provide a 360 degree sound and while this works to an extent, it’s nowhere near as good as the Google Home which is the same price. In fact, the sound is quite disparate if you’re facing the speaker and relatively close.
If you don’t mind that then the overall sound quality isn’t too bad, but it’s not as good as we’d hoped. The Voice One provides decent enough bass, largely due to the bass port incorporated into the body.
However, there’s not much to write home about here. The sound quality is more like a digital radio about half the price, fairly flat and not very dynamic at all. You’re best off listening to pop music but overall the sound is muddled, and boxed in.
The fact is, much better sound is available elsewhere – the Google Home and Amazon Echo both sound a lot better. A recent update to add a software EQ isn’t enough to change the situation.
At launch the Voice One didn’t support Spotify voice control. That’s been rectified and you can control various smart home products with Alexa just like you would with an Amazon Echo.
However, with only two microphones (compared to seven on the Echo) the speaker isn’t always great at hearing a prompt. Even when it does, the Voice One is sluggish to respond and process requests so things can get quite frustrating.
What the Voice One does offer is a number of features that are hard to find on rival smart speakers, especially all on one device.
You can pair two together to create a stereo pair or even connect up to a total of eight for multi-room playback. Note that we’ve only got a single speaker so haven’t tested these features.
Furthermore, the KitSound has added not only Bluetooth connectivity (on top of Wi-Fi) but line-in so the Voice One is more versatile than a lot of rivals should you need to connect to it in different ways.
There’s also a USB port which on so many speakers is just for performing manual software updates but here it’s for charging gadgets like your phone. It’s a really neat idea so the plug used for the speaker doesn’t stop you being able to plug in a charger.