Technophile

Not just smart: Alexa meets Allure

Mala Bharghava | Updated on: Jun 20, 2018
For the love of good sound: The Allure works well as a standalone speaker with full-bodied audio

For the love of good sound: The Allure works well as a standalone speaker with full-bodied audio

Amazon’s personal assistant gets big bass with Harman Kardon’s funky speaker

Smart speakers don’t necessarily focus on music quality. They’re generally balanced and clear-sounding because they have a job to do besides playing your favourite tunes. So, the Echo and Google speakers end up sounding ‘good’ but not fantastic. If you want a bit more oomph, you’ll have to look beyond them.

One obvious option is to connect a smart speaker to some other better sounding set of speakers. You can do that on the Echo Plus, for example, with Bluetooth or a stereo cable easily enough. But if you’re looking at getting the best of both worlds on one device, Harman Kardon has the Allure, a music-oriented speaker with Amazon’s Alexa built in.

When I first took the Allure out of its box, I had a bit of a giggle. Here’s a smart speaker that looks a whole lot like a food processor of some kind. But then, once I plugged it in and the top half lit up in a swirling blue-white light, I decided it looked exceedingly cool. In general, after the first “”What is that?” reaction, I found people tend to rather like the design of the Allure.

Solidly built

This speaker is nice and heavy, which means your expectations of how it’s going to sound can safely go up. It’s not really a portable speaker as it’s wired and you aren’t expected to be carrying it from room to room too often. It’s very solidly built and won’t go toppling over like some of the smart speakers do. A swipe of the arm could completely send the Amazon Echo Plus flying, but the Allure will stand its ground.

You have to connect the Allure using the HK Alexa set-up app, available on both iOS and Android devices. The app, which isn’t the best I’ve seen, leads you through choosing the speaker, connecting to WiFi, etc. Unfortunately, I have a router that didn’t seem to want to get along with an Allure speaker but after much tinkering with router settings, it was finally up and running. Anyone who has a non-standard router and faces a similar issue just needs to call the company’s service centre for help.

Sound power

Finally getting to hear the Allure, I was able to experience what sets it apart. It’s got three drivers and pushes out some strong loud music with solid bass. And I mean solid. It could keep a decent party going, in my opinion. The lower half of the speaker is the grille and it’s 360-degrees and does a good job of spreading the sound around. On top of that, or rather on the bottom, there’s a woofer that gives it that driving powerful bass. You have to watch where you put the Allure because the sub-woofer reverberates and makes the surface extend the sound. Glass would probably not make a good surface for it to sit on. All the while, the bluish-white light pulses, though sadly not to the music. It would have been nice to be able to change light colours or get a little light show inside that speaker’s dome. The music can get quite loud but amazingly, Alexa hears you even over the music and responds to commands. The far-field microphones it has work very well and you can talk to the speaker from the next room. The mids and highs on this speaker are not prominently brought out so that the device may sound more bass-heavy than holistic, but all things considered, I found it very enjoyable to listen to, including with vocals.

Solo speaker

Many consider the Allure to be the best-sounding Alexa-powered speaker so far. It doesn’t look like Harman considered it necessary to hook it up with any other speaker because it doesn’t have a line-out and you’ll only be able to connect it to another with Bluetooth.

It doesn’t work with other Echo devices for a multi-room experience, so again, it looks like it was conceived as a standalone device.

Keep in mind that the Allure doesn’t quite have all the capabilities that an Echo speaker does. It doesn’t, for example, do Drop-In calls such as is possible from Echo to Echo devices. It doesn’t do multi-room music across speakers. It doesn’t show up in the Alexa app like Amazon’s Echo devices and become as configurable.

But it has the main Alexa functions and responds from far away and gets you foot-tapping with the way it sounds.

Price: ₹22,490

Pros: Full-bodied sound, strong bass, solid build, unique looks, good far-field communication

Cons: No line-out, doesn’t let you change light colours, set-up app not great, doesn’t have all Alexa skills such as Drop In

Published on June 20, 2018

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