Pioneer and Onkyo have announced two new smart speakers with a different spin -- they combine multiroom streaming audio with Amazon's Alexa assistant. Prices will start at $250.
Ever since the first smart speaker, the Amazon Echo, was released almost three years ago this category has primarily been more concerned about the "smarts" than the speaker. The Echo, the Google Home -- these are very intuitive and capable digital assistants, but they sound like clock radios.
The two companies have outlined their upcoming smart line, which will be released in October 2017, and these speakers look to be pretty decent. The pair have introduced two new speakers at the show in addition to the VC-FLX1 we saw at CES.
Since thethe companies have teamed up several times to produce near-identical products but with their own respective badges stamped on it. These speakers, however, are different.
Want Google Assistant? Then you want the Onkyo Smart Speaker G3. It's a Chromecast product with built-in microphones for talking with Google's smart home system. It looks different to its competitors, with a brushed-finish cabinet and a macho-looking grille. It features a two-way speaker design and a dedicated amp. It will be available for $250.
Want Alexa instead? Then you can either opt for the webcam-enabled Onkyo VC-FLX1 ($249) or the Pioneer VA-FW40. Unlike its Onkyo counterpart this is a more luxurious looking speaker that offers Alexa instead of Google.
As for multiroom, you getfor interoperability with over a dozen manufacturers' products. The VA-FW40 will be available for $299. We tested it briefly on the show floor at CEDIA 2017, and while there was a little lag while it pulled up the song we requested it worked first time -- even in the noisy environment of a trade show.
Will these speakers outsell Apple, Google or Amazon? Probably not. But it's likely that they will sound better. Look out for reviews from CNET soon.