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Cavalier Audio Maverick Smart Speaker with Alexa review: The Amazon Tap is dead, but here's a fancy schmancy alternative

The Good The Cavalier Maverick might be the best-looking Alexa speaker ever made, and the touch-sensitive volume dial on top gives it a premium feel with extra functionality for skipping tracks. The sound quality was clean, crisp and quite powerful in all of our tests.

The Bad At $250, it's priced at a very steep premium. I'm also not a huge fan of the conspicuous Cavalier branding across the front of the device.

The Bottom Line I wouldn't blame you if you covet this gorgeous smart speaker, but it's hard to justify spending $250 on it.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 6
  • Sound quality 7

The battery-powered Amazon Tap was always the odd speaker out in Amazon's family of Alexa devices. It didn't have "Echo" in the name, it didn't feature that familiar blue ring of light and, at launch at least, you had to push a button to get Alexa's attention. A software update that added voice activation functionality helped improve the pitch, but by then it was too late for the Tap to catch on. Ultimately, Amazon discontinued the thing.

Still, I always liked the Tap's design -- particularly the battery-powered portability and no-fuss charging cradle. Apparently I wasn't alone, as a number of third-party manufacturers with Alexa speakers of their own have taken that same approach for themselves. The result: third-party Tap alternatives like the Fabriq Chorus -- and now, a new premium option from Cavalier Audio named the Maverick.

How premium? Well, the Maverick costs $250, which is about twice as expensive as the Tap ever was. For the same pile of cash, you could get two Echo speakers and an Echo Dot, or, if you prefer the battery-powered approach, two and a half of those Fabriq Chorus speakers, which offer the same essential set of features and Alexa controls.

Then again, the 20W speaker in the Maverick is a significant step up from the 8W speaker in the Chorus, and the Maverick promises an extra 3 hours of battery life, too. On top of that, the leathery, steel-accented design looks appropriately high-end, and even features a touch sensitive volume dial on top that can do things that you can't do with the Chorus, or, for that matter, with the Tap.

The Maverick looks mighty fine, and the touch-sensitive volume dial up top gives it an extra-premium feel that you won't get from the competition.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Does that make this thing worth $250? For most everyone, the answer is obviously no, especially given the glut of decent smart speaker options already available for less. But if you like Alexa, you value the Tap's battery-powered portability and, most importantly, you're willing to splurge on a premium, show-offy design -- then the Maverick might merit consideration. Let's run through the reasons why, as well as the less expensive alternatives you really ought to consider first:

I love the touch-sensitive volume knob on top of the device, but I wish Cavalier hadn't stamped its name and logo across the Maverick's forehead.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Alexa dressed to the nines

If you have many leather-bound books and your apartment smells of rich mahogany, then the Cavalier Maverick might be for you. Available in grey and black or blue and brown, and sporting a classic cool aesthetic that feels like it was yanked right out of the early 70s, you'll want to tell everyone to come see how good your smart speaker looks.

That said, some were less impressed than I was. "It looks like luggage," muttered CNET's taciturn technical editor Chance Lane. As for me, I wish my luggage looked this good. My only complaint? I'm not crazy about the conspicuous "Cavalier" branding on the front of the device.

That said, I'm definitely a fan of the volume dial on top of the device. Along with giving the speaker a more premium feel than buttons would, the knob itself is touch sensitive. You can tap once to play or pause, tap twice to skip ahead a track or tap three times to skip back a track. Want to activate Alexa while the music is blaring and a voice command might not register? Just tap and hold.

This is where I'll note that none of Amazon's Echo speakers offer physical button or touch controls for skipping tracks. Instead, you have to skip tracks using voice commands only. That gets annoying fast if you want to jump, say, five tracks ahead in your playlist (and no, saying, "Alexa, skip ahead five tracks" doesn't work).

Speaking of Alexa, syncing everything up with Amazon is a cinch, but you'll need to do so using Cavalier's app (just connect to the speaker's Wi-Fi signal, then give the app your Amazon login info to connect with Alexa). I'd like it better if you could just setup and control third-party Alexa speakers like these direct from Amazon's Alexa app, but it doesn't sound like that's happening anytime soon.

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