At $99, the Chorus is basically an off-brand Amazon Tap, and it offers a couple of key upgrades over the original Fabriq speaker (now known as the Riff). Like the Tap, the Chorus houses an internal battery that lets you pick it up from the charging cradle and take it with you for up to six hours of portable playback. With a larger, more powerful speaker than before, the Chorus is also better at filling a room with sound. Where the Riff requires you to push a button to activate Alexa, you can activate the Chorus with just your voice.
The Chorus compares well against the Tap, too. Not only is it $30 less expensive, it also comes in an attractive variety of colors and designs -- four options here at launch, with more promised in the coming months. On top of that, Fabriq's app lets you link multiple Chorus and Riff speakers together over the air for wireless, synchronized playback -- a neat trick that the Tap doesn't offer.
The Tap's trump card, however, might be Amazon's ESP feature, which makes it so that only the Alexa device closest to you will respond to your command. We haven't seen any third-party Alexa gadgets with ESP, the Chorus included. That's a shame, since ESP is all but mandatory if you're planning to fill your home with multiple Alexa devices.
Aside from that, the Chorus offers the same Alexa experience as you'd get with the Tap. You wake it up by saying "Alexa," then follow that up with a question or command. With Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios inside, you can ask to stream music and podcasts from services like Spotify, TuneIn, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Amazon Music, or just stream audio straight from your phone or tablet.
Alexa also offers traffic updates, kitchen timers, "flash briefings" of the day's news headlines, control of a wide variety of smart home gadgets, and access to a growing library of over 20,000 free "skills" that each teach Alexa new tricks when you enable them.
As for audio quality, the Chorus sounded pretty good to my ear during a non-scientific test run in the CNET Smart Home. It isn't as full-sounding as the Amazon Echo or Echo Show, but it's definitely a clear step up from the Riff, and more or less on par with the Amazon Tap.
You can also use any Alexa device to start playback on any other, including the Chorus. For instance, I placed a Chorus on the side table next to the front door and named it "Front Door." Then, I asked the Echo in the kitchen to "play jazz music at the front door." It worked perfectly.
However, you can't use the Chorus to make a voice call to other Alexa devices, but then again, neither can the Tap. That calling and messaging feature is reserved for the Echo, the Echo Dot, the Echo Show and the Alexa app.
The Chorus is available starting today on Fabriq's website, on Target.com, and on Amazon. We'll keep testing it out, along with all of the other new third-party Alexa gadgets we're seeing this year. Plan on seeing our picks for the best of the bunch in time for the holiday buying season.