Netgear has been one of the most active vendors in the consumer networking market. This time around they partner with a pioneer in the audio market, Harman, to create a smart speaker with Orbi Mesh technology built-in. This review will focus mostly on the Voice product, for a full review of the routing performance you can go here
Orbi Voice is easily one of the most unique devices to come to market. Pairing a smart speaker with a Mesh Satellite is a brilliant idea and makes me wonder why no one else has thought of it? That said, Netgear has seemingly done everything right with Voice, partnering with Harman/Kardon for the audio design and Amazon for the smarts. The satellite itself comes from the RBS40, a device that offers 400MBps on the 2.4GHz band and 867Mbps on 5GHz with two wired ports.
MSRP of the Orbi Voice comes it at $299.99. You can also purchase this unit in a kit for $429.99. Both models offer a one-year warranty.
Packaging follows the entire Orbi lineup with its colorway. We have an image of the smart speaker and its capabilities listed along the bottom.
The back goes into more detail about the capabilities as a speaker and mesh satellite.
Included in the box we have a power adapter and the satellite.
The speaker itself offers a cloth exterior for a more modern feel to it. The bottom of the unit is vented.
The top of the speaker houses the control panel for Alexa. Along the top arch, we have a touch volume control along with two touch buttons to disable the microphone and speaker
As for I/O, this unit does offer two-gigabit ethernet ports.
The speaker design uses a 1" tweeter and 3.5" woofer, frequency response from 63hz to 20Khz.
Orbi setup hasn't changed much, above we have the app in iOS 12.
To start things off, you will want to place your Voice in a location that's within range of your base mesh router.
We then move into setup creating the SSID and network key.
After a brief minute or so, setup should complete letting you get into the dashboard menu for further setup.
Once we are in, you can control Wi-Fi Settings from the main menu along with the device list. Guest Wi-Fi allows setup of a secondary SSID for visitors and Parental controls take advantage of Disney Circle.
In addition, the app allows you to use the Orbi for a speed test, seen above.
Diving into settings, you have the option of logging in with your Amazon account to enable the Alexa assistant.
Within the menu for the Orbi Voice, you have the ability to control the custom EQ along with setting up streaming services such as Spotify, Pandora, and iHeartRadio in addition to Amazon Music.
Above we have throughput from the Orbi Voice as connected as a satellite from the RBK50 base. As you can see, we have a solid backhaul at 508Mbps that allows the 5GHz throughput to touch 510Mbps and 2.4GHz at 151MBps.
I'll start this conclusion with my listening history because the majority of you want to know how good this speaker sounds. To start, I've had a few audio setups in my past, from high-end car audio to mid-range home theatre and even the Apple HomePod. Currently, I use a pair of 6490 Bookshelf's with a DaytonAudio DAC. That said, I will start by saying the build quality of the Voice is superb from the design and feel of the device to the choice of drivers and enclosure, the top mounted controls offer intuitive controls of volume and the ability to disable both the speaker and microphone.
On the flip side, the Voice is a smart speaker meant to possibly replace your home or office bookshelf system. To that end, I will say the Voice offers midrange audio quality not quite comparable in clarity to what I find in my Yamaha 6490s and not nearly as bass heavy as the Apple HomePod. In addition, I did initially find the bass of the Voice to be distorting playing at a touch above mid volume, but after 10 hours it seemed to calm down slightly.
In the end, the Voice is suitable for background music at your home or office while looking fantastic with its modern design.
The Bottom Line: For those already on the Orbi platform, the Voice is space saving bookshelf system that extends your Wi-Fi.
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