The thing about internet-connected home audio products is that you have more choices than maybe you want for your listening experience.
Most importantly, you have Alexa and Google taking over the world. No one is wiring their homes for audio anymore. You have smart devices, and everything is connected to the internet. When Blast started reviewing audio products in 2007, the challenge was in finding a place to plug your device into ethernet or making sure your WiFi signal was strong enough. Those challenges are gone now, and we are perhaps burdened with an overabundance.
Some of the major players have switched things up. Cambridge Soundworks is all but done. Altec Lansing has moved to rugged outdoor products in a big way. iHome remains a home appliance manufacturer with its makeup mirror products.
For audiophiles, this has left some fertile ground for boutique companies like Como.
Despite dragging my feet for far too long, I recently had the chance to play with the gorgeous, piano black Como Audio: Solo internet speaker, and it reminds me so much of 10-year-old Logitech Squeezebox Boom that I’m a bit nostalgic for my old Boston Globe tech review column. Now, that sounded like a dig, comparing the Solo to a decade-old product. It’s not. I loved the “Boom” so much. I loved how it looked, and I liked how it sounded. The Solo looks gorgeous and backs up the looks with a sound that is worthy of its $349 price tag.
The Solo is Squeezebox meets Sonos, and that’s where things get tricky. Sonos supports Alexa right out of the box, but the Solo needs an Alexa Dot to work with the voice service. Both the Solo and the competing Sonos systems have serviceable if a bit clunky app features that remove the need for a remote or on-board controls. The Solo gives on-board controls that Sonos products are lacking, so there’s that.
The problem I have is that the Solo is most comparable to the Sonos Play:1 at more than twice the price, and it’s nearly twice the price of the brand new Sonos One next generation single-unit connected speaker.
The Como Audio: Solo is better than 99 percent of the stuff on the market right now, but my bottom line is that it doesn’t quote match the utility provided by Sonos. The Solo it’s a better piece of furniture, and the sound fills a room beautifully. But Sonos makes a more versatile appliance.
This is not going to please either company, but here is where I come down on the products: If you need one, buy the Como Audio: Solo. It’s gorgeous, easy to set up, and sounds terrific. If you need six rooms worth of speakers and a TV audio solution, buy Sonos. With the Playbar reigning supreme, subwoofer options, and the new low $149 price of the aging but dependable Play:1, it’s hard to beat. This is especially true when you get into the services. Internet radio is widely available, and virtually all of the products on the market offer virtually all of the services. That leaves ease of use, sound quality, looks, and — of course — price.