When someone pitched me the Fabriq Chorus last month, I couldn’t help but think it was the worst-possible time to release an Alexa-enabled smart speaker. Amazon had just released a swathe of compelling and intriguing new Echo devices, all benefiting from the name-recognition of its maker. Who would care about a brand-new device from a manufacturer few people had actually heard of?
But out of interest, I accepted the offer of a review unit. I’m glad I did, as the Canvas Fabriq is an excellent and attractive Echo-alternative, which not only looks good, but also sounds good. It also boasts sought-after features like a built-in battery and Wi-Fi streaming from services like Spotify and Tidal, which are huge bonuses.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Fabriq Chorus is that it looks most unlike the mainstream Amazon Echo, which is a large and Kubrickesque tube of cold metal. The Fabriq Chrorus is (as the name suggests) coated in a layer of gorgeous cotton. The unit I was sent was illustrated with a blue mandala-like design, which looks really warm and enticing. It’s also available in white (sorry, quartz), if you’re not a fan of the midnight blue.
Annoyingly, some of the best-looking designs are only available with the cheaper version of the speaker, which lacks the all-important voice activation. The Fabriq Rift comes in a painfully-hip plaid variant, an ‘Earl Grey’ corduroy version, and a 90’s-tastic Jackson Pollock-esque look called “Splat.”
Underneath the fabric is a half-decent 8W speaker. I’m cognizant of the fact that the Fabriq Chorus costs $99.99, and is therefore unlikely to offer the same level of gorgeous audio fidelity that you’d get with a more expensive speaker, like the Alexa-powered Sonos One, but nevertheless, I was reasonably impressed.
I road-tested the device during a housewarming party, and the Fabriq Chorus was able to flood my living room with music, and remained audible over the hubbub of people talking. It’s not particularly bass-heavy, but I didn’t mind, as my musical tastes tend to gravitate towards indie-folk, classical, and pop.
The device’s in-built microphone is solid, and was able to listen for its ‘awake word’ and understand my requests, even in noisy environments. Kudos for that.
My biggest complaint is that at higher volumes, the Fabriq Chrous lets itself down badly. When I cranked Hans Zimmer’s Time up to ten, this otherwise-beautiful piece of classical music was virtually unlistenable. It just sounded really strained, and I had to lower the volume to a more reasonable six.
Speaking of music, as I previously mentioned, this device works with an entire raft of streaming services, via the accompanying Fabriq smartphone app. This includes most of the big-hitters, like Spotify, Tidal, TuneIn, and iHeart Radio. I was more than a little disappointed that Deezer and Apple Music didn’t make an appearance though.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the Fabriq over existing Echo devices is the fact that it boasts a built-in battery, allowing you to move it from room to room without having to search for somewhere to plug it in. This is probably my favorite feature of the device, and at night I leave it on my bedside table, but during the working day, I take it into the office, where it keeps me entertained with music and podcasts.
Battery life is pretty solid, and depending on how vigorously I use it, it can last most of the working day. The biggest complaint is that there’s no obvious way to find out how much battery is left. Neither the Fabriq app nor Alexa can tell me, which means it can cut out at pretty much any moment, leaving you scrambling to find the speaker’s charger base.
The Fabriq Chorus is a really compelling Alexa-enabled speaker, and one I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. The device looks tremendous, and although the speaker isn’t without flaws, it’s pretty good for some light listening to podcasts, music, and audiobooks, although audiophiles might find it wanting. Its battery alone makes it worthy of a second glance.
The Fabriq Chrous is available today for $99.99, and can be purchased from Amazon or the official Fabriq website. If you’re not keen on the voice-activated aspect of the device, you can pick up the Fabriq Rift for $49.99.
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Published November 17, 2017 — 15:30 UTC