iLive Platinum Concierge Alexa-Enabled Portable Speaker

They say you get what you pay for. The budget-priced ($79.99) iLive Platinum Concierge portable smart-speaker gets you into Alexa’s world, but is the price savings worth it?

The Concierge is a wireless and portable speaker. Borrowing design cues from the new Amazon Echo 2, it is wrapped in fabric. I don’t want to start my review with something so petty, but the fabric feels rough and somewhat cheap compared to the Echo.

The top of the Concierge has an LED light ring that indicates different status/listening modes, along with two spot LEDs that show battery charging and pairing modes. The top also has two microphones to pick up voice commands. It has a harder time hearing commands when it’s playing music compared to other units I’ve used that have more microphones. There is also a longer delay in executing commands compared to any other system I’ve auditioned, be it Google, Cortana or Alexa-enabled.

Along one side of the column are all of the controls. There are two buttons for microphone mute and activate, and volume up and down. Power/mode and pairing/pause buttons are below them. There is a micro-USB charging port and an AUX input. Oddly, there is no audio output. More on that later. It comes with a USB charging cable and an audio cable, but no AC connector.

The iLive app is easy to use and the system set-up is a breeze. The Concierge will connect with Pandora, Spotify, Tidal, iHeart Radio, and music stored in your Amazon library. It has multi-room connect for up to six speakers and it can support multiple users. It can be set up using two or more speakers to create stereo playback through the iLive app; otherwise, like the Echo 2, it has no stereo imaging at all.

The Concierge has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, so it can also be used just as an ordinary Bluetooth speaker. iLive claims the battery can power the unit for 1 to 2 hours at 50% volume using Wi-Fi, or up to 5 hours at 50% volume using Bluetooth. I have to say that at 100% volume, the system isn’t earthshaking loud, and most users will use it at more than 50% in many situations. I tested it for over 3 hours at about 75% volume and it was still going strong.

The system has two different voices. There’s Alexa, whose voice we all know and love. However, the Concierge also uses voice prompts for power up and pairing information. Being brutally honest, the voice is a little bit rough. It cuts off the beginning of the first word in some situations, and the woman’s accent has a harsh quality to it.

The quality of the speaker is adequate for casual listening. There isn’t a lot of bass response, and the high-end is muffled and a bit dull. It is okay at softer volumes, but really suffers at loud levels. Acoustic guitar on Erik Satie’s Gymnopédies was overdriven and distorted, to the point that it was hard to tell that it was a guitar. The same thing is noticed in Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team.” The Concierge doesn’t play very loud before it distorts, and I would rather it limited the volume instead of playing with distortion.

That begs the question: why not include an audio output so the Concierge could be used with better quality external speakers? I think the designers made a big mistake by including an AUX input instead of an audio output.

Other problems with the Concierge are caused by Amazon’s stranglehold on its Alexa world. Features such as Alexa phone calls and routines are prohibited in third-party devices such as the Concierge. Changing the wake word is also prohibited. Because of these limitations and the lack of an audio output, I fear most people will choose an Amazon Dot for a similar price point. However, this is portable, albeit with a somewhat limited battery life.

The iLive Platinum Concierge is an entry-level product. If you’re not sure how you’ll use an Alexa-enabled product, this is a low-cost option to test the waters. For using it just to check the weather from Alexa and set reminders, etc., it is more than adequate.