Huawei is bringing more than smartphones and wearable devices to New Zealand - after launching a good range of headphones and earbuds into the country the company is bringing other consumer electronics devices to our market, starting with the Huawei Sound, a high-quality speaker created for music lovers.
Huawei Sound is a pure music play. Don't expect the Huawei Sound to play in the same field as Amazon Echo (unless you compare it to Amazon Echo Studio) and other smart speakers as it does not have smart speaker capabilities.
Its body has a sleek coating with a shiny surface reminiscent of that on a grand piano. The lower portion of the body is coated with a glossy fibre grid cloth as well as protection against dust infiltration and splashes.
It is small (147 mm diameter and 186 mm height) but packs a punch that corresponds to its weight (2200 g) - it sounds wonderful. And there's a good reason for that: Huawei has engaged French-based sound experts Devialet to help create the Huawei Sound and even design one of its sound effects.
The result is a very powerful speaker with deep bass and a 360 environment sound coverage - thanks to three full-range speakers, a woofer and two passive units you can position the Huawei Audio in the middle of a room and have it completely covered with high-resolution sound.
The user interface is really minimalist, with backlit touch-enabled buttons on top of the unit. There are touchpoints for volume up, down as well as a mute button and a multi-function button.
In terms of operation, it's quite simple really. The easiest way of playing music to it is via Bluetooth, with support for LDAC connections, giving you high-resolution audio over Bluetooth connections up to 990 kbps at 32 bit/96 kHz. This means the Huawei Audio can be used as an external speaker to any Bluetooth-enabled device - simply pair, connect and start playing.
You don't necessarily have to have a smartphone to use the Huawei Studio. I tried with my Bluetooth-enabled desktop and pairing was extremely simple - turn on the Huawei Audio, push the multi-function for a few seconds to place it in Bluetooth pairing mode and connect. Play music with your favourite music player - or the Spotify application - and the party is on.
If you have any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone you can follow the same process but thanks to the built-in NFC tag it can be even easier on Android devices - tap your NFC-enabled phone to the area marked on the speaker and the phone will automatically connect and start using it as the default sound device.
And another cool thing is that you can mute or un-mute the Huawei Audio by simply touching it on the top.
You can connect the Huawei Audio to your home WiFi to enable it as a UPnP DLNA Media Renderer. This enables it to be used as a media speaker even by devices that don't have Bluetooth but have DLNA streaming capabilities. I have tested this by playing music from my desktop, without connecting it via Bluetooth, by simply selecting the music tracks to play, right-clicking and selecting the "Cast to" option. You don't have a lot of control this way, but it works, which is great if you have older network-enabled music devices in your home theatre or sound setup. Also useful if you have a library stored on your NAS somewhere and control DLNA play via a browser-based UI. The options are there.
You can even install a UPnP DLNA sound redirector app on Android devices and use that with the Spotify app to select which device to play the music - avoiding the need of using Bluetooth and having to keep the phone nearby. Providing you are on the same network, the music will keep playing.
Lastly, you can connect a source to the Huawei Audio using its more low tech 3.5 mm AUX-in - which is compatible with pretty much of the entire base of home sound systems.
Using the Huawei AI Life app you can configure different sound effects (HiFi, Voice or Devialet) and adjust the bass (-6 dB to +6 dB). The app also allows you to check and update its firmware version - which is done over the WiFi connection (which supports both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz).
As mentioned before this is not a smart speaker and WiFi exists purely to be used as a music streaming device - and it performs amazingly at that. It would be great if the firmware included a music streaming service though - perhaps Huawei should consider the option of installing an "applet", one at a time for services such as Spotify and Tidal, so that you could start playing a playlist from your phone and just disconnect.
The Huawei Audio is powered by mains and uses a small power supply. It will be available soon through 2degrees stores at an initial RRP of NZ$ 399.