Last December, I reviewed the Aether Cone, a unique wireless speaker that brings new meaning to the concept of “smart” thanks to its ability play songs based on voice commands and to learn your music preferences. A few months ago, it got even smarter, eliminating my biggest gripe after a free update unlocked the ability to stream music using Bluetooth. Now Aether has released another update, giving the Aether Cone another new feature: voice feedback.
If you’ve seen an Aether Cone (you can read my original review if not), you know that one of its appeals is a minimalist design aesthetic. The cone form factor and metallic silver or copper finish are part of that, but so is the lack of visible displays and controls. There are subtle volume buttons and a multipurpose glowing LED center button, but that’s it. No display. Up until now, if you wanted to know what song was playing, you had to consult the accompanying mobile app or your mobile device’s music app if using Bluetooth.
The new update (automatically installed on Internet-connected Cones) adds a new function to the center button. Hold it during a song, ask what song is playing and the Aether Cone will pause the music for a moment and speak the song title and artist.
I played around with the new feature today and it works well. I was unable to stump the Cone–unless it lied to me on a few of the more obscure tracks I didn’t know. The voice is a slightly robotic female that’s easily understandable (I don’t think you can change it) and it didn’t mangle any of the song or band names we encountered.
This feature only seems to work with music streaming from Rdio (its preferred source)–it didn’t work with AirPlay from my music library. That makes sense because, among other things, it can’t count on local metadata being correct.
The update also included several related features. When you verbally request a song, Aether Cone will tell you what it’s playing. This is useful because, as I’ve discovered, there are many cover songs on services like Rdio and occasionally one of those gets selected instead of the original. That voice feedback lets you cut it off right away if the wrong version comes up. Owners of multiple Aether Cones can now name and identify which is which just by asking–important given that the music learning routine used when you let the Aether Cone choose the tunes can pick up on the device’s physical location as part of its listening pattern detection.
These ongoing updates show the development team is paying attention and makes the Aether Cone a better device than the day you bought it. I love it when companies don’t just save new features for new generation devices, but instead use updates to deliver the goodies to all their existing customers as well.
Details are on the Aether Cone blog.