The iLive Platinum Concierge is one of the first stand-alone speakers to use the Amazon Alexa voice service (AVS). The iLive Concierge emulates the Amazon Echo in both design and capabilities. The goal of the Concierge is, however, to be even better than the original Amazon Echo. It offers several important features that are missing in the Echo.
iLive gives their Alexa device the ability to play the same music on more than one Concierge/speaker at the same time. This whole-house music solution is woefully missing in the Amazon Echo. The Concierge also offers a built-in battery so that you can move it about the house without its being plugged in. Again, something that the Amazon Echo cannot do. Overall, however, the Concierge falls short of the goal of being better than the Amazon Echo.
The iLive Concierge is very similar in design to the Amazon Echo. It is a cylindrical device 7-1/4″ high and 3″ in diameter. Compared to the Amazon Echo which is 9.25″ high and 3.3″ in diameter, the Concierge is only slightly smaller. The Concierge, however, weighs only 0.94 pounds, compared to the Echo at 2.34 pounds. Its weight and slightly slimmer profile give it more portability.
The Concierge has a woven cloth that covers most of the device. One inch around the top is covered in a plastic material. The control strip that runs down the side of the device is covered in a leather-like material. The iLive Concierge is available in black, denim blue, burgundy, and silver gray.
Like the Amazon Echo, the Concierge has a light ring around the top, but it does not control the volume. Instead, this is done by a strip of speaker controls and inputs on the side of the device.
This strip includes controls to turn the Alexa microphone on and off. there is also a plus and minus volume control. It also has a connect Wi-Fi/pair Bluetooth button that also acts as a play/pause button. Under that is a power/mode button that turns the speaker on or off. This button can also be used to switch between Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and aux modes. At the bottom is a micro USB port for charging and an aux port.
While set up is easy, for full functionality you will need to install both the iLive and Alexa app. You will also need to have an Amazon account.
The Alexa Service
While the Concierge has Alexa built-in, there are certain functions that she cannot perform. She will answer questions, tell jokes, give you your appointments, and turn lights on and off. But she cannot use Alexa calling or messaging.
There are also some restrictions on using a second Concierge device when playing synchronized music. More on that in the Music section of this review.
Charging & Battery Life
Adding a lithium ion rechargeable battery to this device was a great idea. However there are two caveats. First the Concierge came with a charging cable with a USB end, but without a wall plug. Did iLive actually expect us to take the Concierge over to our computers to charge it up? Second, the battery life cpu;d be better. While iLive rates it at about 6 hours, my devices playing music at Volume 5 lasted only 4 hours. Fully recharging the device can take hours. Unfortunately the device has no battery power indicator.
Like the Amazon Echo, the Concierge has good surround speakers. While the treble is excellent, to my ears, there is a definite lack of base. In a side-by-side comparison with the Google Home and Amazon Echo, I rated the Google Home the best while the Echo and Concierge came in second.
The Concierge can play music from all the major services like Amazon, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio, and TuneIn. You can also pair the Concierge to Bluetooth devices to play music from your phone or notebook. The Concierge also has an Aux port so you can attach other speakers. iLive even provides a 3.5 mm audio cable for this purpose. None of the other major voice-activated devices have Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the ability to sling the music to an Aux port. So the Concierge beats them all here.
Like the Google Home, you can have two or more Concierge devices playing the same music at the same time. You can also use its Wi-Fi capacities to add other speakers which can be synchronized. Unfortunately the implementation of this is problematic.
To synchronize two Concierge devices you must use the iLive app. While this is easy to do but you still have to reach for your phone or tablet to tie the two devices together. With Google Home, you simply set up a group and tell Google to play music to that group. You only need to set up the group once. Each Google device will still work independently to perform tasks like answering questions. With the Concierge devices, once you combine the devices, only one will still function like an Alexa-enabled device. The others will become “slaves” incapable of answering questions or performing other Alexa functions. To stop the music synchronization and re-enable the Alexa capabilities of the “slave” devices, you must separate the devices in the app. Also there is no physical indication of which device is Alexa and which is the slave, which can be confusing.
iLive markets the Concierge as an Alexa-enabled WI-Fi- speaker rather than a voice assistant. This is important because in some instances, like the one above, it will be only a speaker not a voice assistant.
Amazon has already announced that they are trying to get Alexa into as many devices as possible. Their latest development kit called the AVS Device Software Development Kit, makes Alexa much easier to integrate. Alexa is already being incorporated into a wide variety of devices from entertainment equipment to modems and you can expect to see a plethora of Alexa-enabled devices in the near future.
While this iLive device has a great name and good ideas, the implementation is a little lacking. Although I have seen it cheaper, its list price at the iLive site is $99.99. Currently Google Home is being advertised at $109 (list $129). With Google Home you get a lot more for your money. My advice is to wait for something better.