Alexa is coming to take over the world, one speaker at a time. Fabriq was one of the first third-party companies to bake Amazon’s virtual assistant into its Bluetooth speaker. At $50, it’s the same price as the Amazon Echo Dot;but with a battery and better sound, it offers more. If you’re looking for a low-cost way to take advantage of Alexa’s features in a small, portable speaker, the Fabriq could be for you.
At 3.15 x 3.15 x 3.15 inches, the cylindrical Fabriq is smaller than the $129 Amazon Tap but larger than the Echo Dot. It’s easy to carry in one hand, and thanks to its rechargeable battery, you can take it with you.
If the Echo’s staid design isn’t for you, you can choose from one of three colors for the Fabriq: red-and-black “jack plaid”; Earl Grey, a gray pattern; and Splat, which is blue with white, yellow and pink accents. I tested the jack plaid model.
For more fun, you can add some light to your life. An LED light ring at the base pulses through a rainbow of colors. It also shows its current function: blue for Bluetooth, or white for Alexa. It glows red when the battery is low.
On the side of the speaker, there are three buttons: one to engage Alexa (unlike the Tap, the Fabriq isn’t always listening for your voice command), one for volume and one for power. Lift up the control panel to find the pairing button, a button to control the light ring pattern and a micro-USB port to charge the battery.
The speaker isn’t designed to handle the elements, though. It isn’t waterproof or drop-resistant, so you should take care of it as you tote it around. Nor does it have a line-out port, which is one of the nicer features of the Dot.
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For the price of an Echo Dot (Amazon’s smallest Alexa unit), the Fabriq delivers much better audio quality, and it has deeper bass than other portable Alexa speakers, such as the Jam Voice. However, if sound quality matters more to you than Alexa skills, you can get much-better-sounding Bluetooth speakers for around $50, like the JBL Clip 2.
The Fabriq produces impressive bass thump for a small speaker. On Drake’s “Portland,” the Fabriq sent vibrations through my desk during the bass breaks. The Jam Voice, by comparison, made the bass sound thin.
The Fabriq has average midtone range, which makes vocals sound just OK. Rihanna’s singing on Future’s “Selfish” was easy to hear, but the sound was not as full as it was on the Clip 2. The unit lacks crisp treble, though, which makes acoustic songs, such as Big Star’s “Thirteen,” sound weak.
The unit I tested produced a faint clicking sound when it was connected but not playing. This was likely an issue with the antenna, but it was a definite annoyance.
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To activate Alexa, tap the microphone button on the side of the unit; with the Fabriq, Alexa is not voice-activated, which makes it less useful than the Dot or the Tap.
The Fabriq turns most of the tricks that I use Alexa for: It activated my Wemo smart plug, it told me the weather and it knew who won the Elite Eight college basketball games. I found its responses to be a second or so slower than they were on Amazon’s units.
But there are some things Alexa doesn’t support on third-party speakers like the Fabriq. For example, I couldn’t use Spotify as my music service. However, I could stream to the Fabrique through Spotify Connect and over Bluetooth.
I ran into a few quirks as well. When using the Fabriq as a Bluetooth speaker, I couldn’t use Alexa at all. On some tries, I had to push the microphone button two or three times to get Alexa to respond.
Wireless and Setup
Setup was quick and simple. To get started, you download the free app for iOS or Android. The app walks you through setting up Wi-Fi so you can access Alexa features. (You’ll need to log in to your Amazon account to make Alexa work.) You can also establish a Bluetooth connection for when you’re not on your home network. The Bluetooth range was very good; it maintained a strong connection from more than 50 feet away indoors.
You can use the app to play music that’s on your mobile device, as well as music from TuneIn, iHeartRadio and more. You can also pair multiple units to improve the fidelity or listen in multiple rooms.
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Fabriq says the speaker can play for 5 hours on a full charge, and it lasted a little more than that in my testing. Using the LED light ring drains the battery a bit faster. In comparison, the Jam Voice’s battery offers 4 hours of power, and the Tap can play for 9 hours before needing to be recharged.
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If you’re looking for an inexpensive portable speaker that includes most of Alexa’s talents, the Fabriq is a solid option. It delivers better sound than the comparably priced Dot, and provides 5 hours of battery to ensure you’re not tethered to an outlet. You can get a Bluetooth speaker that sounds better for the same amount of money, but the addition of Alexa makes the small compromise worthwhile.
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