Review: Invoxia Triby Connected Kitchen Speaker | iLounge

Review

Review: Invoxia Triby Connected Kitchen Speaker

A-
Highly Recommended

Company: Invoxia

Model: Triby

Price: $199-$209

Compatible: All iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch models running iOS 8 or later.

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Jesse Hollington

We were somewhat intrigued by Invoxia's Triby when it debuted at CES earlier this year — a multi-function accessory designed to sit on the front of your refrigerator and serve as Bluetooth speaker, Internet radio, IP telephone, speakerphone, and household message board, all wrapped up in a single chassis. Triby does a lot of different things in a single device, and the question on our mind was how well Invoxia would be able to execute all of these different functions and combine them into a single device.

Triby’s design is unique while also being relatively unassuming, and the design seems like it should fit right in with the average family’s kitchen, alongside kid’s artwork, calendars, refrigerator magnets, and all of that other stuff that a busy family often has adorning the front of their refrigerator. Triby comes with only two parts in the box — the unit itself and a custom-molded USB-to-micro-USB charging cable. Triby is available in four different color options: a basic gray unit sells for $199, while blue, red, and green trimmed models add a rubber bumper that increases the price to $209. The bumpers are also available separately for $19 each for those who might want to order extras, switch to a new color, or upgrade a gray Triby to something more colorful later on. The USB charging cable is designed to fit flush into Triby’s power port, but any micro-USB cable can be used, and while it won’t look or fit as nicely as the one that Invoxia includes, we were pleased to see that Invoxia didn’t use a proprietary charging connector.

On the front of Triby is a 2.9” high-resolution e-paper display bracketed by three call buttons on the left and three radio buttons on the right. Play/pause and volume buttons are located on the top of Triby, below the handle, while the left side includes a notification flag and reply button, and the right side sports the charging port. Two magnets located on the rear of the Triby casing allow for attachment to a refrigerator or other metal surface. Between the strength of the magnets and the rubber backing, Triby attaches pretty solidly and won’t easily come off or slide around during use.

Out of the box, Triby can operate as a stereo Bluetooth speaker and speakerphone for just about any Bluetooth device, however, to get the most out of Triby you’ll need to download the companion app from the App Store and go through the setup and pairing process there. The app will take you through joining Triby to your Wi-Fi network, creating a group for your family and adding family members to it. You can then assign those family members to the call buttons for quick access, and assign your favorite Internet radio stations to the radio buttons. The app allows you to place and receive Internet VoIP calls between your iOS device and the Triby, and post messages onto Triby’s e-paper display.

On the Internet Radio side, Triby provides a reasonably comprehensive list of stations based on your current country, and we had no problem finding most of our favorites. You can begin playing any station directly from the Triby app just by tapping on the station name, or you can assign stations to the radio buttons on the front right side of Triby — the top two buttons can be used to call up your two most-listened-to stations directly, while the third button calls up a list of other stations you’ve added; repeatedly pressing the button scrolls through the stations, and Triby will begin playing whichever one is selected about a second after your last button press. We found this process to be a little bit too quick, particularly with the added latency of the e-ink display, but it’s not too bad once you get used to it. Triby streams Internet radio directly over Wi-Fi, even if you start playback by selecting a radio station from the iOS app, so you don’t need to keep the Triby app running or even keep your iPhone nearby to keep on listening.

Triby also includes support for Spotify Connect, allowing you to stream music from Spotify directly to Triby, controlled from either your iOS device, or even from a Mac, Windows PC, Android device or web browser. Using Spotify Connect, Triby streams music directly from Spotify’s cloud service, without requiring an intermediate device to do anything other than choose tracks and start playback. Triby also functions as a standard Bluetooth speaker, so you can stream music from your iPhone, iPad, or any other Bluetooth device and use it as a normal speaker. One limitation we did find when using it as a Bluetooth speaker was that the play/pause button doesn’t work, so you’ll need to control playback from the source Bluetooth device; volume buttons worked as expected, but don’t mirror the volume on the source device either. It’s a minor limitation, but we found it a disappointing omission on a device that otherwise works well for audio playback.

We were quite impressed with the quality of Triby’s speaker, which is surprisingly good for a speaker of its size and design. It provided good bass for such a small speaker, yet the mids and highs remained crisp at normal listening levels. The speaker can get quite loud when pushed up to maximum volume, and while we found some distortion at these higher levels, we found those levels to be almost too loud for listening in the kitchen unless you’re running a blender or mixer, in which case what relatively little audio distortion the speaker itself provides is most likely not going to be noticeable.

Triby also does reasonably well as a speakerphone. While it’s not among the very best we’ve seen, for its purpose it performs well enough; Invoxia uses four digital microphones to handle noise cancellation and provide up to fifteen feet of range, and we found that we could be heard clearly at about that distance, even over running water. The microphone is not surprisingly somewhat directional, so for optimal microphone quality you’ll want to ensure that speaker is angled no more than about 60 degrees away from where you’re speaking. Incoming calls will display caller ID information on Triby’s e-paper display, and can be answered with a single press of the top button — a useful feature when your hands are busy making dinner and you don’t want to fumble with your iPhone.

Beyond the music and speakerphone capabilities, Triby has a few other unique tricks up its sleeve, emphasizing its place on your kitchen refrigerator. Invoxia ties Triby into its own Voice-over-IP (VoIP) network so that you can place calls between the Triby app on an iOS device and the Triby unit itself — a great feature for allowing kids to call parents or older siblings, or vice versa. Members of your Triby family group can be assigned to the two speed dial buttons to the left of the e-paper display, and as with Internet radio stations, a third button provides access to a list of other members that can be called.

Calls are handled by the Triby iOS app, which works in about the same manner as many other VoIP apps — incoming calls will result in lock screen notifications, which can be answered or declined by swiping left or right, and once connected you can converse with the Triby user in the same way as you would conduct a normal phone call. Similarly, you can call from the Triby app on your iPhone back to the Triby unit at home simply by tapping on it in the app; Triby will ring and display the name and icon of the family member on the e-paper display, and can be answered by pressing the top play/pause button. The call quality is very good, and best of all there is no subscription required to use the feature. Although, as with any VoIP service, your iPhone will need to be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or a cellular data plan when you are away from home.

Triby’s other cool feature is the ability to use it as a message board. From the Triby app, you can either type or scribble messages that can then be sent to appear on Triby’s e-paper display. Triby will sound an alert when it receives a new message, and pop out the physical yellow notification flag on the left so that anybody walking by can see that a new message has arrived and is pending. Pushing the notification flag acknowledges receipt of the message, displaying a checkbox beside the message in the Triby app to let you know the message was acknowledged. Alternatively, a button below the notification flag can be pressed to choose from a set of common emoticons to “reply” to the message, which will also retract the notification flag as part of the same process. The selection of emoticon works in the same manner as choosing a radio station or person to call — you need to push the button to bring up the list, and then keep pressing it multiple times to select the emoticon, but if you wait too long between presses, the selection will be made for you. As with radio stations and callers, it feels a bit tricky at first, but it’s not too bad once you get used to it, and our six-year-old assistant reviewer didn’t have any problems with it beyond the first three or four tries — in fact, she found the experience so fun she began insisting we keep sending her more messages.

Triby is a very interesting and unique product, and we definitely like what Invoxia has done here. While not everybody will have a use for everything it offers, we can especially see the appeal of the VoIP and message board features for busy families with younger children, as it’s a great way for communicating with kids who may be old enough to interact with Triby but don’t have their own iOS devices. Even without those features, however, the Internet radio and Bluetooth speaker/speakerphone capabilities alone are very good, and the $200 price tag is actually quite reasonable when you consider what you’re getting in the package — an Internet Radio with Spotify Connect and a reasonably good Bluetooth speaker and speakerphone that can be conveniently and unobtrusively used in a kitchen setting. For its price, Triby is definitely greater than the sum of its parts, and earns our high recommendation.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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