We saw many, many audio products during our CES adventure this year. There were traditional audio companies offering expensive hifi speakers, high-tech amplifiers, and receivers, and many newer companies offering Bluetooth speakers that featured Google Home and Alexa “smart” assistant integration. One of our most interesting finds, however, was a company going in an entirely different direction with their products. Como Audio is a US-based company led by industry veteran Tom Devesto that makes wireless speakers that blend old-school design with modern connectivity. The Amico is the entry point into the Como Audio ecosystem; we think it’s very charming.
Como offers a range of speakers, most of which play in mono unless paired with another speaker from the Como family. The Amico is one of the company’s smallest speakers, standing vertically with two drivers (a 1-inch tweeter and 3-inch woofer) in a compact rear-ported cabinet. Except for its 2.75-inch TFT display, the Amico’s looks are old-school, with a teak wood veneer finish, and satisfyingly clicky knobs and buttons. It has a warm, homey appearance that we think is refreshing in a market dominated by speakers housed in plastic and high-tech fabric weaves. On the front of the Amico are three multi-function knobs for power/volume, menu navigation, and source selection, as well as six hardware preset buttons. Around the back are a variety of connectivity options — headphone and line out, line in, an FM antenna, and a jack for connecting the Amico directly to another speaker for a stereo experience. Particularly interesting is the Amico’s 2200 mAh battery pack, which makes it competitive with the multitudes of portable “personal” speakers on the market. All this is in a package smaller than 10” x 6” x 5”, with a bundled remote control for extra convenience. In general, we think the Amico’s melding of traditional design with modern features is great.
What makes the Amico “modern” is its wireless connectivity. In addition to Bluetooth 4.1 (AAC, aptX), the Amico can also connect to Spotify, thousands of internet radio stations, FM radio, and network shared drives. USB direct playback is available for files up to 24 bit / 96khz, but is limited to USB drives — iOS does not recognize the Amico as a playback device. In setup, options for equalization are available. All these features are controlled using Amico’s iOS app or via its built-in display. The screen isn’t the best we’ve seen — its resolution is relatively low and its viewing angles are narrow — but it provides all the information needed to control the speaker without tapping through an app. Though not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, the Amico includes many of the features that we missed in the HomePod, and is considerably less restrictive in what music it will play. Though it’s a shame that there are no physical track controls on the Amico, it is a nice touch that the speaker’s volume knob directly regulates the Bluetooth volume on iOS.
One place where it does not beat the HomePod, however, is in its sound. Though we were put off by the HomePod’s colored sound signature and lack of EQ-ability, we were impressed by its bass output, lack of distortion, and clarity at low volumes. The Amico has a competent sound for its size, and there’s no doubt that its woofer is putting in work — there’s plenty of movement out of its reflex port — but its sound is small compared to Apple’s cheaper HomePod. It’s also very sensitive to positioning, really sounding its best only when placed close to ear level. Popular and electronic music sounds limited by the Amico, but the speaker is well within its comfort zone playing jazz. The Amico sounds by itself, undeniably mono; though all Como speakers can work together in stereo and multi-room setups, we were sent only one speaker and can comment only on what we hear.
For the most part, we like the Amico. We have seen many speakers in its price range that can stream from Bluetooth only, and sound good only with electronic music. The Amico has a wide range of wireless inputs built into the box, which is great if you’d prefer not to stream everything from an app. With physical controls and a midrange-focused sound, the Amico serves those looking for a more traditional listening experience, right down to its analog clock display and FM radio alarms. The Amico may not be ideal for hip-hop, but if you’re looking for a well-designed personal speaker to stream some jazz around your home or office, it’s worth checking out.
Company and Price
Company: Como Audio