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Huawei partners with Devialet for Sound X smart speaker, but Google Assistant AWOL

Huawei has confirmed that its Sound X smart speaker, a collaboration with high-end French audio specialist Devialet, is being fast tracked for a global release.

The all-in-one connected sound system broke cover this week at Huawei’s Not-MWC virtual keynote event in London, where we had an early opportunity to hear it in action. More of which later…

For Huawei, the partnership with Devialet appears to make a lot of sense. The contentious Chinese brand doesn’t have credibility in Hi-Fi circles (and it’s not something a bottomless R&D slush fund will fix), but Devialet is widely recognised for quality Hi-Fi, its spectacular Phantom models objects of desire for many a well heeled music lover.

Strategic partnerships are shaping up to be a lucrative model for Devialet. At CES, charging and PC accessory specialist Belkin unveiled its own smart speaker, the Soundform Elite (pictured below), also co-engineered with the French outfit. Belkin hailed its smart speaker as the start of a wider range of audio products.

Both developments lead on from Devialet’s partnership with UK Pay TV operator Sky, which led to the creation of the Sky Soundbox soundbar back in 2017.

While the Huawei and Belkin units are cosmetically different, they share core Devialet technologies, including its distinctive ‘push push’ dual woofer design and SAM (Speaker Active Matching) driver optimisation, for maximum bass attack.

We can expect one obvious difference though. The Belkin Soundform Elite comes with integrated Google Voice Assistant. At Huawei’s faux MWC event we were told, understandably so, that the speaker would not have that particular Digital Assistant on-board. Indeed, it wasn’t clear if any digital assistants will find safe harbour.

Without some help from Alexa, Sound X may find it hard to pick up traction. Regardless, Huawei is positioning the speaker as part of its own connected IoT ecosystem.

Sound X features six evenly distributed 8W tweeters in the base, with dual woofers driven by a 60W amp module, visible from cutouts either side of the enclosure.

It’s an omnidirectional design with a fabric base and touch sensitive controls up top, activated by a proximity sensor. They light up when you move your hand in range. The speaker also has NFC to simplify Bluetooth pairing.

So just how musical is the Huawei Sound X?

First impressions are positive. The speaker has a deep, fluid bass, reminiscent of Devialet’s own Phantom Reactor, as well as excellent vocal clarity. It’s High-Res audio capable, but the listening environment at the Huawei shindig wasn’t exactly conducive to serious listening.

We’ll need to wait until we get our hands on a review sample to determine if Huawei and Devialet really rock – we’re also intrigued to learn who the French music maker will duet with next.

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