Google Assistant and Alexa Come Together in JBL’s New Speakers

Most smart speakers allow you to choose between Alexa or Google Assistant—one or the other, but never both. We treat this restriction as if it’s something normal, and as a result, smart homes that rely on both Alexa and Google Assistant are needlessly over-complicated. Now, Harman is setting a new standard. Its new JBL Authentics speakers are the first to provide simultaneous voice assistant functionality for multi-assistant households.

It’s amazing that this didn’t happen sooner. Instead of buying two separate speakers, you can use a single JBL Authentics speaker to control both Google Assistant and Alexa. Harman is also introducing the concept of “universal device commands” (UDC), which is a fancy way of saying that Google Assistant and Alexa can be used interchangeably when performing some basic tasks. (For example, if you use Google Assistant to set a timer, you can cancel or modify the timer through Alexa.)

The JBL Authentics lineup also boasts Chromecast, AirPlay, Alexa Multi-Room Music, and Spotify Connect compatibility. We’ve never seen this kind of flexibility from a smart speaker. Harman is truly innovating in an otherwise stagnant product category.

The wide compatibility of JBL Authentics was made possible by a collaboration between Google and Amazon. In a short YouTube video, the two companies explain the benefits of “multi-assistant interoperability.” They also point to Amazon’s Multi-Agent Experience (or MAX) toolkit as the foundation for Harman’s JBL Authentics lineup. The MAX toolkit is a key piece of Amazon’s Voice Interoperability Initiative, which began in 2019 and is finally bearing some truly tangible fruit.

Of course, there are three JBL Authentics speakers, and they’re all a bit different:

  • JBL Authentics 200 ($330): A compact Dolby Atmos smart speaker with a pair of one-inch tweeters, a five-inch full-range woofer, and a six-inch passive radiator.
  • JBL Authentics 300 ($430): The only portable option in this lineup. It has an eight-hour battery but lacks Dolby Atmos. Harman hasn’t shared the full specs.
  • JBL Authentics 500 ($700): Harman’s flagship JBL Authentics speaker. It contains three one-inch tweeters, three 2.76-inch midrange woofers, and a 6.5-inch down-firing subwoofer. It clocks in at 270 watts and supports Dolby Atmos.

It seems that pricing the only major drawback of these speakers. While it’s easy to find Nest and Echo speakers at bargain-bin prices, the cheapest JBL Authentics speaker is $330. And, as noted by The Verge, these JBL speakers do not support Google Assistant calling features or Alexa Guard home security. You’re also stuck saying “hey, Alexa,” as the speakers do not allow you to change your wake word. (First-party Google or Amazon speakers are required for such functionality.)

Note that the JBL Authentics lineup is also a whole-home audio solution. For some users, this may be the main benefit of the “multi-assistant” concept, as even hardcore Google fans will appreciate Amazon’s Alexa Multi-Room Music system.

Harman will launch the JBL Authentics lineup on September 15th. We’re currently making the rounds at IFA Berlin, where JBL Authentics made its debut. We may update this article as we learn more about the new smart speakers.

Source: JBL via The Verge

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