Meet DiscovR: a smart speaker where you can physically cut off Alexa

As a species, we’re pretty counterintuitive at times. We say we value our privacy, but we’ll still happily use smart speakers: technology that has the sole express purpose of eavesdropping on us, just so we don’t have to get up to switch on the lights.

Digital radio experts Pure is gambling on the notion that even smart speaker owners do still have time for privacy. Its unveiled the DiscovR: a portable speaker with Alexa inside – but which can disconnect the microphone at will, leaving no scope for eavesdropping when it’s not helpful.

It does this because the DiscovR can be used when open or closed. Putting it in its closed state not only makes it 35mm shorter, but also physically cuts off the microphone, giving a clear indicator that Alexa can’t hear you anymore.

Related: Google Home vs Amazon Echo

Of course, effectively all Amazon Echos can already do this. Every Echo from the Dot to the Plus has a button that silences the microphones when pressed, indicated by a bright red ring around the edge of the device. But some sceptical types believe that this is all an act – the digital equivalent of a child pretending to cover his or her eyes while playing hide and seek.

The fact that the Echo’s mute button is a physical hardware switch should provide enough reassurance, but if not then Pure is banking on people wanting the extra peace of mind that its speaker provides. 

It’s not just about privacy, mind. Pure also believes that while voice is undoubtedly convenient, it’s not ideal for all times, so has introduced a number of capacitive sensitive controls on top of the device.

These aren’t limited to your usual track-skip and volume controls, either. Pure has added four shortcuts activated by a press of each corner, which can memorise a specific voice command you use often enough, be it a favourite playlist, a smart home command or a radio station. Rather neatly, Music Discovery also lets you identify a song you hear on the radio and add it to a Spotify playlist so you can hear it again at your leisure.

Related: Amazon Alexa vs Google Assistant

All of this would be for nought if it doesn’t sound any good though, but fortunately the specs look solid enough on paper. The DiscovR offers 45W RMS output from a 3-inch woofer and two 1¼-inch tweeters providing 360-degree sound, and it can connect to other speakers for multi-room use. A single charge should keep it going for 15 hours, too.

There’s no exact release date yet, but Pure says the DiscovR should be available from October priced at £229.99.

Is the Pure DiscovR music to your ears? Let us know what you think on Twitter: @TrustedReviews

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