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HOME / Audio / Harman Kardon Invoke vs Amazon Echo 2 & Google Home
Harman Kardon Invoke vs Amazon Echo 2 & Google Home
How does Microsoft Cortana hold up against Amazon Alexa & Google Assistant?
Amazon popularized the smart speaker category and has dominated it for years…Microsoft now wants in. They teamed up with Harman Kardon to produce the Invoke, a high end smart speaker featuring Cortana, Microsoft’s virtual assistant. Why should you care though? You should obviously just get the Amazon Echo 2, right? Wrong. The Invoke actually has a lot going for it, if you can get past the $200 price tag.
In case you’re curious here’s the official video for the Invoke.
Harman Kardon Invoke Review – How is it Different?
Well, the first thing is design. The Invoke speaker looks great. It has a tapered conical shape that looks elegant and refined. This is one of the best looking speakers, period. You can tell that Harman Kardon made this speaker.
It has a rotating dial on the top that allows you to change the volume manually and on top is a touch sensitive pad where you can pause and play music, etc. The top also has an LED array that shows you when Cortana is thinking or muted. The whole system just works brilliantly.
But as nice as the design is, the audio quality is stand out feature. Below is a diagram so you can see what the internal audio components look like. The audio quality is balanced, clear, crisp, and the speaker gets very loud. Bass is ok and the mids and highs are just fine. The speaker really does sound a cut above a lot of smart speakers, including the FABRIQ Chorus, Google Home, Amazon Echo 2, and Echo Plus. It also has 360° of sound, which itself is a differentiator for the Invoke.
Additionally, you can use the Invoke as a Bluetooth speaker on its own in the event that you want to control the music manually. This is the case also with Google Home and the Echo.
And lastly, the Invoke supports voice calling to Skype contacts, phone contacts, and phone numbers inside the US, Canada, Mexico, and various US territories. Both Amazon and Google also support calling, but not to the extent that Microsoft does, especially when it comes to Skype.
Beyond that, the Invoke is either on par with or behind the Google Home and Echo 2 in terms of features. For example, the Invoke supports iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Spotify (Pandora coming soon), but Google and Amazon incorporate other streaming services on top of those four.
Further, the Invoke supports the following smart home brands (as of this post): SmartThings, Philips Hue, Nest, Wink, Insteon. Amazon and Google support many more brands and devices. With that being said, support for Honeywell, Ecobee, TP-Link, Johnson Controls, IFTTT, iDevices, and others is planned for the near future. So, Microsoft is behind here, but they’re actively trying to catch up.
With all three devices you can ask for news updates, create timers and reminders, check on you calendar, ask for weather and traffic info, and ask for unit conversions. That’s the basics, but Google and Amazon do support additional tasks and requests. They’re just ahead of Microsoft on a lot of the smaller stuff.
We also noticed that there’s no multi-room listening option with Invoke nor can you pair it to other speakers (AUX or Bluetooth). There’s also no integration with any set top boxes or streaming sticks, as you’ll see with Google and Amazon.
Harman Kardon Invoke Review – Verdict
It has a lot going for it. If your foremost concern is listening to music, the Invoke is a fantastic option. If you truly care about the other smart features, you’re better off with Amazon and Google.
Firstly, if you care about audio quality, the Echo 2 is in second place behind the Invoke. But the true reason you get the Echo 2 is that Amazon is the dominant player in the space. Literally hundreds of devices work with Alexa, far more than Microsoft and Google. If you care at all about outfitting a smart home, Amazon is the brand to stick with. With that said, the Invoke works with a lot of the big brands across the major smart home categories (thermostats, lighting, etc.). So, while it is behind Amazon here, they do at least have the basics covered (with more on the way). Similar story with Google Home, although they also work with more brands and products than the Invoke.
But even more compelling than that is the fact that the Echo 2 is $100 while the Invoke and Google Home are $200 and $130, respectively. On price alone, the Echo 2 is the no-brainer pickup.
Even more, you can pair the Echo 2 with other Bluetooth speakers as well as plug it via an AUX port with other speakers. With Google, you need a Chromecast Audio device to work with other speakers. And so far, the Invoke doesn’t work with other speakers.
And Lastly, the Echo has the best shopping experience. You can ask Alexa to place items in your cart for purchase later. Google does have a partnership with Walmart in order to compete with Amazon, but it’s not as robust or seamless yet. Microsoft does not have a shopping option.
Harman Kardon vs Amzon Echo 2nd Generation – What to do
Again, you need to want premium audio to go Invoke. Otherwise, the Echo 2 sounds pretty good itself and is very affordable with all the smart features you’ve come to expect in a connected speaker. It’s hard to stray from Amazon in the smart speaker market.
We’ve done plenty of comparison between Google Home and Amazon Echo, so in this section we’ll focus on how the Google Home bests the Invoke.
Firstly, Google Assistant is more accurate than Cortana. In many instances, we asked Invoke to play a song, but instead it starting a podcast. You don’t get those sort of errors very often with Google, regardless of whether you’re using the Google Home or Google Home Mini.
Next up, it has a swappable base, allowing you to customize it somewhat. Not a huge point, but some folks might want to switch out the fabric base here and there.
Google also has a translation service that allows you to have you speech converted into a different language. You won’t find this on any other smart speaker.
And lastly, if you’re a Google user with a Chromecast at home, it makes a lot of sense to just stick with the Google Home. It sounds good enough, although not even close to the Invoke. It has all of the basics and then some. It’s stylish and easy to use. Basically, if you don’t go with Amazon and $200 is too much for you Google is the next best bet.
Here’s one of the official videos for the Google Home. You can get a better look at the design elements and some of its features.