Digital Assistant or Wireless Router? We Review the ASUS Lyra Voice

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When a new item aims to deliver on multiple fronts, it’s natural to have some questions, or perhaps be a little skeptical. Does it perform as well as stand-alone products? Is it better at function A than B? I get it—I stared at my coffee maker and grinder combo for months before having the courage to hit the “Add to Cart” button. A year later, it’s still going strong and, thankfully, my trust in the brand and desperate need to maximize counter space outweighed everything else. Trust and need are powerful motivators, and ASUS has been faithfully fulfilling the needs of consumers for years. From networking to laptops, ASUS makes some of the best consumer tech products in the world. So, when its new Lyra Voice, a digital assistant and wireless router-in-one hit the market, there was more intrigue than cynicism.

ASUS Lyra Voice Wireless AC2200 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Smart Speaker Whole Home Mesh Router

What Is It?

At first glance, the Lyra Voice looks like a Bluetooth speaker, albeit a nice one. It’s almost hard to imagine that inside its sleek, black housing, complete with two side-firing speakers, is also an 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) wireless router. Looks aside, it’s much more than both those things. Not only is it a wireless router, but it can serve as a node in ASUS’s AiMesh whole home Wi-Fi systems or be used as a repeater in your existing wireless network. On the audio side of things, the Lyra Voice has Alexa built in. In fact, atop the device you’ll find a four-button array that’s familiar to Echo speaker users: buttons for volume control, action, and microphone muting.

It’s 2019, and we expect setup to be easy for our connected devices and, thankfully, that’s what I got with the Lyra Voice. After downloading ASUS’s Router app, it asks how you’ll use the Lyra Voice (router, mesh node, or repeater mode) and walks you through setup and installation. Once configured and connected to the Internet, you’ll then use that same app to link your Amazon account, which enables Alexa voice control. I missed this step initially, because I’m accustomed to adding speakers via Amazon’s Alexa app, but after a few brief minutes of self-inflicted frustration, everything was back on track.

Networking Prowess

I decided to use the Lyra Voice at a relative’s house that’s notorious for having Wi-Fi issues. They’re also deep into the Alexa eco-system, so its functionality would be familiar to them. Compared to their Fios dual-band Actiontec router, the tri-band ASUS boasted faster speeds at all distances ranging from 2 to 40 feet away from the router, sometimes delivering double the throughput. While I shouldn’t have been surprised, I was considering the Lyra Voice just doesn’t look like your typical workhouse router. There are no flashing lights or external antennas protruding from it. On the rear you’ll find two Gigabit Ethernet ports, one for a WAN connection to your modem and another for connecting high-speed wired devices. If you require more wired connections, you’ll need an Ethernet switch.

Much like the setup process, controlling the network via the app was straightforward. I could easily monitor the number of devices connected to the network and even limit the bandwidth of groups of devices if I so chose. The app was chock full of features such as Trend Micro-powered Security Scanning, a great feature to help ensure you’re browsing safely, Advanced Parental Controls, and Game Boost, which allows you to hog Internet bandwidth if your Apex Legends sessions require a few more Mb/s.

Alexa, What Can You Do?

Like every other Alexa-enabled speaker on their network, the Lyra Voice could play music on Spotify, fire up a podcast, and control smart lighting. Unfortunately, we couldn’t add the Lyra Voice to whole-home speaker groups comprising Echo speakers for multi-room listening—a feature I hope is added via a software update in the future, especially for Ai Mesh users who want to use multiple Lyra Voice’s in the same home.

The side-firing 8W stereo speakers did a good job of filling our 12 x 12' room with sound, and its DTS surround enhancement made things sound a bit airier to my ears, a pleasant surprise since virtual enhancements can sometimes do more harm than good. The Lyra Voice won’t shake a room, but its punch and dynamic range were enjoyable, considering its 10-inch-wide frame. Although this speaker isn’t just a “speaker,” I never felt as if its sound quality was underwhelming. If you simply want to connect your Bluetooth music sources, the Lyra Voice can handle those just fine, as well.

A Combo that Works

Digital assistants require solid Internet connectivity to do their job. While ASUS is just getting started in the digital assistant market, it’s a seasoned vet when it comes to network connectivity. The Lyra Voice is a product of natural evolution in our ever-connected world. It’s a solid performer on all fronts and combines two functions that work together. I expect this product category to grow, and I think ASUS did a great job setting the pace.

Are you thinking about adding a new digital assistant, wireless router, or both to your network? Ask us or tell us about it.

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