Smart speakers may be useful, but they are rarely stylish. Cavalier Audio seeks to bring some chic to the smart speaker market with The Maverick, a portable speaker with Alexa voice control and a host of upscale features. Style doesn't come cheap, though. At $300, the Maverick is expensive for its size, but it's one of the best Alexa speakers around.
The 8.8 x 3-inch Maverick looks like a lot of other cylindrical portable speakers at first glance, but then you notice its more refined elements: aluminum, leather and knitted fabric encase two drivers and two passive radiators.
A large dial on top adjusts the volume, and the surface of the dial is touch-sensitive: tap once to pause, twice to skip to the next track. You can program the function of the 2x and 3x tap in the Cavalier app. For example, the "smart" button can be linked to a specific playlist on Spotify or iHeart Radio — something I haven't seen before. If you press and hold the dial, it engages Alexa; you can also go hands-free and say, "Alexa," of course.
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The Maverick is ready for the future of power with a USB-C charging port. It ships with a charging base — something most other portable speakers sell separately (UE's base costs $40, for example). Even the charge cord is premium quality, with a flexible fabric cable instead of the typical plastic kind.
Alexa was responsive to commands, turning on a Wemo switch, launching a show on Fire TV and even playing songs on Spotify — something few third-party speakers have enabled.
But, as with many other speakers not made by Amazon, it couldn't make calls.
The Maverick delivers good overall audio for its size, with clear vocals and crisp treble, but it doesn't produce as much bass as other portable speakers in this price range. However, after boosting the bass level in the Cavalier app, the speaker came closer to the overall quality of UE's $250 Megablast.
Amanda Shires' voice soared on "Parking Lot Pirouette," but the bass and drums were less prominent than the same song on the Megablast. Similarly, the vocals on Sia, Diplo and Labrinth's "Thunderclouds" were clear, but the bass lacked oomph. Thanks to its crisp treble, the distorted guitars on Courtney Barnett's "City Looks Pretty" had good detail, as did the finger-picked guitar on Fleetwood Mac's "Never Going Back Again."
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The Maverick gets loud enough to fill a medium to large room; at max volume, it measured around 95 decibels, and the sound wasn't very distorted.
One of the few smart speakers to come with a rechargeable battery, the Maverick can run for up to 9 hours when it's unplugged. The UE Megablast's battery, by comparison, can go for 16 hours. If you do use the battery, remember that the unit won't go to sleep while it's connected to Wi-Fi — Alexa is listening, and using power.
Wireless and Setup
To set up the Maverick, you download Cavalier's free iOS or Android app. It walks you through connecting the speaker to your Wi-Fi network to allow internet access for Alexa. You then need to log in to Amazon to connect Alexa to the unit. You can also connect via Bluetooth for music playback only if you don't have Wi-Fi available.
The Cavalier app lets you adjust the treble and bass — something you'll definitely want to do — as well as assign functions to the "smart" button. You can also create a multiroom system with other Maverick speakers through the app, but you can't use Alexa's multiroom music feature.
The Maverick is a refined-looking portable speaker, and its features — such as programmable touch controls and USB-C power — match its looks. While it's expensive compared with better-sounding speakers like the UE Megablast, you also get a charging base as part of the $300 price. In many ways, you get what you pay for with the Maverick.
If you're tired of the look of most smart speakers, the Maverick is a solid choice. If you're willing to sacrifice style for bass, the UE Megablast is the better option.