Alexa is almost everywhere else, so why not have it in your car, too? Speak Music's Muse is a $70 dongle that delivers Amazon's voice assistant (via your phone) to you on the road, letting you listen to music, control smart home devices, play trivia and more, all without taking your hands off the steering wheel. The Muse is a good way of getting Alexa in your car on the cheap, but Speak Music's system is not without its flaws.
Design and App
The Muse is a small, circular device, with about the same diameter as a quarter. The upper two-thirds has a microphone button, and the bottom third is divided into two buttons, which let you advance and reverse audio tracks.
A long, 6.5-foot wire extends from the bottom of the Muse, which you can plug into your car's USB port or the cigarette lighter using the included plug; as a nice touch, the plug has two USB ports, so you can use it to charge your phone at the same time. The Muse connects to your phone using Bluetooth LE; you can then connect your phone to your car via Bluetooth USB or an aux port.
You can use most modern smartphones with the Muse, but the system is not compatible with OnePlus phones, the Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Note 4 or older Samsung phones.
The Muse mounts to your dashboard with a small magnetic disk, which has double-sided tape on the back. You'll need to keep the Muse within arm's reach if you want to use its buttons.
There really isn't much of anything to Muse's app; once you use it to connect your phone to the dongle and Alexa, there's no need to go back to it, unless you want to change your Alexa account or contact support.
Using Alexa with the Muse requires a bit of patience. When I said, "Alexa…" I generally had to wait an extra second longer than with other Alexa-enabled devices before Amazon's voice assistant kicked in. This delay takes some getting used to. Speak Music reps said it was a result of having to use an LTE, rather than Wi-Fi connection to reach Alexa in the cloud, but when I tested the Garmin Speak Plus under similar conditions, I experienced no such pause.
Once it recognized my voice, though, I could use the Muse to ask Alexa to give me the weather, answer trivia, play music and even control my smart home devices. It all worked pretty well, provided that my smartphone's LTE connection was good. If it was weak, then it would take a lot longer for Alexa to respond.
Unfortunately, Alexa does not offer turn-by-turn directions. However, you can have Google Maps running on your smartphone (and operating independently) at the same time. It's just that you'll have to talk into the Muse's microphone to use Alexa and your smartphone's mic to talk to Google..
You can't use the Muse to call your contacts via Alexa, either, which was a bummer, but the Garmin Speak Plus lacks this feature, too.
One of the benefits of having Alexa as your co-pilot is that it can also act as your DJ; it was great being able to say, "Alexa, play Bruce Springsteen," and the Boss would start up on my car's speakers.
When I was rocking out to "Rosalita," though, I had to shout to get Alexa to hear me. When it finally did, it paused the music to hear my command. I prefer the strategy used by most other Alexa devices, which is to lower the volume of the music briefly. It's less jarring.
Muse can stream music from your phone, Amazon Music, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and Audible. Speak Music is working on SiriusXM and Pandora integration, but a Speak Music representative said the company was not working on Spotify at this time.
For $70, the Speak Music Muse is a pretty inexpensive way to get Alexa in your car, but there are definite limitations. I liked that I could stream music, but it's a shame that audio sources are limited. Also, the lag when waiting for Alexa to respond can get frustrating in a hurry.
The Muse isn't as feature-rich as the $199 Garmin Speak Plus (or the $119 Garmin Speak, which has everything but the camera). The Garmin Speak Plus gives you not only Alexa, but also directions and a dash cam. Then again, the Muse costs less than half as much as Garmin's product. The one thing that the Muse can't provide is voice-guided directions, but that's on Amazon, not the Muse. There will undoubtedly be dozens of in-car Alexa devices coming in the future, and the Muse sets a good bar for them to hurdle.
Credit: Speak Music