Today on the hookup we’re going to test out one of, if not the most expensive alexa device on the market, this LED light, speaker combination with alexa built in called the Juno AI, and we’re going to compare it to some MUCH cheaper options to see if you get what you pay for.
About a year ago, Zemismart sent me a smart light and speaker combination that I was really excited about... until I listened to it. The audio quality was… bad… and and dimming the LED light actually caused a high pitch whine to emanate from the speaker. I sent some feedback to my Zemismart contact and told them that if they are going to market a speaker, it’s worth it to mark up the price a bit and make it sound great.
I’m not an audiophile, but I also can’t stand listening to music out of small terrible speakers. As a point of reference, people listening to music out of their cell phone speakers makes my eye twitch, and the built in speakers on the echo dot and the google home mini are also not acceptable playback devices in my house. All I want is a nice sounding speaker that gaves a “built in” look and can be installed easily in existing fixtures.
Fast forward a year and something in me snapped to the point where I just went ahead and bought every speaker light combination on Amazon, and this is my review of them.
My ultimate goal was to be able to listen to music in the shower without having to turn up the volume on my echo tap to 11 or worrying about charging a portable waterproof speaker. Unfortunately, only two of the speakers we’re going to look at today are technically wet rated, so my choices for above the shower are going to be limited, but we’re going to test all of them in that location to get a controlled testing environment.
Here’s the lineup from least expensive to most:
The singled pulse is a screw in replacement for a BR30 style light bulb that includes a JBL speaker and a dimmable LED light controlled by Bluetooth. Singled made the MSRP on the pulse $99, but you can get a 2 pack of them for $19, so I feel like sales may not have gone the way they planned.
Next is the singled solo, one of two bulbs in my tests rated for damp locations. The singled Solo is an RGBW bulb, also controlled via Bluetooth. The singled solo costs $30 and is more similar in size to a traditional lightbulb.
Sort of third, I bought these pyle 4” flushmount downlight speaker combinations. After opening the package I decided not to include them in my tests since they aren’t really a drop in replacement for your existing lights. The pile speakers are essentially a speaker with a LED lamp screwed to the front of them, they have no built in power transformer, no built in Bluetooth adapter, and no amplifier, all those pieces are separate units that you’ll need to find power and room for in your ceiling. If you’re thinking about going this route I’d highly recommend you stick with your traditional light and just install ceiling mount speakers beside them.
Forth is the second damp rated bulb, the Lithonia Lighting 6” downlight replacement, the Lithonia is designed to be operated with a standard switch and has a rechargeable battery to keep the Bluetooth connected and playing even with the lights off. A single Lithonia bulb will run you $67 on amazon.
And last, but definitely not least is the mack daddy light, the Juno.ai by acuity brands. This model of the Juno.ai has dimmable, tunable white light with 90+ CRI, JBL speakers, and amazon alexa built in. The Juno.ai will set you back a cool $399, which I would normally scoff at, but after testing, it’s pretty clear that this device is really in a class of its own, still not for everyone, but impressive none the less.
The first and most important test of a light speaker combination is sound quality. The setup for testing these lights was the same for every device: I installed them directly above my shower, placed my blue yeti microphone over the shower drain and recorded them in adobe audition at the highest available bit rate. In an effort to avoid a copyright strike I played the royalty free song “on fire” by disappeared as my test song, and used amazon echo’s playback volume of 6 for each speaker.
You can see the frequency response ranges were basically directly correlated to the speaker’s price tag, with the juno wildly outperforming the rest, then significantly worse was the Lithonia, followed closely by the sengled solo, then the sengled pulse.
In person the difference is even more staggering. None of the speakers sound terrible and for most of them I thought to myself “yeah, this is acceptable for a shower speaker”, but the Juno sounds superb, the kind of speaker that you could actually use to fill a room with high quality sound. In the end it’s still a single speaker, but the engineers at Juno have done an amazing job tuning the enclosure to provide even and consistent sound.
I’d say the runner up in overall sound quality was the Sengled solo, which is pretty impressive since it is using a 1.5 inch speaker, but the sound was definitely acceptable at low to medium volume and only became distorted around a volume level of 8/10.
But sound is only half the job of a speaker light combination, so lets talk about the differences in the light they produce. The Lithonia light is the least connected of all of the devices. It is intended to be turned on and off via a typical light switch that will cut power to the device completely. The Lithonia has a rechargeable lithium ion battery that allows it to continue to play music and stay connected via Bluetooth even when the light switch is turned off, but in my testing the light needed to be on for at least 1 hour out of every 12 hours to keep a charge even on standby mode. Because there’s a charging circuit and other electronics, you can’t use this light with a dimmer, so you’re stuck with a single color temperature and brightness.
The sengled bulbs are both controllable via Bluetooth and the Sengled pulse app. The sengled pulse is dimmable so you can set it to your desired brightness and then control it via a light switch, but because the app requires your phone to be connected via Bluetooth, I don’t expect many people will take the time to adjust the brightness on a daily basis. The sengled solo is similar, requiring you to connect your phone via Bluetooth to adjust the settings with the pulse app, but the sengled solo is also RGBW, meaning you can select different colors if that’s what you’re into. I was disappointed that it wasn’t possible to have the white channel on at the same time as the RGB channels, and the RGB channels were also pretty dim compared to other RGBW options on the market today. Still, you can set it to your desired setting and then control it via the light switch. Since you are turning the power on and off completely it will make the Bluetooth connect sound every time you turn on the light, which could get annoying.
The Juno AI light is intended to be constantly powered, not controlled by a light switch which is kind of annoying. That being said, the Juno is adjustable via amazon echo commands to change the color temperature and brightness. The other strange thing about the Juno is that the light looks really good, like REALLY good. I know this sounds like a strange thing to say, but things that are being lit by the Juno just look better than they do under other light. This property is called CRI or color rendering index, and in my experience manufacturers, especially Chinese brands white label brands tend to wildly over represent their CRI. The Juno actually produces this high CRI light and with the risk of sounding like a broken record, the light produced by the Juno AI just looks better than other light.
For the Sengled and Lithonia I decided to play my music through an amazon echo flex because it can plug directly into the outlet and stay off of the counter, but the Juno AI has Alexa built in, so there’s no need for another device. The Juno AI is one of those devices that when you see it, hold it, and use it you can just tell that it is an expensive, high quality product… BUT
While the juno AI is absolutely amazing at what it does, it’s not without problems. The first of which is that it is what is referred to as a third party “alexa built in” product, and while the features available on these products are slowly increasing, there are some important things that are still missing. Specifically this is a big problem for me (pause)
The second, VERY large issue in my case is that the Juno AI isn’t wet or damp rated, meaning that the circuit board hasn’t been conformally coated, and may be vulnerable to corrosion due to the high humidity in places like a bathroom.
Third, the Juno lacks an important feature in its firmware relating to its “power on state”, meaning what happens to the light after power loss. The only options available are “previous status” and two default values, but previous status doesn’t refer to its previous on off status, only previous color temperature and dimming level. So no matter what, if the light was off when you lost power, it will be on when power is restored, and that to me is a super poor plan, and one that I hope can be easily fixed in a firmware update.
And last, the Juno uses amazon echo as it’s smart home connectivity hub, meaning it isn’t easily added to a locally controlled smart home platform. I created a work around in node-red using a virtual contact sensor tied to a shelly light switch to trigger an Alexa routine to turn the Juno on and off, but that all seems a bit complex and sloppy for a $400 device. I reached out to Juno to see if there was a better option, but at the time of filming I haven’t heard back from them. I’ll post a sticky comment with an update if they get back to me with a solution.
Overall the Juno AI is SUPER impressive, and if you’re in a “Money is no object” situation where you need a great light, a speaker, and a built in alexa device without cluttering up a shelf or countertop the Juno AI is a great product, and there are even other Juno products that have just the speaker and light, or just the light if you wanted to outfit an entire room with them. But if you are looking for a light to listen to music in the shower without breaking the bank the juno isn’t for you and other lights aren’t bad at all.
Specifically, if you have a light that you turn on and off a lot and you don’t want to deal with the Bluetooth reconnection sound every time you flip the switch, the Lithonia light is damp rated, sounds decent and has a battery to stay online when it’s powered off. If you only turn the switch on when you’re ready to listen to music like maybe a light directly above a shower, the Sengled solo RGBW is much cheaper than the Lithonia, sounds just as good, and screws into a typical light socket. As I mentioned before the echo flex is also really great for connecting to these speakers in a bathroom or kitchen because it doesn’t take up any counter space.
As always links are down in the description for all of the items featured in today’s video. If you have a different light/speaker combination that I missed and you think is great please let me know down in the comments. Thank you to all of my awesome patrons over at patreon for your continued support of my channel. If you’re interested in supporting my channel please check out the links in the description. If you enjoyed this video please consider subscribing, and as always, thanks for watching the hookup.