It's not the first voice-operated speaker on the market, but this first offering from former social network Whyd is hoping to tackle rival products such as the Amazon Echo with its focus on better sound quality.

Never heard of Whyd? It started out as a social network for music lovers, and has now turned its hand to developing hardware. The French firm is hoping that its new speaker will become a conversation piece, in more ways than one. Specifically, the company's 360 degree, omnidirectional speaker is voice operated, meaning that you can command it to select a specific track, artist, playlist, or radio station.

However, if you're not feeling particularly loquacious, you can use the touchpad controller on top of the speaker.

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It can connect to streaming services such as Apple Music, DeezerSpotify and Tidal (which we hope will be playing the What Hi-Fi? playlist) and has Bluetooth and wi-fi connectivity. The Whyd speaker is also compatible with Google Cast and AirPlay. 

What distinguishes this speaker from other voice-operated devices like the Amazon Echo, according to Whyd co-founder Jie Meng-Gerard, is that rivals such as the Echo "don't focus on sound quality". Whyd has given its speaker four full-range drivers, and a dedicated subwoofer, for improved performance.

More after the break

It measures 30cm x 20cm and weighs 4kg, and can be pre-ordered from Whyd's website for $299 in a variety of colours.