Cotodama Lyric hands-on review

This crazy speaker turns music into visual art, at a price fit for a gallery

The Cotodama Lyric Speaker is mesmerizing, unique, and bafflingly expensive.
The Cotodama Lyric Speaker is mesmerizing, unique, and bafflingly expensive.
The Cotodama Lyric Speaker is mesmerizing, unique, and bafflingly expensive.

Highs

  • Beautiful, artistic visualizations
  • A true conversation piece
  • Room-filling volume
  • Unique

Lows

  • Hugely expensive

The first time you seen the Cotodama Lyric speaker, it’s hard to understand who it’s for, and why anyone would want it. Then you hear the $4,500 price, and it becomes even more unfathomable. But when you sit down with it, play around with the app, listen to some tunes, you quickly become utterly mesmerized. You question: Is it a Bluetooth speaker? Is it a karaoke machine? A music visualizer? An art installation? In fact, it’s a very expensive combination of them all. In our Cotodama Lyric Speaker hands-on review we find out that if you spend the money on it, we doubt you’ll ever get bored with it.

The Lyric speaker’s purpose is to reconnect us with the meaning of songs. Popular music is often remembered for the riff or the chorus, and any actual message can get lost unless we go out and search for the words. The Lyric speaker shows them to us while we listen. It’s not a karaoke machine — there’s no timing or bouncing dot so you can sing along. The words are presented artistically, with some stunning graphics, and eye-catching, mood-matching transitions as the lyrics swirl, zip, and disappear on screen.

This is no flimsy $50 speaker box with a screen inside, however. It’s a hefty, handmade ABS and stainless steel case with a total of five speakers mounted in it. There’s a woofer on the back, two front facing coax speakers, and a pair of down-firing cone speakers in the casing. The total claimed power output is 100 watts, and volume is adjusted in the app, or with the physical volume knob on the front of the Lyric. It’s the 22-inch translucent screen that makes the speaker unique.

The Lyric speaker’s purpose is to reconnect us with the meaning of songs.

The graphics and the way words are displayed on the screen changes with the pace, mood, and style of the music. Algorithms then create the style, movement, and visualizations that accompany the song. This is the addictive part. In the same way a brilliant sounding speaker makes you listen to song after song to see how it changes, you listen to the Lyric speaker to see what it comes up with on the screen. It changes — drastically, actually — each time, and is fun to watch.

During Interia Creeps by Massive Attack, geometric patterns danced, the words flashed up matching the violence of the track’s rhythm, varying in font size and speed. It was truly breathtaking to see, and the Lyric’s unique attraction became clear. It’s mesmerizing. You stare, taking in the music and the lyrics in a way we usually don’t when listening. To visually connect with songs, we usually watch the accompanying video, which can be distracting. The Lyric doesn’t distract. It pulls you in and absorbs you into the sound.

Cotodama Lyric review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The speaker component has considerable depth and punch, and creates room-filling volume; but it didn’t have the definition and detailed sound we’d really expect from such an expensive speaker. It’s good enough that you’ll want to listen though. A dedicated app connects the speaker to Wi-Fi and songs are streamed through Spotify, Apple Music , Google Play Music, Deezer, and others (but no Tidal). Lyrics are captured from PetitLyrics, a Japanese lyrics database. It happily played the vast majority of the English songs we tried, and certainly didn’t censor any juicier words — it’s probably not one for the kids. It also showed some Spanish lyrics, but oddly didn’t return any Japanese lyrics when we tried a few artists through Spotify. Graphical visualizations play when the music has no lyrics.

It pulls you in and absorbs you into the sound.

Cotodama’s Lyric speaker is a truly confusing product. We love the way it looks, the visualizations, and how it could potentially strengthen our personal connection to songs we perhaps hadn’t really understood the meaning behind before. Conversely, we may suddenly dislike songs where we hadn’t studied the words outside of a catchy chorus. It sounds good, and is a real conversation piece. It’s a rarity too, with the company only producing 15 each month. However, it’s ridiculously expensive. While it’s $4,500 in the U.S., it’s 4,320 British pounds in the U.K. For all the fun and artistic merit, the price prohibits the vast majority of people from ever considering buying one. That’s a real shame.

In the press release, creator Jin Saito is quoted as saying, “ I hope that more people can enjoy the power of lyrics and learn and appreciate more about their favorite songs through the Lyric speaker.” Knock a zero off the price tag and there’s a considerably better chance of that happening. As it is, it’s a high-priced novelty most will never get the chance to enjoy.