How good do you think a speaker that shows lyrics on a screen as songs play might be? If you're anything like me, your obvious answer to this would be: "It'll be a gimmicky piece of crap that you buy as a present for someone you don't like that much".
But in Japan they do things differently, and Cotodama Lyric is not only great, it's also so demandingly priced, you won't even be buying it as a present for the person you love the most in the world. Unless it's yourself.
According to the press release, the Lyric speaker 'has been gaining a high reputation from domestic audiences based on the concept of “leading people to the world of lyrics”.' Yup.
What it does is to present the lyrics of songs sent to it via Airplay, Spotify Connect or a host of music services working off the back of its own iOS/Android app (but not Google Chromecast) in a brilliantly varied array of typefaces and background graphics.
The tech underlying this is a 'translucent screen' within an attractive speaker casing that has two front-facing 'coaxial loudspeakers' and a pair of downward firing, passive bass radiators. The lyrics come courtesy of Japan's PetitLyrics, which maintains a database of 'more than 2 million songs.'
Obviously, rather more than 2 million songs have been written in the history of music, but as long as the track you're after is at least somewhat well known, it's probably there.
The Lyric uses different visual and text treatments depending on how it perceives the tune's moodImage 1 of 2
The Lyric uses different visual and text treatments depending on how it perceives the tune's moodImage 2 of 2
The first track I tried to play was Wu Tang Clan's relatively obscure Ron O'Neal, and that didn't work out. But not only did it have all the tracks from their first album, including Bring Da Ruckus (above), it even showed all the swearing, in glorious, high-definition, tastefully crisp fonts.
Otodama puts it like this: "Music analysis technologies developed by National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)", whatever that is, "automatically analyse the song's mood and structure, and the built-in expression engine creates motion graphics to each song that's played."
As for the lyrics, "If it is a mild song like a ballad, the fonts and movements become soft. If it is an energetic song like rock, they become strong and powerful."
I would put it like this: it's a very decent sounding speaker, especially once you crank it up and the bass ports start to make their presence felt. The way the lyrics appear is little short of genius. As to whether the 'fonts and movements' match the tone of the tune being played, I am not so convinced, but what you see definitely varies from track to track, with results that are consistently mesmeric.
Tech details are pretty scarce, so I've no idea what the screen is, but it's bright enough to see under fairly scorching office lighting. This isn't really a tech purchase, it's an emotional one. It's the coolest thing I've seen since in the last few months, and it's yours, if you can find one, for £4,330.