Home / Reviews / Amazon Echo Studio review: Not quite the best smart speaker, but a fantastic value

Amazon Echo Studio review: Not quite the best smart speaker, but a fantastic value

You probably have a home filled with Amazon Echos, and also you’re on the lookout for a wise speaker that delivers increased constancy, the $200 Amazon Echo Studio is a no brainer. It might be a unbelievable speaker for the cash even when it didn’t have a digital assistant (Alexa) and a wise residence hub (Zigbee) onboard.

However what for those who don’t have a home filled with Amazon Echos? Should you’re out there for a high-fidelity sensible speaker, and also you’ve already settled on the Google House ecosystem, keep it up and purchase the Google House Max. Sure, it’s dearer, however its barely superior audio efficiency justifies the worth bump.

However this assessment is concerning the Echo Studio, so let’s focus on its attributes. The function that units the Echo Studio other than not solely most sensible audio system however most powered audio system basically (soundbars excepted) is its help for 3D audio. Amazon achieves this in two methods: First, by means of the speaker’s {hardware} design (extra on that in a bit); and second, by means of its help for the object-based audio codecs Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Actuality Audio.

This assessment is a part of TechHive’s protection of the very best sensible audio system, the place you’ll discover opinions of competing merchandise, plus a purchaser’s information to the options you need to take into account when purchasing.

amazon echo studio unboxing Michael Brown / IDG

Amazon delivers the Echo Studio with the trimmings of a high-end system, together with this fabric pouch that you just’ll encounter on unboxing.

However earlier than you bounce on the 3D bandwagon, remember that the one method to hear 3D audio with the Echo Studio as we speak is with a subscription to Amazon Music HD, which prices $14.99 per 30 days ($12.99 per 30 days for Amazon Prime members). You’ll additionally wish to know that the variety of tracks encoded in both 3D format is restricted. Amazon says it has “greater than 50 million songs in Excessive Definition (HD),” but it surely doesn’t disclose what number of tracks are encoded in 3D.

I can inform you that you just’ll discover few total albums encoded this fashion—other than some latest releases from main artists. The document labels have picked hit singles for remastering, however they’ve left lesser-known tracks untouched. That’s high-quality for most individuals—who can’t identify a Pink Rider hit apart from “Lunatic Fringe,” for instance—however no band’s hardcore followers shall be glad with what’s obtainable. A lot of the albums I sampled had a mixture of 3D and stereo tracks. Should you’re not a fan of Amazon Music, the Echo Studio can also be appropriate with Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora, SiriusXM, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn. Nevertheless it bears repeating that 3D music will not be obtainable on any of these companies right now.

Should you desire streaming music you personal (that you just’ve bought and downloaded, or ripped from CD and saved on an area server, for instance), the Echo Studio also can deal with all of the extra standard audio codecs you’d anticipate, together with AAC, FLAC, MP3, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, in addition to the much less widespread Opus and Vorbis. Amazon outfitted the Echo Studio with an onboard DAC (digital-to-analog converter) that may decode tracks with as much as 24-bit decision at sampling charges as excessive as 48kHz. The speaker has a dual-band Wi-Fi adapter onboard (2.4- and 5GHz), and it additionally helps Bluetooth—however not the aptX or aptX HD codecs that ship increased constancy through that wi-fi connection.

amazon echo studio controls Michael Brown / IDG

The Amazon Echo Studio has primary controls on a hoop encircling its high (left to proper): Mic mute, quantity down, quantity up, and pause.

Echo Studio specs

The Echo Studio is outfitted with three 2.0-inch mid-range drivers (one firing left, one firing proper, and one firing straight up) and a 1.0-inch tweeter that fires straight on the listener. A 5.25-inch down-firing woofer handles the decrease frequencies, and is mounted immediately above a slotted bass aperture (the cupboard is in any other case sealed—the aperture will not be a bass reflex port). These audio system are pushed by Class D amplifiers delivering mixed peak energy of 330 watts. Amazon says the Echo Studio delivers a powerful frequency vary of 30Hz to 24kHz (no tolerance given).

[ Further reading: The best Amazon Echo accessories ]

The weird driver configuration is designed to bounce pontificate your room’s partitions and ceiling so that you just’re enveloped in sound, versus having the music wash over you in waves. However your room’s configuration will, in fact, play a big function within the speaker’s potential to drag off this trick. You probably have a wall on one aspect of the speaker, however not the opposite, or when you have a cathedral ceiling, the impact gained’t be as compelling. I evaluated the speaker in my 250-square-foot residence theater, which has glorious acoustics, and I discovered the impact fulfilling. Once I moved the speaker into my bigger kitchen, the place the best and left partitions are 20 ft aside (versus 12 ft aside in my residence theater), the 3D impact was a lot much less spectacular.

amazon echo studio exposed drivers crop Michael Brown / IDG

I additionally noticed that the floor you place the Echo Studio on has a big affect on its bass response. After beginning my listening check on a transportable picket desk, I relocated the speaker to a way more substantial built-in floor-to-ceiling leisure heart, and bass response elevated markedly as woofer-induced vibrations transferred from the underside of the speaker’s cupboard to the furnishings beneath it. Audio purists will look down their noses at this commentary—you wish to hear the speaker, not its enclosure or the floor it rests on—however I didn’t discover it overly objectionable. I like bass.

Echo Studio listening exams

That mentioned, listening to the opening measures of Adele’s “Ship My Love (To Your New Lover),” from her album 25, the kick drum had extra the tenor of a tom-tom struck with a mallet than a correct bass drum. This was true whether or not I used to be streaming the monitor from Amazon’s service or listening to the model I’d ripped from CD and encoded in FLAC. However that was the exception to the rule; and albeit, I had a lot the identical expertise with the Google House Max on this monitor. I had a really totally different expertise with Donald Fagen’s “Tomorrow’s Women,” from the Steely Dan entrance man’s album Kamakiriad. The Echo Studio’s overemphasized bass trampled the combination, notably on the expense of Fagen’s vocals.

A lot of the tracks encoded in 3D that I listened to sounded nice in my residence theater, however way more peculiar within the less-optimal circumstances of my kitchen. The Doorways’ “Riders on the Storm,” with its spooky thunderstorm sounds and Ray Manzarek’s jazz-infused keyboard work sounded magical with the 3D remedy, and the remastered 3D model of the Beatles’ “Once I’m Sixty-4” made me smile. Then once more, how might it not?

amazon echo ports Michael Brown / IDG

The three.5mm aux enter on the Amazon Echo Studio can also be a Toslink (optical) enter.

Amazon’s quotation of a peak energy score of 330 watts apart, I discovered that the Echo Studio acquired simply loud sufficient to fill my residence theater with sound. There was by no means any likelihood of it driving me out of the room, however it will stand as much as a room filled with partiers. You can even pair two Echo Studios for stereo audio copy, and in order for you much more bass, you’ll be able to add Amazon’s Echo Sub to the equation.

Echo Studio as a wise residence hub

The Echo Studio has a built-in Zigbee sensible residence hub, so it will possibly immediately management sensible residence gadgets geared up with Zigbee radios—together with Philips Hue sensible bulbs (without having the $50 Philips Hue Bridge).

Zigbee is a high-quality sensible residence protocol, and there are additionally an growing variety of sensible residence merchandise—particularly sensible mild bulbs—that may be managed through Wi-Fi, eliminating the necessity for a correct hub altogether. However our high picks in sensible residence hubs—together with Samsung SmartThings and Amazon’s Ring Alarm—help all three of the most well-liked technique of controlling sensible residence gadgets: Zigbee, Wi-Fi, and Z-Wave. There are simply too many nice sensible residence merchandise geared up with Z-Wave radios to disregard that platform.

That mentioned, any Echo sensible speaker could be a vital accent in a wise residence, even when it doesn’t operate because the central controller. In my own residence, a Vivint Sensible House system controls my mild switches, ceiling fan controllers, thermostat, sensible locks, safety cameras, storage door openers, and even motorized window shades. I can management all these gadgets with voice instructions because of the Echo sensible audio system I’ve sprinkled round my residence. What’s extra, I can do the identical with some sensible residence merchandise that Vivint doesn’t immediately help—Lutron Caséta lighting and ceiling-fan controllers, Lutron Serena window shades, and multi-color Philips Hue sensible bulbs—for instance. On this respect, the Echo serves as a kind of lingua franca—a bridge linking the a number of sensible residence methods that I depend on, virtually no matter platform.

Backside line

The Echo Studio isn’t an audiophile loudspeaker, however it’s an superior speaker for the worth. By way of networked sensible audio system, the $200 Sonos One is the Studio’s closest competitor. It’s not almost as highly effective, however Sonos has the very best multi-room audio ecosystem available on the market, and Sonos affords a transportable speaker—the Transfer—that Amazon has no actual reply for. By way of sensible speaker chops, the Sonos One could be configured with both Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant.

The Google House Max, in the meantime, affords increased constancy than the Echo Studio, but it surely prices $100 extra and isn’t a very good match for properties which have settled on Alexa as their digital assistant of alternative.

Simply don’t purchase the Echo Studio if what you’re actually on the lookout for is a brilliant residence hub. You’ll be higher served by a stand-alone system that doesn’t minimize you off from one of the crucial well-liked sensible residence ecosystems available on the market.

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