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Amazon Echo Studio review: modular hi-fi sound with Alexa

Amazon Echo Studio review: modular hi-fi sound with Alexa

Amazon's Echo family grows and grows. The newest member is the Echo Studio, which at first glance looks like an Amazon interpretation of Apple's HomePod. But the Echo Studio is more than just an Apple HomePod in an Amazon dress. Much more, it is also a loudspeaker to advance Amazon's content platforms like Amazon Music and Prime Video.

Rating

Good

  • Very good sound
  • Expandable up to a 2.1 Dolby Atmos system
  • Alexa integrated
  • ZigBee integrated

Bad

  • Bass quality depends on the surface you place it

Amazon Echo Studio release date and price

The Amazon Echo Studio was presented together with other hardware products at an event in September in Seattle. Unlike the "smaller" Echo products, the focus is not on voice control, but on the sound qualities of the Echo Studio and its expandability. With the Echo Studio, Amazon clearly wants a competitor to Apple's HomePod, Google's Home Max or similar products from Sonos, Bose and Co. Practical for the willing Amazon echo studio buyer: the price of 199 euros is outrageously low compared to the competition. Amazon certainly subsidizes the device through its content services Amazon Prime, Prime Video and above all through Amazon Music.

As of November 7, Amazon will initially sell the Echo Studio in the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Germany, India, France, Italy, and Spain. Australia, Mexico, and Japan will follow later.

An inconspicuous black tube

From the outside, the Echo Studio by Amazon looks unspectacular and looks like a simple device. It's o nly when you bring the Echo Studio to life with voice commands and does the typical Echo light ring thing do you realize that this is a smart loudspeaker with Alexa.

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The illuminated ring reveals that the Echo Studio is a smart speaker / © AndroidPIT

Inside the cylinder, Amazon has installed a total of five loudspeakers: one tweeter, three mid-range speakers and one for bass. Of course, Amazon also integrates the far-field microphones and the obligatory light ring for Alexa on the top of the Echo Studio. The Echo Studio has four buttons, two for volume control, an action button and of course the Alexa Mute button, which deactivates the microphones.

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The microphone can be switched off / © AndroidPIT

If you still have an audio player with optical output, then you will be pleased that the Echo Studio has an optical input. Alternatively, you can also connect an analog input via a 3.5 mm jack. Further players can then be paired via Bluetooth. But with the help of the Alexa app, the Echo Studio can do more than just play music.

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You can connect external devices to the Echo Studio / © AndroidPIT

Not only built for music

Since the Echo Studio is most likely located in the living room, the Dolby Atmos-certified speaker can also work with your Fire TV. You must have a Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick 4K, or the 3rd generation Fire TV Box. It's nice that you can start with an Echo Studio and later add a second Echo Studio and even the Echo Sub. Over time, a wireless 2.1 home cinema system can be created in your living room.

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You can build your own home cinema with the Echo Studio / © AndroidPIT

Amazon apps only necessary for setup

For setup and configuration, you need the Alexa app on your smartphone for the Echo Studio. The app transmits the necessary Wi-Fi settings via Bluetooth so that the smart loudspeaker can be connected to the network very quickly. Once the setup is complete, after a short automatic calibration of the Echo Studio in the room, you can also immediately give Alexa voice commands. If you want to use the voice control more intensively, it is recommended to activate the attention function. So you can answer questions without repeating the activation word.

If the Echo Studio is also to be used as a home cinema speaker for your Fire TV, then it also needs to be connected to the Fire TV once via the app. Otherwise, the Echo Studio can be connected via the app like all other Echo products in rooms and be merged into multi-room groups.

Sound: from high-resolution to three-dimensional

When it comes to sound, Amazon wants to push the Echo Studio into hi-fi areas. In order for this to be achieved, the content must of course also be available in correspondingly high quality. To do this, Amazon had to drill into the quality of its own music streaming service. To date, Amazon Music already contains a volume of 50 million songs in HD quality. By HD Amazon understands CD quality, that would be a sampling rate of 44.1 kHz at 16 bits. To transport this quality Amazon would certainly not have had to build an Echo Studio, which has a high-quality 24-bit DAC and can output a sampling rate of a maximum 100 kHz. In order to be able to feed the Echo Studio with high-quality audio streams, Amazon is working on making more and more music content available in Ultra-HD. Amazon did not issue precise specifications for Ultra-HD, but rather calls them "quality beyond CD quality".

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You can play Ultra-HD with the Echo Studio / © AndroidPIT

The sound of the Echo Studio is very good. With bass-heavy titles like Massive Attack's "Angel", you can hear the bass clear and well, but the bone-penetrating vibration of a dedicated subwoofer with volume is missing. The choice of surface you place the Echo Studio on also plays a role. If the Echo Studio stands on a halfway reasonable soundbox, such as a TV cabinet or a wooden sideboard, the bass will be more noticeable. Avoid placing the Echo Studio on a stone platform.

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The Echo Studio sounds best with on a reasonably resonant surface / © AndroidPIT

In addition to Ultra-HD, Amazon Echo Studio also supports music recorded in Sony's 360-Reality audio format. Although there are only about 1,000 pieces of music at the start that give you the feeling of attending a live concert, but since Sony, Universal, Warner and other record labels will also be releasing other pieces of music in this format in the future, the number of songs mixed in this way should increase rapidly.

In addition to Amazon Music HD, you can of course also access Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify or Deezer.

But the studio becomes really impressive in combination with an Echo Sub and as a home cinema setup. Thanks to Dolby Atmos and support for Dolby Digital 5.1, action-packed movies like Marvel's Avenger Endgame are really fun. You just have to make sure that your neighbors don't get any wind of it, otherwise they might also want to watch movies at your place with the Echo home cinema setup.

Final verdict

Conclusion: Amazon's Echo Studio, considered a smart loudspeaker, is good, if not very good. Amazons Echo is also very good as a high-quality single loudspeaker, if you also consider the price. But if you want to enjoy Ultra HD or 360 Reality Audio you have to add the monthly fees for Amazon Music HD. If you already use Amazon Echo or Fire TV products, or if you've already thought about plunging into Amazon's Alexa world, you can absolutely reach for Amazon Echo Studio.

But if you are mainly in the Apple cosmos or Google Assistant world, then you'd better go for the compatible systems. So the hardware plays rather a subordinate role. It is more your preferences and habits regarding digital assistants and which streaming service you already use that will ultimately guide your smart speaker buying decision.

 

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