While the Amazon Echo line popularized the concept of voice-activated smart speakers, its audio quality has consistently been criticized. With the Amazon Echo Studio, all of that is set to change.
The Echo Studio looks to be one of the best smart speakers on the market, being able to compete with Apple and Sonos in the higher-end smart speaker market.
With its ambitious audio credentials that include Dolby Atmos home cinema soundtracks and 3D audio mixes, Echo comes tantalizingly close to achieving those goals.
Even though 3D audio may divide opinions, especially among purists, the Amazon Echo Studio stands out among all speakers under $200 / £200 in terms of power and range. Those are just a few of the Alexa smart features you can use.
Features and design
Indeed, the resemblance between the standard Echo and Echo Plus is commonplace. Even though it follows the same design language, has a cylindrical shape, and is covered with fabric mesh, it is significantly larger than any Echo before it – like someone zapped it and it grew twice as big, like the Hulk. There are approximately 7 inches of width by 8 inches of height in this piece.
In spite of its size, it still has a large output. A pair of two-inch speakers mounted on the side, one upward-firing two-inch speaker, a 1-inch tweeter up front, and a sealed 5.25-inch woofer are used to deliver 330 watts of power. As well as volume buttons, microphone mute buttons, and Alexa-wake, the device also has a blue-light ring. Also, the Echo Studio enclosure features two cutaway areas that let air flow freely for high-quality bass.
The Echo Studio’s size makes it difficult to place on a shelf like other Echos – it won’t fit as discretely.
In addition, it has directional sound, which is a factor to consider. To experience the directional sound of the Echo Studio, you’ll need a bit of space around it.
‘Hundreds of tracks will be available for Echo Studio to stream in stereo and Dolby Atmos mix over the new Amazon Music HD service. Stereo tracks will be available in Dolby Atmos as well.
Object-based soundtracks and directional audio systems are today’s essentials for quality home theater systems. In addition to record labels, music studios are also utilizing it, with Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group both releasing songs in it. In addition to Sony’s own format, the Echo Studio is available for Sony 360.
With the Echo Studio, you can create the illusion that certain parts of a track are coming from all over your room. The Echo Studio’s microphones constantly monitor output, adapting their mix based on the environment and track.
With the Echo Studio and a pair of Echo speakers, you can create an immersive TV audio mix. With just a couple of clicks, you can open Alexa’s home cinema array, which features 5.1.4 channels. As per Amazon, Fire TV devices can connect wirelessly for Dolby Atmos mixes through this method, but you can also connect your TV via a mini optical input (although this method does not work with premium Atmos mixes).
The Echo Studio serves as both a smart home hub and a speaker. Alexa can now pair seamlessly with smart home devices equipped with ZigBee, thanks to the Echo Studio. This is Amazon’s smartest speaker and best-sounding successor to the Echo Plus.
In terms of other features, the Studio is able to do any of the things that an Echo speaker can do. With your voice, you can set timers, set alarms, and get reminders; control smart home devices; listen to music, and search for trivia and facts. Considering how revolutionary the Echo line was in the first place, it is no surprise that such features have now become a standard for users.
Although the Echo Studio’s loud music output is always loud, your commands are picked up well even with its higher volume output, which is indeed a very positive development.
Audio directionality can be challenging to implement well and create an immersive experience. It’s even more challenging if you only have one speaker.
Its audio performance was satisfying, but not flawless. As of now, this is unquestionably the best Echo speaker available. Despite its low volume, the bass is massive.
As a smart speaker, the Amazon Echo Show has a more discerning ear and better drivers, allowing it to compete with high-end devices. There’s no doubt that Amazon has finally released a speaker that will be the talk of any party.
Dedicated to Echo Studio users who subscribe to Amazon’s new Amazon Music HD streaming service, the feature offers a “growing library” of specially-mixed tracks (numbering in the thousands). Furthermore, it offers 3D audio mixes of the majority of its catalog, a feature that rivals like Spotify can’t match. Eventually, we will be able to add 3D audio tracks to Echo Studio.
In the case of an Echo Studio request, Alexa will pull up a version of the song in the following order, if available: 3D audio > Hi-resolution > standard resolution. If you’re still unsure if you want to subscribe to the service, you can listen to a 20-track sampler playlist.
From an early listen at Amazon’s Seattle HQ to a press event in London to this extended home review period, we’ve tested the Echo Studio in a number of situations, spaces, and locations since its announcement. It doesn’t matter what song it is; 3D mixes sound outstanding on some, but they sound confusing on others.
When we first approached the Echo Studio during Amazon’s press conference in Seattle, we heard 3D audio mixes of Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and Gregory Porter’s “Mona Lisa.”. They both demonstrated the challenges that Echo Studio will face when it comes to 360-track audio – mixing is vital.
I liked the sound of Rocket Man, but the room seemed to be rather small. Although Porter’s “Mona Lisa” roared to life, this moment was the most spine-tingling of all. As the song’s orchestration began to reach its full potential, it gained a sense of depth and height that was as if we were listening to it in a concert hall.
Further, Anne-Sophie Mutter’s rendition of the Star Wars theme, Rey’s Theme, demonstrated what can be accomplished with the right 3D mix. It feels as if everything in the orchestration is separated from each other and as if the speaker is enclosed in its own sound. As much as I like Kool and the Gang ‘Celebration’ – there is a little cocoon of scratchy funk guitars, the lead vocals are set in the foreground, while the backing vocals are a bit distant from the front. It’s a whole new kind of music.
In contrast, when you jump into something a bit crunchier, like The Killers’ ‘When You Were Young,’ it feels a bit cluttered. The guitar and bass sound aimless and uncomfortably out of focus, dominating in an uneasy way. We are big fans of this track, and know it very well – it’s almost a criticism of not having the 3D mix we were hoping for, and how unnerving that can be.
In the Studio, when 3D audio isn’t available, a bit of post-mix wizardry can add height to stereo mixes.
Amazon has done this behind closed doors on test apps, so it appears that it comes enabled by default in the Alexa app.
Our recent listening experience at Amazon HQ revealed that regular stereo tracks are just as good. Say My Name by Destiny’s Child has a punchy low end, clear vocals, and an overall sense of separation between top-end instruments.
TV audio performance
In comparison with the rest of the Echo series, the Amazon Echo Studio’s biggest advantage is its ability to pair wirelessly with an Amazon Fire TV device, meaning you can enjoy crisp, high-fidelity audio while watching TV or movies.
In the Amazon Alexa app, you can connect the Amazon Echo Studio to your TV streamer with a few taps if you own an Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K.
If you still have that eminently lowly stereo soundbar in your TV, or if you still have the built-in speakers, a soundbar upgrade can be a great solution. You’ll get a stronger, more resonant bass response, more volume, and deeper sound quality than a comparably priced soundbar.
Using Dolby Atmos soundscapes really makes the Echo Studio shine. As a result, not only will Amazon’s Prime Video movies benefit from the Atmos soundtrack, but Netflix videos as well. In Amazon’s Amazon Echo Studio, you can watch Netflix’s Altered Carbon or experience the steampunk cities of Netflix’s Altered Carbon. Despite only having a single speaker, the unit was able to envelop us in a bubble of sound that made us think we were right there, at the center of the action.
Despite what some may think, we are of the opinion that physical speakers above and behind you, connected to the receiver, are more engaging than virtualized surround sound. Though a great purchase, it would be costly and might not be practical for every living room setup.
Due to its height, the Echo Studio can’t fit underneath a TV unless it’s mounted above it instead. You cannot view a screen directly if you sit directly in front of one. Therefore, you should place it on the side of your TV in order to allow it to provide directional sound. In spite of that, you will put it off-center, making it distracting. AV should be placed in the right place before being used.
As an alternative, you can connect two Echo Studios together and place them each on the opposite side of your TV to create the standard center sweet spot between them.
During an Amazon event, we were too busy to spend enough time with a pair to evaluate them properly. Our thoughts will be added to this review as soon as we can, but so far, this setup appears to be promising.
|Easy setup for home cinema||Unlike your average Echo, this one is larger|
|Alexa smarts||3D audio is a mixed bag|
With the Echo Studio, Amazon has created its best-ever speaker. With this multipurpose, flexible, and low-priced service, Amazon is the only company capable of competing on price.
As well as offering a host of smart home features, the device is designed with smart audio in mind. It remains a powerful source of sound that enhances the enjoyment of your favorite songs even at their worst. Additionally, it deserves to be on your TV stand.
It is unlikely the Echo Studio will fully appeal to the audiophile community, particularly since they are a fussy group. There will be inconsistencies in the quality of 3D audio mixes that will make that feature, for now at least, a party trick rather than a go-to feature.
Amazon is looking to cater to your ears with an audiophile price point and a tantalizing combination of sound quality and affordability. It’s time to pick up an Echo speaker if you’ve yet to do so.