AMAZON, a company that already has fingers in many pies, has slowly been improving its speaker hardware over the last few years. This year, it's expanding into the more serious audio space with the release of the Echo Studio.
So what makes the £190 Echo Studio different from the Echo Dot or the Echo Show? Despite having all the usual Alexa-controlled bells and whistles, the Studio is all about delivering high-fidelity sound. With both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, it's essentially a much bigger and better speaker - with all the voice-controlled stuff thrown in for good measure.
While the design of the Echo Studio isn't anything to write home about, it's pleasantly minimal and smart. It carries the same design language as Amazon's previous Echo speakers, being cylindrical in shape and covered with a mesh fabric. The main difference here is that it's way bigger than its predecessors, measuring about eight inches high by seven inches wide.
In terms of hardware, the Echo Studio can pump out 330 watts at top volume via two 2in side-mounted mid-range speakers, a 2in upward-firing midranger, a 1in front-facing tweeter, and a 5.25in downward-firing sealed woofer.
On the top, there's a pair of volume buttons alongside a mic mute and Alexa-wake button. There's also the signature blue ring light present which will tell you Alexa is present and how high you have the audio. The Studio also features two cut-aways inside its enclosure that allow air to flow freely so the speaker can pump out bass at a much higher volume.
One of the coolest things about the Echo Studio is that it's got both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity. The former means it can be hooked up to several units (even other Echo devices) at the same time, giving a more immersive surround sound. We tested this with an Echo Show 5 and while it worked successfully, we had to be careful not to set one speaker's volume higher than the other as it could easily feel a bit off-balance.
Another feature worth mentioning is the Studio's compatibility with Amazon Music HD, where you'll find play 50 million songs in HD plus a growing library of music mastered in 3D, which improves the sound greatly. However, these libraries are limited in choice and limited to Amazon Music only.
As mentioned earlier, the Echo Studio has all the mod cons found on other Echo devices, with Alexa and all its add-ons being the main sell. It's super easy to add functionality to the Echo Studio via third-party skills, whereas with Google, you have to wait for the company itself to add them. We found Alexa was able to work with most smart devices around the home, as if it exists, it's likely someone has at least tried to build a skill for it. There was some tweaking needed and some Googling required to see how to get them to work, but in most cases, they worked pretty well.
We should also add that with the Echo Studio you're not just getting Alexa voice assistant functionality and booming music playback as it doubles up as a ZigBee smart hub controller, too. This means it'll connect to thousands of smart home products, right out of the box, without too much tinkering.
Sound and performance
Amazon's Echo speakers have been getting better and better in sound quality over the last couple of years, but the Echo Studio has taken a real leap forward. One thing you'll notice right away about the Studio's sound is that it's really quite impressive - especially for such a compact device.
This is because Amazon has created something within the device called Immersive sound. This is made up of the five speakers we mentioned earlier, each of which produces powerful bass, dynamic midrange and crisp highs. Then, alongside this, there's Dolby Atmos technology, which adds clarity and depth to the music being played back.
As a result, you get really good overall sound that can really rock a party, especially if you have more than one on the network. It's a powerful speaker, booming with bass force, making it by far the best-sounding Echo speaker to date.
However, as with anything, there are some negatives. For instance, due to its 360 design - if you place it too close to a wall - it can affect how well you can hear it.
Ensuring the Studio hears you shouldn't be a problem, though, as the baked-in beam-forming tech ensures you're well-heard around the house. While this didn't work so well on the Amazon Echo Show last year, this time around it's certainly not the case. Amazon must have worked to improve this feature in this more compact device because we found that it will hear and recognise you say "Alexa" even if you whisper it at the other side of the room. Pretty impressive. And a bit quite scary, too.
Speaking of scary, after much bad press in the last few years about the Alexa sneakily recording users, Amazon has made an effort to redeem itself with the Echo Studio. Its latest speaker been built with multiple layers of privacy; for example, your voice is streamed to the cloud only after your device detects the wake word (for example, "Alexa"), and there's the addition of a camera shutter.
The Echo Studio supports dual-band WiFi at 802.11a/b/g/n/ac and in terms of Bluetooth, it has Advanced Audio Distribution Profile (A2DP) support for audio streaming from your mobile device as well as an optical audio and 3.5 mm stereo audio input for use with external devices such as TVs.
The Amazon Echo Studio is an absolutely brilliant-sounding speaker for the price. You really can't go wrong, because not only do you get a booming music player that sits nicely in just about any room, but you also get the bonus of one of the world's best voice-activated personal assistants.
Zigbee-compatible devices, minimal design, compact, great sound, bursting with features, a bargain.
Placement can affect the sound.
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