amazon Amazon Echo Studio reviews
With surprisingly powerful Dolby Atmos-compatible directional sound, Amazon’s Echo Studio delivers on par with smart speakers that cost twice as much.
Now, the latest $99.99 Amazon Echo is just as powerful as the $149.99 hub-equipped Echo Plus, the door opening to a louder Echo. The Echo Studio is Amazon’s largest and most advanced Alexa speaker. It features five Drivers to deliver stereo sound and Dolby Atmos-compatible surround sound in a single voice control package. It’s as big and loud as the Apple HomePod and Google Home Max, with more advanced audio processing and better picture, but at $199.99, it’s a lot cheaper than that. It is really impressive for its size and price.
The Echo Studio is louder than any other $200 speaker we’ve tested, including the Sonos One. It’s around a black cylinder that measures 8.1 inches tall and 6.9 inches wide and weighs 7.7 pounds. It’s not quite the size of a subwoofer, but the opening ports at the bottom for a down-firing woofer give the impression of a subwoofer. The most direct comparison is the $399 Sonos Move, which is a bit taller and narrower than the Echo Studio and “portable” in the sense that it has a battery while the Studio has to be plugged in at all times.
Fabric wraps around the edges of the Studio, with cutouts on the front and back for two bass ports. A black plastic ring at the top holds the far-field microphone array and small buttons for volume up/down, microphone mute, and Alexa. The signature Echo light ring glows along the inner edge of the plastic ring, and inside is a cloth grille that protects the upward-activated driver.
A small recess below the rear bass port houses the connector for the included power adapter, a micro USB port for service, and a 3.5mm combo optical port. No cable is included, and if you want to use fiber, you’ll need a 3.5mm to TOSLink adapter.
As an Echo speaker, the Studio offers all the same Alexa voice assistant features as its smaller brothers. Just say “Alexa” (or “Amazon,” “Computer,” or “Echo,” if you change the wake word in the Alexa app) and command the speaker. Alexa can answer about information such as weather, sports scores, unit conversions; Amazon Music, Apple Music, iHeartRadio, Pandora, SiriusXM, Spotify, and Tidal; Audible. Control smart home devices; call most North American phone numbers or drop In voice calls to any Alexa user; access hundreds of third-party skills, from storytelling to ordering pizza.
Alexa is a very capable voice assistant, and its options for both compatible smart home devices and third-party skills are unmatched, but it can be a bit daunting to work. Alexa expects fairly precise syntax, especially when you’re controlling your smart home. Google Assistant is a bit more flexible with natural language, making for a slightly smaller home automation compatibility list and less third-party functionality.
The Echo Studio also has a built-in Zigbee home automation hub that lets you use the speaker to control compatible devices like the Echo Plus.
Five separate Drivers hide behind the Echo Studio’s fabric grille cover, arranged in different orientations to provide Dolby Atmos-compatible positional sound. A 5.25-inch woofer shoots down from just above the bass ports, a one-inch tweeter fires directly forward, and three two-inch Mid-Range Drivers shoot left, right, and directed upwards. The woofer delivers low-pitched sound, while the tweeter and three Mid-Range Drivers all work in tandem to create a sound field with a more accurate image than a set of stereo speakers. A maximum total of 330 watts drives all five Drivers.
Echo Studio tries to do some impressive things with five Drivers and 3D audio mixing. It’s not quite as successful to the extent that an Atmos-compatible soundbar can or an even more expensive Atmos surround sound system. Still, at that point, you’ll have to spend several times the Studio’s price on the picture improved sound. As it stands, the Echo Studio produces a large sound field with a modest but surprising.
If you want the best Echo Studio 3D sound, you need an Amazon Music HD subscription to get access to Amazon’s Ultra HD music format. That is currently the only streaming service that Echo Studio fully supports for Dolby Atmos surround sound. Ultra HD tracks are combined with Dolby Atmos, and the Echo Studio’s processing and Drivers can make it best used on stereo tracks played over Bluetooth or Wi-Fi.
Echo Studio can also mix other tracks into 3D on its own, but the effect isn’t nearly as striking or capable. Of course, there’s still a limit to what a speaker can do, even if it has Drivers that shoot sound in all directions.
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Echo Studio delivers powerful visuals and clarity for 3D mixed music in Amazon Music’s Ultra HD format. Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain” in Ultra HD is crisp, full, and layered. The guitar strums and drums are separate from the vocals, creating the plucks’ effect slightly above the vocals. The bass drums stand out and mostly stand in front of the mix without overtaking other instruments or vocals. You wouldn’t mistake the Echo Studio for an audio system with a subwoofer or rear satellites, but it manages to produce big, nuanced sound from a small package.
Muse’s “Knights of Cydonia” in Ultra HD renders the Echo Studio’s 3D sound even better. The racetrack’s Theremin opening sounds ghostly, while the chaos of laser combat on horseback captures a clear directional image, creating the feeling of galloping horses’ hooves right in front of you, in when bangs can be heard in the distance, in the front- right.
Again, it can’t create a true surround sound field that completely wraps around you. Still, the Echo Studio offers some impressive stereo imaging, and the forward verticality gives the impression of a pair of stereo speakers with an additional upward-triggered Driver. The speakers easily filled the room at high volumes, delivering a delightful thunder of guitars and drums while Bellamy’s voice came out clear. As he sings that no one can capture him alive, his voice can be heard directly in the center, while the harmonies can be set at a distance, left and right.
Jack White’s “Lazaretto” also shows good directivity, closer to a stereo with vertical channels than full surround. White’s vocals stand in the center along with the timing shaker, while the opening bass notes seem to bounce a little left and right. High-pitched, shrill guitars emanate clearly from all sides of the room, representing higher frequencies bouncing off surfaces with much more tonal accuracy than lower surfaces.
All these effects come from the 3D audio mixing of Ultra HD tracks on Amazon Music. Echo Studio can also mix stereo tracks into 3D, which will do if you stream any non-Ultra HD music into it. Like most blends, the effect isn’t nearly as noticeable or as good with purposeful, professional mixing.
Crystal Method’s “Born Too Slow” sounds good on the Echo Studio as a stereo track, with ample presence for bass drum beats and plenty of energy cymbals. The vocals and guitar riffs are slightly behind the percussion on this speaker, but they’re still easily recognizable. However, verticality was not detected in Ultra HD tracks, and the stereo balance was slightly more modest and center-focused than trying to create a sound field that caused the speakers to sound louder.
As for the bass, the Echo Studio reproduced our bass test song, “Silent Shout” by The Knife, with remarkable low-end power. It didn’t shake the walls, but it did shake the table the speaker was sitting on, and at maximum volume, it didn’t distort. The Studio doesn’t reach sub-bass levels, but you can pair it with an Echo Sub to add full subwoofer power to the mix (and, since the deep bass is completely non-directional, it doesn’t need to be integrated into the mix). Studio-specifically targeted and calibrated Driver settings).
Louder sound at a small price
The Amazon Echo Studio is an incredible speaker for its size and price. It looks like Amazon is using the Apple HomePod, but with its $200 price tag and the surprising ability to create direction thanks to its five Speakers cub, it outperforms the HomePod in every way. While testing the speaker, I had to check its price several times, as it felt and sounded like it was aiming much higher.
The Echo Studio isn’t a magic surround speaker that makes you think instruments and singers are all around you. Still, it does deliver a much better stereo and vertical imaging feel than other speakers in its class size while at the same time eclipsing other speakers in terms of price in performance. You need Amazon Music HD to get the most out of it, and you’re limited to a fairly small collection of Ultra HD tracks if you want that 3D sound, but even as a Bluetooth speaker that combines the stereo sound, it produces a powerful, clear sound.
If you want portability, the $399 Sonos Move is a similarly sized smart speaker that you can drag to the beach. If you want a little extra stereo sound in a much more classic design, the $399.99 Marshall Stanmore II Voice is another great but non-portable, optional speaker. But again, these speakers cost twice as much as the Echo Studio. If you don’t mind the lack of portability and want surprising power for a very reasonable price, the Studio is the best smart speaker.
Great value for size and strength
Loud, clear sound
Attractive directional sound
Requires Amazon Music HD to listen to full Ultra HD 3D music
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