Amazon Echo Studio Review
We all know that Bluetooth speakers are a thing of a past now. Song streaming companies such as Amazon Music and Apple have been coming out with their own line of speakers for a few years and the war still goes on. Now we all know that the sound quality from the Alexa line of speakers has not been very pleasing. Last year Amazon came out with the $150 Echo plus with the $130 Echo sub which surely did provide the low – end tones but still paying extra to get a decent sound quality didn’t sound very pleasing. Amazon has launched their high-resolution option for music streaming which also includes 3D audio and since the old Echo devices won’t support this new feature, Amazon has come up with their new speaker, the Echo studio.
The Echo studio is the most expensive speaker launched by the company but is definitely worth the price due to its amazing sound quality. The speaker is big, versatile and sounds amazing. This speaker does support the HD music streaming facility but one requires to have a streaming plan in Amazon music for that. The speaker can also play songs from different music streaming apps really well. The Echo speaker does indeed comes with the famous Alexa ring lighting as it is a capable Alexa speaker. The ring gives out a green/blue light when the voice assistant is summoned. The light turns red when the microphone of the speaker is disabled. One can have access to the customization options from the Alexa app during the initial setup.
This thing is absolute as it dwarfs every other competitor of the smart speaker league in every dimension. It’s even larger than the Apple home pod and the Sonos One. The shape of the Echo studio very much resembles the HomePod. It carries forward the same design that is a short and stout cylinder look. It is 8 inches tall,7 inches wide and weighs about 7.7 pounds. Despite its cylindrical shape, the Echo studio does not blast sound in all directions like the Bose Sounlink revolve or the Apple Home. The speaker has a 5.25-inch woofer which really enhances the bass. The key factors that enable this speaker to support his resolution audio is a 24-bit DAC (Digital to Analog converter) and an amplifier. The speaker also has a 3.5 mm port and a USB port.
Look and Feel –
Look and feel wise the speaker certainly seems premium. The plate on the bottom and the ring light is made up of plastic while the other parts are wrapped with fabric and cloth which according to me looks great, unlike the other conventional smart speakers which primarily show off grills and plastic components. Setting up this speaker is a breeze as it does most of the stuff on its own. The user just has to install the Alexa app on his/her smartphone, press a few buttons on the Echo Studio and the speaker does the rest. The speaker analyses the room size and dimensions and auto-calibrates itself accordingly to give out the best sound quality possible.
Sound Quality –
The speaker surely is a beast in terms of the sound quality and eliminates the use of a sub woofer. The device up mixes regular stereo music with Dolby Atmos. Amazon has named this nifty feature as Stereo Spatial Enhancement which it recommends turning On as it provides space,clarity and depth to the stereo audio content. While testing out different songs, it was reported that the when the enhancement is turned off then the song felt more light and treble heavy. With the feature turned on,the music got a bit suppressed but had more bass. Something similar to this can be found on the latest Sony headphones and speakers which have an electro bass booster slider which can be controlled through their headphones app. Speaking of Sony, the speaker also supports Sony’s 360 Reality content.
Although the speaker supports 3D audio,the current selection of 3D music is not sufficiently enough. The playlists offered by Amazon only include 6-12 songs from each genre. Now this might be annoying at times because if you ask Alexa to play a song from a particular album containing a mix of 3D and Ultra HD songs,Alexa prefers playing the 3D songs or the 3D version first.
The interesting part is that the 3D songs offered by Spotify were found to have better spatial feel than the ones offered by Amazon music. This is still the early manifestation period of 3D audio and Amazon can certainly improve this in their future versions.
Compatibility and Support –
If you happen to have a Fire TV device laying around then you are in luck as the Echo Studio can serve as a home theater system due to its Dolby Atmos compatibility. If you content lacks Atmos support then the speaker is capable of dialing down the audio compatibility to Dolby Digital and Dolby Digital Plus. While this feature eliminates the use of a soundbar but the sound quality is nowhere close to the Sony and Bose soundbars.
Talking about cost, the speaker has been priced very competitively. It is still a value for money speaker because of the features that it offers. Starting at $200, the speaker is $99 cheaper than the Apple Home Pod while still supporting Ultra HD and 3D audio. The Sonos One is a direct competitor price-wise but not feature-wise and audio quality-wise. I think its safe to say that the Echo Studio is currently one of a kind in its type.
Final Verdict –
Amazon has finally built a speaker with amazing sound quality and Alexa support. I think the unavailability of content could be the main culprit resulting in less this unit being sold. The High-resolution audio content surely does sound great on this speaker but the 3D system can definitely be improved. One can still feel the sound coming from a single source rather than the surround effect. It would also be great to see the speaker support Dolby Atmos and Digital. Currently, it supports content from the Fire TV only. Pricing wise, the speaker is definitely reasonable for the number of features and the sound quality that it offers. I think this speaker is way ahead of its time and is definitely future proof. I think if Sony and Amazon team up then the 3D sound quality can be really improved.