There hasn’t been a better time if you wanted to buy a smart speaker, than it is now. This year has seen Amazon, Apple and Google all make pretty important moves in the smart speaker space, which is great for choice. And great for competition. Which means more choice for you. And choice that is better than before. Amazon’s big bet is the latest Echo smart speaker, which actually effectively succeeds not just the previous edition Echo but also the Echo Plus. Because it is just that versatile. The new Amazon Echo speaker, now in its fourth generation, is competing with this year’s new arrivals—the Google Nest Audio and the Apple HomePod Mini, the latter seriously impressing with the sound that it is able to put out and yet have such a compact form factor. By not dwelling on things and making a quick rebuttal with the latest Amazon Echo, the company has made its intentions pretty clear. It wants to very well keep the crown among the smart speaker ecosystem. If you are to take a glance at the spec sheet of the new Amazon Echo, it sure means business. The new Echo is priced at Rs 7,999 and that is pretty much the same price range of the last known prices of the 3rd generation Echo and the Echo Plus before they were replaced.
On the inside, the Amazon Echo (2020) immediately brings to your table, mantlepiece or entertainment hub, a serious audio hardware upgrade. While the Echo and the Echo Plus had a 3-inch woofer and a 0.8-inch tweeter, the new Echo gets a 3-inch woofer and two 0.8-inch tweeters. The Google Nest Audio incidentally also has one tweeter. More audio hardware simply means what you get from the 4th generation Echo is much wider sound than before. And factor in the new design, and bass also seems to come across more powerfully than before. It isn’t to say that the Echo has suddenly become bass heavy, but there is that subtle dial up of the lower frequencies which simply adds to the joy of listening to music on this. It isn’t exactly the Apple HomePod Mini in terms of the design and the attempts at 360-degree sound, but the new Echo does use the new design to round off better spread of audio across a large room—most certainly better than the Google Nest Audio, which comparatively still has a direction feel to it. You kind of know where the speaker is sitting and where the sound is emerging from.
The upgrade from two drivers to three has made a difference for sure. The new Echo is better poised for larger rooms than before, which means it may just be a bit too much for a smaller room such as a bedroom. The soundstage is wider, everything is more detailed and if you don’t place the Echo in a bookshelf or a shelf with enclosure on the sides, there is very good separation of audio that is clear if you are sitting some distance away from the speaker. Vocals and spoken words are clear, though the mid-range frequencies don’t always shine though as much as it does on the HomePod Mini. The Echo gets Dolby Audio tuning, but it isn’t Dolby Atmos that the more expensive Amazon Echo Studio has—but that really isn’t a deal breaker at all. Coming back to the soundstage bit for a second, the new Echo is much better at handling complex musical renditions, with the instruments now getting even better reproduction and attention than before. With the previous generation Echo speakers, they tended to sound a bit limited with certain tracks and the diversity didn’t always come across as it should have.
Amazon supports Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Prime Music, JioSaavn, Gaana and Hungama Music. For my testing, I tried Apple Music and Spotify for the most part, and the former just sounds a bit more dynamic and vibrant in comparison to all other streaming platforms. If you really want to up your music game, you can pair two of these Echo speakers in the stereo mode.
The design most certainly brings along more than just a new visual experience. The positioning of the audio drivers as well as the fact that it necessitated the need for an additional driver makes the audio experience that much better. The cylindrical shape has been replaced by what is now a ball, except that it is flattened out at the base so that it can sit upright on its own. You’ll see a dual tone finish, with the fabric and the plastic taking turns. The front is fabric, and your choice is between blue, black and white. My recommendation would be blue, simply because it stands out and yet doesn’t seem out of place no matter what the décor or the underlying colour theme in your home.
The control buttons, for volume, action and mic are at the top while the well-recognized LED ring is now around the base of the Echo speaker. It does light up nicely and initially, that’s the last place you’d expect it to be. If you keep the Echo on a reflective table, this shines off it nicely too.
Smart home controls have always been the party piece of any Amazon Echo speaker or smart display, and the new Amazon Echo is no different. This has the complete smart home hub inside. You can control smart lights, smart plugs, smart appliances and more, either via voice command on demand or even set time-based routines in the Alexa app. For instance, I continue to use the Amazon Smart Plug with a set time-based routine……Read More>>