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Since the launch of the first Echo speaker in 2015, Amazon has borne down on the Echo line, producing several iterations of the smart speaker. The latest is the Echo Show, an Echo speaker with a 7-inch touchscreen display.
Unlike Google’s Assistant, Microsoft’s Cortana and Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa interacts with users mostly through voice. So it’s important that their speakers have good sound quality. And considering that Amazon has close to 70% of the voice assistant market share, they cannot risk siphoning customers off to competitors like Google Home because of crappy speakers.
Even more importantly, Echo devices are quickly becoming the control point of smart home systems. The Echo Show seems especially poised to take over smart homes. You can control almost any smart device using the Show’s visual and voice system.
That means playing music, watching movies, getting your shopping done, calling friends, getting reminders and so on. All these require audio, high quality audio.
Amazon knows this and has equipped most of the Echo speakers with decent sound quality. It’s not the deep bass and clear treble you would expect from a Sonos or home theatre system, but it is good enough to stream music and watch movies (for the Echo Show).
We’ll do a brief Amazon Echo sound quality review of each device, starting from the tiny Echo Dot to the futuristic Echo Show.
If you are planning to buy a voice assistant, see our in-depth comparison of the best smart home speakers.
No one expects a hockey puck-sized device to fill an entire room with music. So it’s understandable that the Echo Dot has the lowest audio quality among all Echo devices.
It’s only 1.3 inches high and weighs just under six ounces. The tiny speakers sound more like a transistor radio than a futuristic voice assistant.
To get an idea of the audio quality of the Dot, think of your kitchen or alarm clock radio. In fact, Amazon markets the Dot more as a personal device than a room speaker. It’s perfect for bedside tables, kitchens and your home office.
Multiple Echo devices can work together seamlessly. And with a recent update, you can now sync music across different Echo speakers. So you can have one Dot for each bedroom, another for the kitchen and another for your study.
That’s why Amazon is offering a $20 discount if you buy three Echo Dots.
If you don’t want to hear the squeaky audio of the Dot’s speakers, it’s easy to connect it to larger speakers via Bluetooth or cable. Actually Amazon will suggest a Dot + Speaker bundle when you are buying an Echo Dot.
The low audio quality of the Dot is not a problem. It’s how it was designed. It’s also what you get when you cram a voice assistant into a convenient puck-sized speaker.
Echo Tap is a portable version of the main Echo speaker. It is bigger than the Echo Dot but since it is battery-powered, it’s portable. It even comes with a sleeve that you can put it in and a strap to attach it to your backpack or carry it in your hand.
Like the Dot, there isn’t much to expect from the Echo Tap in terms of sound quality. It is far too small to equip it with room-filling speakers. But the audio quality is a big step up from the Dot. It’s halfway between the full size Echo and the tiny Echo Dot.
You can listen to music, though don’t expect any heart-thumping bass or clear highs. The distortion is especially apparent if you dial the volume to the max.
But it’s good enough for reminders, weather reports and news updates. And the sound is crisp enough that you can hear it clearly when outdoors.
There are no size excuses for the main Echo speaker. It has to be good enough for music and the many other voice-based Alexa interactions. Thankfully, Amazon delivered.
As I mentioned, it’s nowhere close to a Sonos or Bose but it holds its own in an average sized room. The sound reaches every corner thanks to downward-facing 360-degree speakers.
You can also hear the extreme lows and highs in most songs. But you’ll hear some distortion if you crank the volume up too high.
Basically, it performs just about the same as other speakers in its price range.
For audiophiles who can’t stand anything less than the best in sound quality, the Echo will be disappointing. Not so much because of its average audio quality but because you cannot connect it to any other audio output device.
Unlike the Dot that you can connect to an external speaker through cable or Bluetooth, the Echo has no such options.
If you are using the Echo in a large room or you want the music to play in several rooms, you can buy a couple other Echos and sync their audio using the recent multi-room playback feature.
The Echo Show uses two front-facing speakers to produce a much richer sound than all other Echo devices. As long as you are not looking for Sonos-quality sound, you can use the Echo Show as the main speaker at home.
Whether you are watching a news briefing or watching a YouTube clip, the voice output is crisp and can be heard even from another room.
The voice distortion when you increase the volume is significantly less than in the main Echo speaker, but you’ll still hear the some slight straining when playing certain songs.
The common sentiment among many customers and experts is that the Echo Show has good sound quality. But for $230, Amazon could have done a little bit more especially considering that it wants the Echo Show to be a smart home hub.