Amazon’s Echo devices have been with us for a long time now. And while they’re meant as digital assistants first and foremost, let’s face it: most of us use them for music listening before anything else. The problem? Most Echos have been kind of average where it comes to audio quality.
Then came the Amazon Echo Studio: Finally, a professional-level speaker (up to a point), that combines an Alexa/Echo with excellent speakers and truly impressive bass levels, 3D and Dolby Atmos sound support, AND the ability to serve as a soundbar for your TV.
And the most impressive trick the Echo Studio pulls is the price – while not as budget-friendly as other Echo devices, you get A LOT for your money in this case, with three different use-cases in one device.
Of course, not everything is perfect – as a soundbar, it only works best when connected to Amazon’s own Fire TV devices. It’s big, heavy, and can’t be easily placed under your TV. And its 3D audio promises are somewhat of a gimmick (as is often the case with these virtual surround technologies). So, is it worth the price? Let’s take an in-depth look, in this Amazon Echo Studio review.
Quick Look – Amazon Echo Studio
What is it: A high-quality Alexa smart speaker with 3D Sound and Dolby Atmos, which can also be used as a soundbar.
Value for Money
- Powerful, room-filling sound with excellent bass
- Alexa is probably the best voice-assistant around
- 3D music is gimmicky, but sounds good with some songs
- Works well as a wireless Dolby Atmos soundbar
- Can be used to control Smart Home devices
- Big and heavy (difficult to position in front of your TV)
- 3D songs selection is small, and available only on some platforms
- As a wireless soundbar, it only works best with Amazon’s Fire TV
Features and Specs
- Size: 206 x 175 mm
- Weight: 3.5kg
- Speakers: Three 2” (51 mm) midrange speakers, one 1” (25 mm) tweeter, one 5.25” (133 mm) woofer with bass aperture
- Audio Formats: FLAC, MP3, AAC, Opus, Vorbis, Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby Atmos, Sony 360 Reality Audio/MPEG-H
- Ports: 3.5mm audio, Mini-Optical In / Power port / Mini USB (for service usage only)
- Wireless: WiFi / Bluetooth
- Music Streaming Services Supported: Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, TuneIn and more via Alexa
- Extra Features: Zigbee smart home hub / Automatic room analysis (for optimcal sound output) / Can be wirelessly paired with Fire TV
An excellent music speaker at this price range, it’s a perfect combination of an Alexa voice assistant and a high-quality music listening device. And the fact you can use it as a wireless soundbar adds even more to its value-for-money. However, as is often the case with Amazon, some features work best only within the Amazon ecosystem of services and devices.
Table of Contents
Who Is The Echo Studio For?
Alexa, Amazon’s digital assistant, probably needs no introductions at this point: it almost single-handedly created and popularized the voice assistant market with the first Echo devices.
The early Echo devices, however, were not very good speakers. Sure, they were fine for hearing Alexa’s useful (and sometimes quippy) answers, and they were kind of OK for listening to some music in the kitchen – but they weren’t really a very good replacement for hi-fi speakers.
That being said, that’s what most people did with them – yes, Alexa is useful for setting timers, for getting trivia answers and for controlling smart light bulbs – but if I have a speaker sitting in my living room, that connects directly to my phone or to Spotify – I’m going to use it for music.
And even though subsequent Echo generations were better (the most recent Echo 4th Generation is a big improvement in the music department), they were still smallish speakers with the music quality kind of feeling like an afterthought.
The Amazon Echo Studio, however, is a whole different story. With five speakers hidden inside its big (and bulky) body, and one of the best bass implementations I’ve heard in a speaker of this size (and certainly at his price), the Echo Studio puts music front and centre – with Alexa being, well, almost a bonus feature.
Then there’s the soundbar element: if you’re going to put this big thing in your living room, why not use it for your TV’s sound as well? And with Dolby Atmos support and that powerful, room-filling sound, this is miles better than almost any set of speakers built into modern-day flat TVs. It’s even better than many low-cost soundbars (and most, at this price level, don’t support Dolby Atmos).
All that is to say that the Amazon Echo studio is best for people who are looking to upgrade this trio of devices: An Alexa voice assistant, a high-quality music speaker, and a soundbar.
Even if you’re not in the market for a soundbar, this is still an excellent device just for music – but, at a suggested retail price of £189.99, there ARE other options out there that can serve your music needs well.
Lastly, it’s important to stress out that the Echo Studio is meant for people who are willing to go all-in on Amazon’s eco-system. Sure, it’ll work fine with Spotify, but you won’t get the 3D Sound you can get on Amazon Music Unlimited.
And yes, you can use the Mini-Optical line-in to connect it directly to any TV or streaming device, but then it won’t be wireless and won’t support Dolby Atmos – which you only get when you connect it to an Amazon Fire TV device.
And even Alexa, in my experience, works best when you pair it with other Amazon smart devices – while 3rd party devices are sometimes flawless, and then sometimes present issues.
With all that out of the way – what’s it like to actually use the Echo Studio? Let’s dig in…
Using The Echo Studio
When you take the Echo Studio out of the box, the first thing you’ll notice is how big and heavy it is, at 3.5kg.
It’s especially big when compared to other Echo devices – it’s more than twice the size of the 4th Generation Echo, for example, and looks like a hungry monster near an Echo Dot.
This means it might be tricky to find a suitable spot for it. The “3D Sound” effect (more on that later) works best when the Studio is in front of you in the centre of the room, but it also needs space on all four sides for maximum effect.
Then there’s the soundbar question – if you want to use it as one, it should ideally be under your TV, near its centre – but unlike a wide soundbar, if you place this under your TV, it’ll block a part of the screen – so you need to be more imaginative with your placement.
There’s also an option to buy a second Studio, and use two speakers with your TV for true stereo (and virtual surround) sound – but then you need to spend more, AND find space for TWO heavy speakers on BOTH sides of your TV.
For most people, however – if your TV isn’t on the wall – the Studio would probably have to stand beside your TV instead of under it – which takes some getting used to.
Setting up the Echo Studio is fairly easy, even if this is your first Echo device. Once you plug it in, Alexa greets you and immediately asks for its lifeline – a WiFi connection.
At that point, you need to download the Alexa app on your smartphone, and complete the set-up process via the app. You will generally find that, for such a smart device, the Echo isn’t all that stand-aloneish when it comes to settings and configurations – and you need to revert back to the smartphone app quite a lot.
On top of the Studio, you have four buttons – the Mute Microphone button tells Alexa to stop listening to you – so if you start discussing sensitive issues with your cat, you can prevent anyone from listening.
Then there are the manual Volume Up and Down buttons (which you can also do with your voice, of course), and finally, the Action button, which is used to activate Alexa (without calling out her name), or to reset the device.
The top part also has the light ring, which pulsates with a blue light when Alexa is listening to you (or speaking).
Recent generations of Echo devices moved that light ring to the bottom of the device, which is much more useful – but with the Studio, that light is still on top – which makes it a bit hard to see if you position the device higher than your head (when you’re sitting down, that is).
I won’t go too much into Alexa itself (herself?), as it’s been around long enough for most of you to be familiar with it. But in a nutshell, you can ask it questions (“How’s the weather?” “How old is Rowan Atkinson?”), you can set up cooking timers and alarms, you can listen to the news (or to the radio, via broadband), and you can control other Smart Devices you own – like lights, Smart WiFi Plugs and more.
There are thousands of Alexa Skills available these days (skills are the Alexa equivalent of apps – and they’re all aimed at being used with your voice), so you can have plenty of fun with this.
The microphones on the Studio are quite sensitive, sometimes even too much – it’ll still hear you say “Alexa” even when there’s loud music playing. But it will also hear someone on a YouTube video you’re watching when he says the magic word – and start acting up. Not to mention people on your TV saying “Alexa”… (But you can change the “wake word” to one of a few options – including Computer, Amazon and Echo).
Finally, for music, you can either set up streaming music services like Spotify and Amazon Music to work directly with the Echo Studio, or you can “cast” music (or any sound) from your smartphone, by connecting it to the Studio via Bluetooth.
Connecting The Echo Studio To Your TV
As mentioned, the Studio can be used as a soundbar – and a quite capable one at that. But for that to work, you need to connect it to your TV.
There are three ways to do that. The first, which is the least recommended, is via Bluetooth (if your TV or streaming device supports it).
But while Bluetooth is fine for music, it’s notoriously unreliable when it comes to video, because of lag and potential lip-sync issues.
The second way is via the Mini-Optical port you’ll find on the back of the Studio. You’ll need a special cable (Optical to Mini-Optical), and you’ll need an Optical-Out port on your TV (most standalone streaming devices don’t come with one).
It’s doable, but you lose two features this way: the Studio’s connection is no longer wireless, as you need a cable running between the TV and the device. And, you don’t get Dolby Atmos – as it’s not supported on Optical connections.
Lastly, there’s the WiFi method – which works best, is wireless, and supports Dolby Atmos – but is ONLY compatible with Amazon’s Fire TV devices.
And even if you have a Firestick (or Fire TV Cube), keep in mind that the Studio would then only play sound from the Fire TV device. If you have other devices connected to your TV (a gaming console, for example) – those will keep using the TV’s speakers.
So, in that regard, this isn’t the perfect soundbar. If you’re planning to connect and use other devices in addition to a Fire TV stick, or if you’re in the Roku camp – don’t count on the Studio for your TV’s audio needs.
If you DO have a Firestick, however, connecting the two devices is pretty straightforward – though it’s done on the Alexa smartphone app, and not directly on the Fire TV, for some reason.
Impressively, once the two are connected, everything works flawlessly, and all the sound coming from the Fire TV goes to the Studio, without any lag or lip-sync issues.
Echo Studio Audio Quality
As I’ve repeatedly mentioned, the audio quality is the Studio’s best feature. If you’re upgrading from a “regular” Amazon Echo device, you will be blown away by the sound.
It starts with the bass – it might even be a bit too powerful for some, but as a big bass fan, I was thrilled by how deep and body-shuddering the bass here can go.
It’s helped by the aperture at the bottom of the device – the bit that makes it look like a smiling face. Air can be pushed out from there, so in a way, it functions like the holes you see on subwoofers.
That being said, the default bass setting was a bit too weak for me, so I hurried up and increased the bass levels via the EQ on the Alexa App. Two notches forward, and my room was booming.
In the EQ, you can also modify the treble and mid-range levels to your liking, plus turn the “Stereo Spatial Enhancement” on and off.
That spatial audio feature is supposed to “add space, clarity and depth to stereo audio content” – in other words, it’s somewhat like the virtual surround that many soundbars and speakers promise.
The Studio also uses its built-in microphones to analyse the room its in and the walls around it, so it can better utilise that spatial enhancement.
In practice, I can’t say I heard much of a difference with the Spatial Audio on or off. Yes, it makes the soundscape sound a little wider, but that’s also thanks to the powerful volume the Studio can push out without any distortion.
Then there’s the “3D Sound”: the Spatial Enhancement tries to enhance existing stereo songs. But if you play actual 3D versions of songs that were specifically mixed in that way – the effect is stronger.
The trouble is that for 3D songs (also known as Dolby Atmos songs or 360 Reality – two competing formats), you need a subscription to Amazon’s Unlimited Music service, where you will find a not-so-big selection of 3D songs (Apple Music also has a limited selection, and in the US, Tidal does too – but not in the UK, for some reason. Spotify and YouTube music don’t support any 3D sound formats at the moment).
3D Audio songs are unique mixes of these songs – so some do sound quite different from the original. But again, this is due to the new mix, and not necessarily due to the effect the Studio is creating.
While the differences were somewhat more evident here than with the spatial “upscaling”, it’s still just a wider soundscape – I never felt as if the music was behind me or even all around me – it’s still quite clear the music is coming from a speaker in front of you. That being said, the effect also depends on the room you’re in and the walls around the device – so your mileage may vary.
3D tricks aside, let’s talk about the music itself.
We started by listening to Shawn Mendes’ Teach Me How To Love. The audio was beautifully tight and rich, and the lead vocals were crystal clear, with a pumping kick that gave the Studio’s woofer a run for its money.
The overall soundscape filled the room nicely, with a very good balance of frequencies. We could clearly hear the reverb tail of the vocals hanging in the air, which made the listening experience not only precise but also very enjoyable.
Moving on to Los Angeles by The Midnight, the Studio’s speakers shined yet again.
With lushing synths and harmonized vocals, everything sounds ‘right’. The high-end frequency could use a little boost, but that was nothing a simple EQ tweak couldn’t fix.
There was no distortion with the volume raised, and the sound stayed rich and stable. The natural sound complemented both acoustic and electronic instruments, while maintaining excellent separation of frequencies and impressive bass for an all-in-one speaker.
However, using the Studio as a soundbar is a bit of a mixed bag. The sound is accurate and loud, and the deep bass helped in effects-heavy films.
But – you’re still getting the sound from just one speaker (unless you buy another one and use two speakers), which suddenly looks small compared to actual soundbars.
And there’s the added issue of not being able to place it right under your TV (unless the TV is up on the wall), with the sound of the movie then coming at you from the SIDE instead of the centre of the screen – which is a bit disorienting.
All that being said, this is still a much better speaker than what you get built into most TVs, so if you don’t have a superior soundbar, you should definitely use the Studio to replace your TV’s speakers (but, as mentioned above, you’ll get the best performance if you do this wirelessly via an Amazon Firestick).
Bottom Line: Is The Echo Studio Worth It?
This is by far the best sounding Echo device when it comes to music – there’s no question about that. And for the price, it’s simply an excellent speaker, not just as an Echo device – but also when compared to similarly priced regular speakers.
Being able to use this as a soundbar is a big bonus, and let’s not forget – you’re also getting the best voice assistant around, Alexa.
All that being said – you can, of course, find better standalone soundbars and superior speakers – but a device that serves three functions, at this quality level, for under £190 – offers incredible value for money. I won’t say “a bargain”, as that’s not a CHEAP device – but you do get a lot for the price.
Note: The manufacturer supplied the Echo Studio for this review. As always, this did not influence my unbiased opinion of the product.