The Sub works with any Echo, Echo Plus or Echo Show, as well as the new 3rd-gen Echo Dot. Unfortunately the older Echo Dots aren’t invited to the party.
Amazon’s subwoofer is more than capable of rocking a large room or outdoor area, thanks to a downward-firing 6-inch woofer backed by a 100-watt D Class amplifier. The problem is that you’re also the mercy of the quality of those other Echo speakers.
At first listen, Amazon’s little Dot and hefty Sub make a good combo, but if you’ve an ear for detail you’ll notice that the mid-range suffers. The music lacks body, plus the Dot leaves you with a rather small sound stage.
That’s not a problem if your primary goal is to annoy the neighbours while you dance the night away, but it is an issue if you care about overall sound quality.
Stepping up to Amazon’s Echo or Echo Plus speakers helps the situation, but you’re also throwing more money at a problem that would be better solved by spending that money elsewhere.
Hit the dance floor
The Sub is a blunt instrument, which becomes more noticeable when you test it alongside the likes of the $299 Sonos One, $499 Apple HomePod and $549 Google Home Max.
Cue up something you can dance to, like Gnarls Barkley’s Crazy, or something you can rock out to like AC/DC’s kick drum-driven Highway to Hell, and the Sub pumps out enough ground-shaking low end to shame them all.
It’s a different story when you change genres, even if you’re still listening out for thumping bass lines, because great bass is about tone and not just raw power.
Case in point, Flea’s bass riffs in The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Give It Away don’t come to life through the Echo Sub the way they do through rival speakers. The Sub’s shortcomings are even clearer when you switch to more nuanced music like jazz where you want to feel the music come to life, not just feel the bass through the floor.
So what’s the verdict?
If you like to literally feel your music then the Amazon Echo Sub won’t disappoint but, even if you’re wedded to Amazon’s smart speaker ecosystem, there are better options if you’re shopping for an all rounder.
The $229 Sonos Play:1 is a step up in sound quality and can be controlled using any Amazon speaker in your home. Meanwhile, the $299 Sonos One has Alexa built-in, with Google Assistant not far away.
Make sure you audition these options from Sonos, and allow for your taste in music, before you add Amazon’s Echo Sub to your line-up.
Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.