Amazon’s first serious speaker has a good sound, but needs fine tuning


The effect tends to work best with vocalists backed by a few instruments. Ask Alexa for Come Away With Me by Norah Jones and her voice sounds a bit further away, so it feels like more of a live performance. Yet call up something like The Rolling Stone’s thumping Jumping Jack Flash and it sounds like you’ve muffled the speaker with a cushion.

Thankfully you can disable Stereo Spatial Enhancement, and the effect is striking, but it’s buried in the advanced settings of the Alexa app. Turning this setting on by default and not bringing it to the listener’s attention seems like a recipe for unhappy customers.

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With Stereo Spatial Enhancement out of the way, the Echo Studio really comes to life. It packs plenty of grunt while offering a crisp, precise sound which is evenly balanced.

The Echo Studio’s strengths shine through when listening to the likes of Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, ensuring that every member of the jazz ensemble gets some respect. On the downside, the Echo Studio can sound a bit clinical compared to the richer, warmer sound from its rivals.

While the Echo Studio has the power to belt out the iconic bass riffs of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Give It Away, Flea’s fat sound isn’t quite as sweet and smooth as when coming from an Apple or Sonos speaker.

Like its rivals, the Echo Studio fits into a multi-room audio set-up and supports linking two speakers as a stereo pair. There’s also an optical digital input on the back for hooking up digital audio sources, including your television.

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While it offers a nice wide soundstage and crisp audio, it’s not a very practical size or shape for a soundbar. It’s naturally found wanting in the explosions department and, if you’re primarily looking for a home theatre speaker then your money would be better spent elsewhere.

It’s possible to set up several Echo speakers for 2.1-channel sound in the lounge room, with the ability to handle the high-end Dolby Atmos surround sound format, but it requires the more advanced Amazon Fire TV Stick streaming device that isn’t available in Australia.

Access to Amazon’ 3D audio tracks, which make use of the Studio’s Dolby Atmos Music capabilities, is also locked to the US. It’s another reminder that Amazon has more of a tendency than Apple and Google to treat Australia as an afterthought.

Amazon has staked a strong claim on the high-end audio market with the Echo Studio and can deliver the goods, even if it might sound a tad clinical depending on your ears and your taste in music. Even if you’re an audiophile who’s pledged their allegiance to the Amazon ecosystem, you should certainly weigh it up against the Sonos One which can also bring Alexa to life.

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