Echo Studio is the first Echo designed with quality music playback in mind and is designed to slot in alongside the Sonos One and underneath the Google Home Max and Apple HomePod.

Essentially, Studio is a beefed-up Echo speaker that'll also integrate with Fire TV instead of a soundbar should you so wish. We had some trouble setting this up as you'll see below. 

The Echo Studio has some tricks up its sleeve alongside Amazon's Music Unlimited HD service and we'll take you through these below. That the Echo Studio is set at a great price point is without question. But does it have the sound to really beat its rivals into submission? 

Design

  • Single charcoal colour available
  • Cut-out design for subwoofer
  • Familiar Echo buttons on top

The Echo Studio is clearly a relative of last year's Echo Sub and as you'd expect there's an Alexa light ring around the top. It's thicker than on many other Echo devices and really stands out. 

The standard Echo action, mute and volume buttons are arranged in a line around the light ring rather than being in the centre of the device as with many other Echo units. 

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Studio doesn't have an attractive design, however - largely due to the cut-out in the side of the speaker. It's also only available in this dull charcoal - we'd have preferred more colour options like the other Echo devices available. To not even offer white seems a little short-sighted, although perhaps its another compromise that had to be made to bring the Echo Studio to market at such a price point. 

Although the top doesn't appear plasticky, closer inspection doesn't ooze quality and it's clearly inside that the budget has been spent. As you can see there's a slot that appears to be cut into the speaker - as you might guess this is to maximise bass output from the downward-firing woofer. 

Specs

  • Full Alexa support
  • Zigbee smart hub
  • Will automatically adjust sound depending on your room

We'll talk about the audio chops of the Studio in a moment, but the device has a lot to offer in terms of other specs, too. 

Obviously, there's full Alexa support. Everything you can do on the other Echos you can do here. Echo Studio takes a leaf out of the HomePod's book and automatically senses the acoustics of your room to fine-tune the audio depending on the location it's placed in. 

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As with the Echo Plus and full-size Echo Show, there's a Zigbee smart hub included within the speaker. We still think the jury is out as to how useful this really is in the smart home. 

As with the Echo Plus there's a 3.5mm line-in that can also be used by a mini-optical cable if you want to get audio across from an AV device. Naturally, there's support for Bluetooth audio should you want to connect to it directly rather than using Alexa or a music app for audio. 

Audio quality

  • Five speakers including a 5.25-inch woofer
  • Lossless support with Amazon Music HD
  • Compatible with Dolby Atmos for music and also with Fire TV

The 330W peak power Echo Studio has a huge punch - more than enough to fill a modest living room. 

Studio boasts five built-in directional speakers for 360-degree audio and produces - depending on the source - a clear and crisp sound at the top end (a 1-inch tweeter and three 2-inch speakers ensure that the midrange is well looked after) and decent levels of bass, too.

However, don't expect the 5.25-inch woofer to compete with a decent amp and passive speakers and the limitation of a one-box device is evident at times. That's particularly the case on bass-heavy tracks you know really well and have heard through beefy systems. 

However, that's not to say that you can't get mind-blowing performance from the Echo Studio. Amazon has worked with Universal, Warner and Sony to produce 3D audio versions of an unspecified library of Dolby Atmos tracks through Amazon Music HD. Studio is also supporting Sony's 360 Reality Audio format, too. 

Amazon Music is branding all of these tracks as "3D" audio, rather than HD but they're still part of the Amazon Music HD subscription. 

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Whack on Amazon Music's Best of 3D playlist - designed to showcase Dolby Atmos tracks - and you'll be stunned at what the Studio can produce when you whack up the volume. Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band is reborn in Atmos. Tracks like Britney Spears' Toxic or Riders on the Storm from The Doors almost blow the room away.

Try it on your friends. People simply cannot believe that such a high quality of audio is coming from something around 20cm high. 

The disadvantage is that it can be quite hard to find 3D music on Amazon Music at present. And, of course, you're restricted to that service is you want that level of quality (Atmos Music on Spotify soon please!)

Although the Dolby Atmos name is appearing in more and more devices, the endorsement here is a new step. As we mentioned, you can wirelessly connect Echo Studio with Fire TV Cube (1st Gen or 2nd Gen), Fire TV Stick 4K or Fire TV (3rd Gen) to play back Atmos content. We couldn't get this to work initially but after an Alexa app update it kicked in fine. 

You're also able to pair the Echo Studio with another to beef up the audio still further, although we've only got one so haven't given this a go. 

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Verdict

We were expecting this device to appear - adding serious audio chops to the Alexa experience. But what we didn't expect is that it would be so well-priced. It's almost half the price of the Apple HomePod and a serious rival to the Sonos One. 

There will certainly be some established audio firms shellshocked at what this device offers. 

For $50/£50 more than an Echo Plus something is for sure - it's an absolute steal. There are some reservations over the rather ugly finish, while the bass isn't as good as you'd get from a more comprehensive system, but there's so much to love and listening to tracks in 3D really is a revelation (if you can identify them). We can't believe this can get better. But it will, and rivals need to watch out. 

Alternatives to consider

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Amazon Echo 

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If you don't want the room-filling sound from the Echo Studio, it doesn't get better than the new, third-generation standard Echo. The great thing about the Echo is that you can buy a stereo pair with the Echo Sub, giving you a 2.1 setup. And that will give you a slightly better room-filling proposition than the Echo Studio. 

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Apple HomePod

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Apple's smart speaker is superb in the sound department - and perhaps sounds even cleaner than the Echo Studio. But you're paying dearly for it. The main issue with the HomePod, though, is that it relies on Siri as the virtual assistant. And, while that's OK for basic tasks or for accessing Apple Music, it's restricted in other ways and lags behind Alexa or Google Assistant. 

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Sonos One

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Sonos One has the advantage of not only being smart, but sitting as a gateway to a wider Sonos system. As such, not only does it offer Alexa/Google Assistant voice control and great Sonos sound, but it's also AirPlay 2 compatible and compatible with all the major streaming services. It's the closest direct competitor to the Echo Studio.