The Echo speakers from Amazon sure are smart with the digital assistant Alexa built in. You can now control your entire smart home via voice commands with the new Echo Plus. And if you hook it up to the new Echo Sub, you can really crank up the noise.
- Stylish design and good manufacturing
- Good sound with lots of bass
- Problems establishing a connection
- Slightly delayed reactions
- A second Echo Plus is unnecessary
Watch out for offers
The second generation Echo Plus costs $149.99 on Amazon. But that doesn't mean you should pay the retail price, since Amazon offers the speaker for less money through special offers all the time. Now is a particularly good time to check out offers, with Black Friday and Cyber Monday coming up. The Echo Sub, which can now be used with a compatible Echo speaker, costs $129.99.
Stylish and useful
The new Echo speakers come covered in a stylish fabric, which makes the sophisticated technology look just like a normal speaker . You have the choice between heather gray, charcoal and sandstone, and they all look good. The Echo Plus is 15 centimeters tall and nearly 10 centimeters thick. Thanks to the integrated Zigbee hub, the Echo Plus is the only Amazon speaker that can directly control other smart home devices without an additional bridge.
The convex plastic on the top, which houses the buttons and connects to seven microphones, looks somewhat cheap. But you'll likely just keep the speaker on a shelf and you'll rarely touch it, so this isn't a very important point. On the bottom, there's still a small screw thread so that you can attach the device to a tripod. There's also a service connection under a rubber flap, which most users won't need.
The Echo Sub is huge
The Echo Sub is on another level and weighs a solid 8 pounds. The subwoofer has a 15-centimeter woofer that directs sound downwards. The big difference is there's no blue LED ring for Alexa and no buttons on top. On the back, above the input for the power cable, there's a small button with an LED that lights up with the same colors as the Echo Plus- in blue, orange, red and white. Aside from that, there are no other connections. The Echo Sub is a good 20 centimeters tall and measures 21 centimeters in diameter. All in all, the Alexa subwoofer look quite massive and should be able to endure quite a lot.
The Alexa app is still bad
The Echo speakers are still set up and controlled via the Alexa app. The app has recently undergone a complete redesign and is now much more sensibly structured, but still isn't that great . It crashed several times in my test. It was able to recognize the Wi-Fi connection once without problems, but then after that it couldn't at all. Again and again, there were annoying loading times. And there was one other confusing aspect: when you're setting up the speakers, the app calls the Echo Plus "Echo", and calls the Echo Sub "Echo Plus". Nonsense!
If you want to link the two speakers to a sound system, you'll first have to set up the Echo Plus. Then it's the Echo Sub's turn. You can then use the settings in the app to set up your sound system, which will take another few minutes. After that everything will run smoothly, and if you're lucky you'll never have to open the Alexa app again.
Also fun for your neighbors
No matter how smart it is, the most important thing for any speaker is the sound. The new Echo Plus, with its 76-millimeter woofer and 20-millimeter tweeter, sounds quite decent on its own, considering its compact size. To my ears, it sounded a lot like the previous Echo from Amazon. I would say, however, that the sound is inferior to the Google Home. The Echo Plus was much weaker in comparison and was lacking both in the treble and mids.
But it's an entirely different ballgame with the Echo Sub. The subwoofer, which is intended to be placed on the ground with a little space around it, adds a new dimension to the sound of Amazon's Alexa speakers. The bass is deep and powerful. When I turned it up properly, it made the floor in my apartment tremble. This should make your neighbors happy, as long as they share your taste in music.
But the subwoofer isn't just fun at high volumes. It will give the sound more body at any volume, and at a higher volume, you'll distinctly hear a better bass. That means the Echo Sub is a great addition to any living room.
If you want to control the sound, you can simply tell Alexa to turn the bass up or down. Although this isn't particularly precise, this is a quick and easy solution for most situations.
You won't need a second Echo Plus
If you want stereo sound, you can purchase a second Echo Plus to go along with the system I've described above. The sound quality will depend on the size of the room and the position of the speakers. In a small or normal-sized room, adding a second Echo Plus won't really improve the sound. In a larger room, the sound will somewhat improve with the two speakers and the subwoofer. But for an ordinary customer, the combination of an Echo Plus and the Sub will easily suffice. Since the Echo Plus already has such great all-around sound, the stereo effect with two devices won't lead to a very noticeable improvement.
There's one thing you'll notice if you compare a system with one Echo speaker to a system with two: the Alexa commands will be more delayed on the coupled system. Changing the music takes a little longer. The Echo Sub will become quieter at first, so that Alexa understands the command, but then hums for a second or two, until Alexa has found and started the new song. There's also a slightly longer delay for commands that aren't related to the music. In my test, individual Echo speakers were able to react more quickly, even when they were connected to the same network. If you choose to build an Echo sound system, you'll get used the delay, but it'll remain noticeable.
Awesome sound, lousy app
If you're an Alexa enthusiast and regularly listen to music with an Echo speaker, you'll definitely be tempted by the Echo Sub. Once you have the subwoofer set up, it does its job perfectly and raises the sound of the Echo Plus to another level. The device's greatest shortcoming is the app, which for a company of Amazon's stature, is a big disappointment.
What do you think of the new Echo Plus and Echo Sub? Let us know in the comments section!