When purchasing a smart speaker, what you hear is often what you receive. Updates to the underlying software may improve some aspects, such as the user interface, as well as introduce support for new formats and services, although the audio output itself seldom improves. Why settle for anything less than your speaker’s full potential while attempting to make a good impression on potential customers?
Upon its 2019 debut, Amazon’s Echo Studio quickly earned our approval. Midrange clarity, deeper bass, and increased soundstage separation, even for songs without spatial audio capability, were just some of the improvements promised by a firmware upgrade that the business started pushing out around the end of 2022.
To be quite frank, I originally thought that was a lame excuse for not launching a new iteration of the Studio with the Echo Dot (5th gen). However, after getting my hands on a Studio updated with the latest software, I am now sure that the original model is among the greatest smart speakers available, at least for its intended purpose.
How is the updated Amazon Echo Studio sound quality?
It’s hardly a huge improvement with the update, but the Echo Studio had some problems out of the gate that prevented it from competing with other high-end speakers like the Sonos One. One of the most significant was perhaps the total absence of partitions. As an example, due to the mids drowning out the treble, vocals might occasionally be lost in the mix. While the rest of the sound was great, the bass was “bloated and muddy,” as we stated in our first Amazon Echo Studio review. The Studio was enjoyable to listen to, but at $200, I would have expected better sound quality.
It’s bizarre that Amazon seems to have resolved all major issues. If you like metal, EDM, or rap, you won’t be disappointed with the 2022 update either. The upgrade also improves the experience of listening to more ambient music or film soundtracks. The bass is deeper and more accurate, and the vocals and instruments stand out more in the mix, even though a dedicated subwoofer would theoretically be preferable (In this situation, the only feasible choice is the Echo Sub’s wireless variant).
We should go further into the topic of bass. In most situations, the Studio’s 5.25-inch woofer provides more than adequate volume, shaking a desk with even moderately loud bass. While a big party room or Fire TV home theater system (more on that later) would need more after the upgrade, the typical user should have no complaints.
One of my favorite features is Amazon’s improvement of standard stereo mixes.
Amazon employs its own processing technology to “fake” spatial audio for music that doesn’t natively support formats like Dolby Atmos or Sony’s 360 Reality Audio. Although there is still a noticeable gap when compared to the genuine thing, the outcomes are astounding; I found myself re-queuing old Spotify favorites to experience a new perspective to them. Achieving such results with a mono mix is unrealistic.
Compare the Amazon Echo Studio to other home sound systems like the Sonos One and the Google Nest Audio.
Sonos’s One speaker system is the closest competitor to Amazon’s Echo Studio because of their same pricing points. Both loudspeakers are high-quality, high-volume models that are also automatically room-tuneable.
However, differences broaden rapidly. In contrast to the Studio, which can tune itself on the fly, Sonos’ room tuning requires an iOS smartphone. The Echo Studio is the only one of the two that enable spatial audio, and it has always provided greater bass. The Sonos One is competitive mainly because it is compatible with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant and because it produces very clean music, which is important if you value fidelity. The Studio is dedicated entirely to Alexa and has a Zigbee hub for connecting smart home devices like light bulbs to the system.
I used to be a die-hard Sonos One fan, but with the last firmware update, I find myself favoring the Echo Studio instead. I wouldn’t grumble if I had to make the switch permanently, but better bass and spatial processing are undeniably noticeable. It’s so much better than the Nest Audio I usually use for work, and even the HyperX Cloud II Wireless headset I use for gaming and meetings, that they both pale in comparison.
The fourth-generation Echo, ironically, may be the Studio’s greatest rival. It’s not quite as powerful as the Sonos One or Echo Studio (the regular Echo, for example, doesn’t have spatial audio or mid-range speakers), but it’s still an Alexa speaker that costs a fraction of what they do while still producing surprisingly good music in rooms like the bedroom or kitchen. It’s impressively powerful for the price, and it makes me question if that was a motivation for the Studio’s upgrade.
The Studio really shines in the living room, or any other “serious” listening area. You can easily fill a room with just one Studio, and if you have the means to do so, you can even couple them for complete stereo panning and overpowering volume. Including an Echo Sub to your current home audio system can be the missing piece to make it really great.