Amazon has announced the new Echo Studio, the first high-end smart speaker from the company. The Studio was built specifically to provide Echo customers with a way to listen to lossless music through Amazon’s new Amazon Music HD streaming service. It’s also the first smart speaker to support 3D audio, with both Dolby Atmos and Sony’s 360 Reality Audio codecs on board. The Echo Studio is available for preorder starting today, September 25th, for $199, and it will be available later this year.
I had a chance to get an early demo of the Echo Studio ahead of its announcement, and I walked away suitably impressed. The Studio is larger and more imposing than prior Echo speakers (I’d estimate its size to be between the Echo Plus and the Echo Sub), but it’s also significantly better-sounding, with the ability to fill a room with music that’s clear, punchy, and enjoyable to listen to. It’s the kind of thing that should make Sonos worry, especially at the Studio’s price point.
To attain its impressive sound, the Studio has a total of five drivers: three 2-inch midrange speakers, a 1-inch tweeter, and a 5.25-inch woofer. Two of the three midrange speakers fire out of the sides of the cylinder, while the third projects straight up, which is what gives the Echo Studio its ability to “position” sound in a 3D space. The tweeter is aimed forward and the woofer fires down into a cavity to amplify the bass. Pushing these drivers is an amp with a peak output of 330 watts, 100kHz of bandwidth, and a 24-bit DAC.
The whole kit is housed a familiar-looking cylinder. Anyone who has seen one of the later model Echo speakers will recognize this as part of that family. The top of the cylinder has seven microphones to pick up voice commands, the familiar LED ring that lights up blue whenever Alexa is activated, and buttons for volume, mute, and triggering Alexa. While the Echo Studio looks fine to my eyes, it doesn’t exactly exude luxury. The top is very plastic, and the whole thing uses the same plastic that’s found on the $50 Echo Dot. But this is a $200 speaker, not a $20,000 hi-fi system.
The Studio supports “HD” music, which is CD-quality lossless 16-bit 44.1kHz audio, and “Ultra HD,” which steps up to 24-bit and sample rates up to 192kHz. Amazon says its entire library of over 50 million songs is available in HD with the Amazon Music HD plan, and songs available in the Ultra HD format number “in the millions.”
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