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Amazon Echo Studio review: Is it really better than before?

The Echo Studio saw some significant software updates in 2022. But has Amazon's biggest smart speaker improved and is it worth the $200 price tag?
Written by Maria Diaz, Staff Writer on
Pros
  • Powerful punch that maintains crispness
  • Compatible with Fire TV
  • Rich, enjoyable sound quality
Cons
  • Large footprint
  • May be too much for those looking for just a smart speaker

If you had told me a year ago that I'd have an Echo Studio in my home, I would've cackled. Though we're a HomeKit family with a HomePod Mini, I can't say I was ever against buying an Echo speaker

No, I welcomed Alexa into my home with the sole purpose of pitting her against Siri to see how the voice assistants did side by side.

Slowly but surely, my home has been filling up with Echo speakers: Echo DotsEcho Shows, and, as evidenced by the 8-pound Amazon box that arrived several weeks ago, an Echo Studio.

Also: See the best early Black Friday deals on Amazon right now

Echo Studio on a desk next to a microphone and headset

How the Amazon Echo Studio compares in size with other items.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Specifications

Dimensions 8.1 inches x 6.9 inches
Weight 7.7 ounces
Speakers Three 2-inch midrange speakers - One 1-inch tweeter - One 5.25-inch woofer
Peak output 330W
Audio input 3.5mm or mini-TOSLINK line in
Connectivity Dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Zigbee
Power source Plugin
Extra features Dolby Atmos, spatial audio processing, 3D audio, automatic room adaptation, mic mute button

The Echo Studio is Amazon's high-end smart speaker. It features 3D audio, Dolby Atmos, high-fidelity sound with built-in Alexa, and doubles as a smart home hub with Zigbee support to control smart home devices.

Out of the box: A white Echo Studio

Closeup of the Echo Studio with hand on buttons

The Amazon Echo Studio has four buttons at the top.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Unboxing the gigantic Echo Studio was a task. Listen, I always rag on people for buying things and then complaining about the size when the dimensions are right there in the product description. But this time that was me. The Echo Studio looks like a sleek, full-size speaker, sure. But I just don't know why my brain didn't connect Amazon's listing with what I was going to receive. This thing is huge. And heavy. 

But hey, that's on me for not reading the dimensions, plus the fact that it has a large footprint isn't a deal breaker for me. I also have to give Amazon props for doing away with plastic packaging on this round: The Glacier White Echo Studio comes wrapped in a reusable cloth Alexa bag inside of a cardboard box.

Along with major updates to spatial audio processing and Dolby Atmos, Amazon just released a new color for its Echo Studio: Glacier White, which is what I got. Looking at it in a home, the new speaker looks clean and stylish, a touch more modern than the Charcoal color. It may be me, but I feel black speakers tend to be reminiscent of the old subwoofers you'd expect to see at McMansions back in the early 2000s, so I appreciate more color options.

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Sleek or monstrous?

Echo Studio on table next to an Echo Dot

The Echo Studio dwarfs the 5th Generation Echo Dot.

Maria Diaz/ZDNET

The Echo Studio isn't meant to fit into a tiny shelf or be tucked away next to a little plant; it's here to serve a purpose, and that purpose is to deliver room-filling, calibrated, 3D, Dolby Atmos audio.

This smart speaker measures 8.1 inches tall and 6.9 inches in diameter, and it weighs 7.7 pounds. The Echo Studio has four buttons at the top to summon Alexa, mute the mic, and adjust the volume up or down. There's a light ring at the top of the speaker that comes on when Alexa is listening, when a notification is available, or when the volume is adjusted.

Gap at the bottom of the Echo Studio
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Jam-packed with sound, the Echo Studio has a horizontal gap at the bottom to openly distribute audio and maximize bass output from a 5.25-inch woofer, and it also has three 2-inch midrange speakers, plus a 1-inch tweeter.

Setting it up

Light ring on Echo Studio
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

If you already have the Alexa app on your phone, setting up a brand-new Echo device is a breeze. Simply plug it in and open the app so Alexa can add it to your home network, and it's ready to go. Alternatively, if you don't have Alexa devices in your home yet, just download the Amazon Alexa app to set up an account and follow the prompts. 

Part of the setup process involves calibrating the Echo's acoustics by having it play a series of sounds and listening to how they reverberate around the room.

Also: The 5 best smart speakers

Audio: The verdict

Top view of Echo Studio
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Once the Echo Studio is calibrated, the sound quality is nothing short of outstanding, which is surprising, really. When you hear that the Echo Studio retails for $200, it sounds like too high of a price for a smart speaker with Alexa. But the truth is that the upgraded sound quality of the Echo Studio is on par with high-end speakers twice its price. 

It's apparent the calibration is successful as the speaker can certainly put out room-filling audio with deep, rich bass that rivals that of other high-end speakers, like the Sonos One. But intensity, though overwhelmingly satisfying, is not the only benefit. 

Amazon Echo internal parts

A view of the internal workings on the Echo Studio.

Image: Amazon

The audio is delivered with sheer crispness and clarity, making your living room feel like a soundstage. Before the upgrade announced by Amazon in September 2022, one of the Echo Studio's faults was that the clarity of vocals was diminished, especially when the volume was turned up. 

Trying out stereo tracks from both Amazon Music and Apple Music on this upgraded version, I found that vocals aren't lost in the background at all, which is also a problem with many larger speakers that focus more on intense bass and a big punch. When you move around the room, the Echo Studio not only maintains power and clarity, but the spatial audio feature makes it so it feels like you have a set of stereo speakers with just the single unit. 

Echo Studio closeup
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Whether or not it earns the title of best-sounding smart speaker on the market, in audio quality it's leaps and bounds above audio quality of other smart speakers like the Echo Dots, and it's also better than the HomePod Mini. If you want full stereo sound, you can pair two Echo Studio speakers in one room, and you can also add the Echo Sub for fuller audio.

This Echo speaker goes beyond the Amazon Music app, with support for Apple Music, Spotify, Tidal, Deezer, Pandora, Sirius XM, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn.

Also: The best music streaming services: Can Amazon top Spotify?

One downside is that, to get the most out of your speaker, the Amazon Echo Studio aims to get you to subscribe to Amazon Music Unlimited, a service that costs $8.99 a month for access to its ad-free music library that features HD and spacial audio tracks. While Amazon Music's HD and Ultra HD tracks sound best on the Echo Studio, I was able to enjoy high-quality sound through Apple Music.

More than music

Echo Studio and Echo Dot next to each other on table
Maria Diaz/ZDNET

Obviously, the Echo Studio is a smart speaker with Alexa built in and works as a fantastic speaker for parties, gatherings, or music in general. But we've found a pretty nifty alternate use for it as part of our living room's media console as the speakers to our TV. 

We haven't bit the bullet to buy a sound bar for our televisions just yet. It's on the list, sure, but it continues to stay low on our priorities. Since my home resembles a smart speaker graveyard, we've made the HomePod Mini the speaker for an Apple TV 4K, we're using the Echo Dots as stereo speakers for a Fire TV Stick 4K, and now the Echo Studio is joining the lineup.

As the speaker for both the Apple TV 4K and the Fire TV Stick 4K, the Echo Studio became an outstanding speaker for our television, putting out immersive cinematic audio for movies and, in my opinion, effectively replacing a quality sound bar.

The audio is intense, yet maintains crispness. It is several steps above the defunct HomePod in sound quality. And since the Echo Studio has a line-in and optical-in port, it can be used with televisions as a sound bar regardless of the streaming device you have.

Aside from the benefits and drawbacks of having Alexa built in (though there is a mic mute button), the Echo Studio also supports Zigbee, a communication protocol used in low-power smart home devices. This means you can easily add any Zigbee devices to your smart home network via the Echo Studio, effectively making it a hub for compatible smart home devices.

Also: iPhone vs Echo: How Apple and Amazon are building different visions of your future

Wrapping it up: Is it worth it?

I'm not torn -- I can't pretend I am. Sure, the Echo Studio is fairly large, but I like it. The resulting sound quality from the five speakers packed into the device makes both the size and price well worth it. It's built and engineered to rival some of the best speakers of its size on the market, and it does that in performance.

Frankly, I can't say everyone should buy an Amazon Echo Studio at $200 each, but I'd probably recommend it for anyone with an Alexa ecosystem who is looking to add either a high-quality speaker or a soundbar to their television. I do consider it to be the best-sounding Echo speaker available right now. 

Though I am currently unsure of when we will buy a soundbar for our living room television, the Echo Studio sits prominently in the center of our media console table, working several jobs as a smart voice assistant, a Zigbee hub, TV speaker, and music player. 

Editorial standards

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