Amazon Echo Studio review (early verdict): takes on Sonos by adding 3D Ultra HD music AND Dolby Atmos

Easily the best-sounding Echo speaker ever, with thunderous bass

Amazon Echo Studio review
(Image credit: Amazon)

As well as unleashing Amazon Echo Buds to take on Apple AirPods, Amazon has finally launched an Echo speaker with the audio quality to match its smart capabilities. It's called the Echo Studio, and Amazon is naturally calling it the 'best-sounding Echo ever.' Uniquely for a wireless, one-box streaming speaker, it features support for Dolby Atmos and '3D audio' via an upward-firing driver. It also has the processing power to handle the HD and UHD (CD quality and above) music now available to stream from Amazon Music HD.

Amazon Echo Studio features five directional speakers in total. As well as immersive sound, there's also room adaptation technology similar to Sonos Move. As well as Alexa, there's also a built-in smart home hub which supports Zigbee – similar to Amazon Echo Plus. That's a lot of technology, especially considering it costs less than a Sonos One and only £10 more than a Sonos One SL.

However, the approach Amazon has taken with this is actually closer to an Apple HomePod than the more open-garden, multi-service approach taken by Sonos and most other streaming speaker makers.

But how good is Amazon Echo Studio? Should you be taking your HomePod or Sonos One to Cash Converters? We've gone hands-on to find out…

Amazon Echo Studio review

(Image credit: Future)

Amazon Echo Studio: release date, price 

In the UK, Amazon Echo Studio is priced at £189.99. You can pre-order Studio today on Amazon. It will ship on November 7, 2019.

• In the USA you can pre-order Amazon Echo Studio for $199.99 right now. Again, the shipping date is November 7.

Amazon Echo Studio: design

Amazon Echo Studio review

Studio: Echo goes large

(Image credit: Future)

As you can see here, Amazon Echo Studio is like a scaled-up Echo. It features the same fabric-covered aesthetic, but measures a substantial 206 x 175 mm (height x diameter). We don't think it's as attractive as rivals such as the Sonos One or Naim Mu-so 2, but as usual with Amazon, it's not going to offend anyone. It's just a tad bland, but then so it should fade into the background of most living rooms.

You'll find familiar controls – the usual Alexa mute and volume – on the top of the device, and a distinctive cutout through the centre of the cylinder – more on that later. 

There's not a lot to say about the exterior of Echo Studio, but the innards are a lot more interesting…

Amazon Echo Studio: sound

Amazon Echo Studio

Drivers fire up down and outwards for fully immersive audio

(Image credit: Amazon)

With five built-in directional speakers, Echo Studio has been engineered to create premium sound with space, clarity, and depth. The presence of an upward-firing driver means it can support Dolby Atmos and Sony's relatively obscure 360 Reality Audio.

Amazon Music HD has recently brought music lovers CD quality ('HD', as Amazon styles it) and hi-res ('UHD') music for only a small additional premium. Echo Studio is designed to be the ultimate outlet for these higher-resolution tracks.

To that end a 24-bit DAC and a powerful enough processor are on board to make the most of the UHD tunes. 

Practically any speaker that supports AirPlay 2 or Chromecast – or has Amazon Music built into its app – can play back Amazon Music’s HD content.  However, before this, the only speakers I can think of that would support the UHD tunes wirelessly would be Bluesound's range. Sonos has Amazon Music built in to its app but, for whatever reason, Sonos has never supported hi-res audio.

Echo Studio's 5.25-inch woofer and 330W of peak power produces deep, rich bass, with that gaping bass port near the bottom of the Studio maximising airflow, and hence bass output, from the woofer. 

I was pleasantly surprised by how powerful the Echo Studio sounds. The bass really is booming and the volume impressive, while the 1-inch tweeter and three, 2-inch midrange speakers deliver dynamic midranges and crisp highs. 

As mentioned, the drivers are also built to deliver an immersive three-dimensional audio experience using Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio.

You can pair one or two Echo Studios with select Fire TV devices to get Dolby Atmos audio playback on film and television shows. Relatively few albums are available in Dolby Atmos or Sony 360 Reality Audio – there was an Atmos mix of The Beatles' Abbey Road released recently – but Universal, Warners and Sony are bringing a library of music to make the most of this feature. You'll need an Amazon Music HD subscription to listen to them, of course…

Echo Studio also automatically senses the acoustics of your space and fine-tunes audio playback to deliver optimal sound, no matter where you put the device in the room. This feature works extremely well on Sonos Move and it'll be interesting to see how Studio compares. 

Amazon Echo Studio: early verdict

Amazon Echo Studio

Amazon Echo Studio: get down!

(Image credit: Amazon)

While Amazon's new Echo Buds seem like a sure-fire winner, because they can be used with any music source, Echo Studio is more like Apple HomePod, in that it wants to lock you in to Amazon's own eco-system. If you don't have an Amazon Music HD subscription, there is less reason to buy a Studio, although it will support Spotify and a handful of other streaming services via Alexa.

However, with Alexa inside, support for Dolby Atmos, and at that very competitive price point, Amazon Echo Studio is still likely to do well. It's by far Amazon's most convincing attempt yet at joining the audio elite and clearly a very powerful speaker. Whether it can also do subtle remains to be seen, but that's the nature of demoing speakers at big launch events. We can't wait to spend more time with it to fully sample its audio chops.