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Review: Amazon's new smart speaker is a bargain for $329

Amazon Echo Studio smart speaker is selling for $329 RRP in Australia.

Amazon's latest Alexa-enabled smart speaker, which landed in Australia two weeks ago, is especially built for music.

The Amazon Echo Studio is large by smart speaker standards – about the size of a large biscuit jar – and sits pretty heavy. This is all to accommodate five speakers and 330W of power.

This includes a 5.25-inch woofer and a "aperture" that produces throaty bass as good as far bigger speakers.

Unfortunately, the mid-range sounds fray a bit, especially when Alexa is talking at mid or upper volume levels.

Even though it's a single device, the five speakers work intelligently to produce a multi-dimensional sound when the listener is seated in front of it. This is thanks to Dolby Atmos, which delivers more listening dimensions than simple two-channel stereo.

The Echo Studio, during setup, also calibrates itself to output the best sound according to where it's placed in the room and what other objects are around. So it's best advised to perform a new setup if the speaker is ever moved.

And of course, it has all the usual smart features common in all Echo devices. You can ask Alexa for pretty much anything – the weather, your schedule, internet search or even shopping.

Music availability

Although it supports many streaming services, like all Amazon Echo devices the user gets the most value when using Amazon Music.

This is because Alexa will learn your musical tastes and adjust output accordingly.

For example, if you've listened to a lot of hip hop tracks then it will know to integrate similar rap songs when you ask "Alex, play music".

Testing with the Echo Studio found that Amazon Music has a pretty decent range of Australian artists and their back catalogue.

For example, Max Sharam's 1995 hit Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) is in there, as is Jimmy Barnes' lesser-known single Stone Cold.

Unfortunately, the Echo Studio doesn't seem to be able to access all songs within Amazon Music.

One example was US artist Chingy's hit Chingy Jackpot. Even though Amazon Music clearly contains this track and I was able to play it on the smartphone app, the speaker refused to recognise it.

Upon one particular attempt, in a comic and slightly racist twist, the Echo Studio started playing Chinese songs.

Yahoo Finance has contacted Amazon Australia about the disjoint between the catalogue and access through the speaker.

If you don't like the idea of paying for a subscription, the free version of Spotify is now available to play on all Echo devices. Until last month only Spotify Premium members were able to hear music through smart speakers.

Conclusion

At $329 retail in Australia, the Echo Studio is good value for an everyday music speaker. 

Although it won't satisfy audiophiles, for most people who have moved on from CDs, this will be a decent solution for rich sound from streaming music and letting you know when your eggs have boiled.

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