Ama­zon Echo

Australian T3 - - SMART HOME SPEAKERS -

$152, ama­zon.com

While the smarts in­side stay more or less the same, Ama­zon’s re­designed sec­ond-gen Echo does things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently on the out­side. Sure, un­til Ama­zon fin­ish set­ting up in Aus you’ll still have to im­port it, but the ef­fort is worth it. This sec­ond gen model has had its edges smoothed, its height chopped, and been wrapped in sub­tle cloth cladding, pos­si­bly so it no longer stands out like such a loom­ing black tech mono­lith in the cor­ner of the av­er­age liv­ing room. There’s a wood fin­ish op­tion avail­able, too, if oak and wal­nut ac­cents are more your thing, and a metal­lic ver­sion, though the non-cloth edi­tions cost ex­tra. The au­dio pack­age has been com­pletely re­vamped, with a new bot­tom-fir­ing sub­woofer and ded­i­cated tweet­ers, all armed with Dolby pro­cess­ing. Frankly, it fires out a re­ally ap­peal­ing sound, with de­cent bass tone and per­fect clar­ity for spo­ken word au­dio.

This is, in every as­pect, a bet­ter Echo than its pre­de­ces­sor. It’s not flaw­less – though the al­ready-great mi­cro­phone ar­ray has re­ceived both a hard­ware and soft­ware up­grade, Alexa has an oc­ca­sional ten­dency to ig­nore com­mands is­sued in a noisy en­vi­ron­ment, par­tic­u­larly if the Echo is blast­ing at full vol­ume or you’re pro­ject­ing your voice qui­etly. While we’re be­ing picky, we’d have ap­pre­ci­ated a more gran­u­lar level of vol­ume con­trol than the 10 notches on of­fer, and the lack of an aux­il­iary in­put means you’re stuck with stream­ing au­dio only.

THE FI­NAL WORD

A bet­ter Echo at an even sweeter price point than be­fore. Smart home fa­nat­ics might be bet­ter off with the Echo Plus, though.

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