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How Amazon’s new Echos compare to other smart speakers

Amazon vs. Apple vs. Google vs. Sonos

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Amazon’s new Echo Studio.
Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Amazon introduced two new smart speakers in the avalanche of announcements at its 2019 fall hardware event this week: a third-generation Echo and what it claims is its best-sounding speaker yet, the Echo Studio. Pioneered by Amazon with the original Echo, the smart speaker market now has a bevy of competitors to choose from. But how do Amazon’s new models compare?

Amazon Echo Studio

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

If you want the best Echo speaker for music, the $199.99 Echo Studio is the one Amazon wants you to buy. It’s got five drivers — a 1-inch tweeter, three 2-inch midrange speakers, and a 5.25-inch woofer — which should be able to show off Amazon Music HD, Amazon’s new music streaming tier that offers lossless streaming. It also supports “3D audio” for the few tracks that support it, utilizing formats like Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio. New to the Echo lineup (but not Amazon’s competitors) is the Echo Studio’s ability to automatically tune its output for the room it’s in. Like the regular Echo, the Echo Studio can play music from most of the popular music services.

My colleague Dan Seifert got a private listening session and said that the Echo Studio will “easily challenge” other high-end smart speakers. And because it’s priced lower than many of its competitors, it “should cause Sonos, Apple, and Google to sit up and listen.” You can preorder the Echo Studio today, and Amazon says it will be available on November 7th.

Sonos One

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

At a price of $199, the Sonos One is a direct competitor to Amazon’s new Echo Studio. However, while the Echo Studio is an Alexa-only affair, the Sonos One gives you much more freedom, with the option to use Alexa or Google Assistant.

The Sonos One is not able to sense and tailor its sound automatically depending on the room it’s in. (For that, you’ll have to go through the manual Sonos Trueplay tuning process.) But when it was released, the Sonos One held the crown as the best-sounding Alexa speaker at its price point. With the announcement of the Echo Studio, there’s a chance that could change.

Apple HomePod

Apple HomePod Image: Apple

Apple’s HomePod, launched in February 2018, comes with seven tweeters and one 4-inch woofer that are all controlled by an Apple A8 processor. It also has some neat tricks to quickly adjust its sound to best fit the room that it’s in, like other smart speakers, but it comes in at a relatively high price of $299.

Like many other Apple devices, the HomePod is tightly locked into its manufacturer’s ecosystem. It uses Siri, which isn’t quite as capable as Google’s Assistant or Amazon’s Alexa, with no option to change to a competing assistant. For now, Siri can only customize its responses to one person, though it will gain the ability to tailor responses to individual voices later this fall. You can also only use Apple Music natively. If you want to play music from another music service, you’ll have to use AirPlay to stream it from your iPhone to the HomePod. That means the speaker isn’t a great option if you mainly listen to Spotify on an Android device.

Still, if you’re married to the Apple ecosystem, you’re not going to find Siri supported on any other smart speakers on this list, making the HomePod your only option.

Google Home Max

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Google’s $299 Google Home Max, released in late 2017, is Google’s closest offering to Amazon and Apple’s high-end speakers. It has four drivers: two 4.5-inch long-throw woofers and two 0.7-inch tweeters. According to Dan Seifert’s review, it sounded better than “any other smart speaker” he had tested at that time. However, he said that it did not sound as good as Sonos’ highest-end Play:5 speaker, which lacks a voice assistant.

The Google Home Max, like many other high-end smart speakers, can automatically tune itself to the room it’s in using its microphones. Because it’s a Google product, it runs Google Assistant. However, it has support for fewer music services than Amazon or Sonos.

If you’re thinking of buying the Google Home Max today, you might want to hold off for a couple of weeks: Google has an event on October 15th where it’s expected to announce new hardware, potentially including new speakers, so there’s always a chance the Google Home Max could see an update.

Sonos Move

Photo by Dan Seifert / The Verge

Sonos’ Move, its new $399 portable speaker, only has one woofer and one tweeter. But in Dan Seifert’s review, he found that the Move sounded “clearer and crisper” than Apple’s HomePod, so it’s no sound slouch. It has the now-table stakes of tuning itself to fit the room that it’s in automatically. (On other Sonos speakers, this tuning process requires you to map the room with an app on your phone.)

The Move, unlike the other smart speakers on this list, is also designed to be, well, moved. It charges on an included base, and Sonos says it gets 10 hours of battery from the charger. It also supports Bluetooth to play music when it’s away from a Wi-Fi network.

Like the Sonos One but unlike other smart speakers listed here, the Move can run either Amazon’s Alexa or Google’s Assistant, so you can pick which virtual assistant works best for you. Like Amazon’s Echo, it also works with just about any music service you could want.

Amazon Echo Studio Spec Comparison

Specification Amazon Echo Studio Sonos One Apple HomePod Google Home Max Sonos Move
Specification Amazon Echo Studio Sonos One Apple HomePod Google Home Max Sonos Move
Voice Assistant Alexa Alexa, Google Assistant Siri Google Assistant Alexa, Google Assistant
Connectivity Bluetooth, 3.5mm/mini-optical Toslink, Wi-Fi (exact standards tba) Ethernet, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Sonos App AirPlay 2 3.5mm jack, Spotify Connect, Google Cast, Bluetooth Bluetooth, AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect, Sonos App
Speaker Drivers 1-inch tweeter, 3 x 2-inch mid-range drivers, 5.25-inch woofer 1 x tweeter, 1 mid-woofer 4-inch woofer, 7 x tweeters 2 x 4.5-inch woofers, 2 x 0.7-inch tweeters 1 x tweeter, 1 x mid-woofer
Expansion options Pair with second Echo Studio in stereo Pair with second Sonos One in stereo, or use as rear surround speakers with Sonos Beam, Playbar, Playbase Pair with second HomePod in stereo Pair with second Google Home Max in stereo Pair with second Sonos Move in stereo
Weight (lbs) 7.7 4.08 5.5 11.7 6.61
Dimensions (in.) 8.1 x 6.9 x 6.9 6.36 x 4.69 x 4.69 6.8 x 5.6 x 5.6 13.2 x 7.4 x 6 9.44 x 6.29 x 4.96
Starting price $199 $199 $299 $299 $399
Misc. Room tuning (auto), "3D audio" (Dolby Atmos, Sony 360 Reality Audio), built-in Zigbee, Fire TV wireless audio output Room tuning (manual) Room tuning (auto) Room tuning (auto) Battery powered, IP65 water resistance, Room tuning (automatic)

Amazon Echo (third generation)

Image: Amazon

Amazon’s new third-generation Echo is a lot like its predecessor: it’s a short, fabric-covered speaker, but Amazon claims it will have better sound quality with a 0.8-inch tweeter and a 3-inch woofer (just like the existing Echo Plus has). It still costs $99.99, and, like other Echos, it can play music from just about any music service you could want, including Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, and Pandora. It’s got Alexa on board, but it lacks the Zigbee smart home hub that comes with the Echo Plus and Echo Studio, so it won’t be as useful as those if you want it to be at the center of your smart home.

If you just need something to play music while you’re doing things around your house, the Echo is probably a good option. You can preorder the new Echo today, and Amazon says it will start shipping on October 16th.

Ikea Symfonisk

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Ikea’s Symfonisk is a bit of an outlier on this list since it’s the only speaker here that doesn’t include a voice assistant. But we thought it was worth including since it can be dropped into an existing Sonos network, and its $99 price puts it in direct competition with the new Amazon Echo.

When we reviewed it earlier this year, we thought it handily outperformed Amazon’s current Echo in terms of sound quality. It also integrates neatly into the Sonos ecosystem, meaning you can control it using the Sonos app and use it as part of a Sonos multiroom setup. If you don’t care about being able to control the speaker with your voice, then this is a pretty compelling option.

Google Home

Photo by Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Of course, the Google Home is a more direct competitor to Amazon’s latest Echo device, especially after Amazon dropped its price to $99 earlier this year. However, Google’s midrange smart speaker was first released back in 2016, and the hardware hasn’t been updated since then, making this device almost three years old at this point.

Technically, there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not like smart speaker technology has drastically changed in the last three years. So if you want to get into Google’s ecosystem rather than Amazon’s, then this is your best option at this price point.

Amazon Echo (3rd gen) Spec Comparison

Specification Amazon Echo (3rd gen) Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker Google Home
Specification Amazon Echo (3rd gen) Ikea Symfonisk Bookshelf Speaker Google Home
Voice Assistant Alexa N/A Google Assistant
Connectivity Bluetooth, 3.5mm, Wi-Fi (exact standards tba) AirPlay 2, Sonos App, Spotify Connect Google Cast, Bluetooth
Speaker Drivers 0.8-inch tweeter + 3-inch woofer 1.15-inch tweeter, 2.75-inch mid-range driver 2-inch driver, 2 x passive radiators
Expansion options Pair with second Amazon Echo in stereo, and add Echo Sub for 2.1 system. Pair with second Symfonisk in stereo N/A
Weight (lbs) 1.72 6.11 1.05
Dimensions (in.) 5.8 x 3.9 x 3.9 12 x 4 x 6 in. 5.62 x 3.79 x 3.79
Starting price $99 $99 $99
Misc. Dolby processing

So, which to pick?

We have yet to fully review the Amazon Echo Studio or the third-generation Echo, so it’s impossible to say how either of Amazon’s new speakers will stack up against the immediate competition.

Based on specs alone, however, it’s clear that there’s not much of a gap between many of the speakers on the market. The best speaker for you will likely come down to which ecosystem of devices you’re currently invested in. Sonos is a good pick if you’re still on the fence, unsure if you’re the Alexa type or the Google Assistant type but definitely not the Siri type.

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