Connect with us

AMAZON

Is it now the best smart speaker?

Published

on

The 2022 Echo Studio on a desk

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Usually, what you hear is what you get when you buy a smart speaker. Software updates may add refinements and support for new formats and services, but overall sound quality tends to remain unchanged. After all, why would you put out anything less than what your speaker is capable of when you’re trying to impress buyers?

We liked the Echo Studio when Amazon first launched it in 2019. Towards the end of 2022, however, the company began rolling out a firmware update with big promises: better midrange clarity, deeper bass, and improved separation in the soundstage, even for music without spatial audio support.

To be honest, that initially sounded like a poor excuse for not releasing a second-generation Studio alongside the Echo Dot (5th gen). But having finally got my hands on a Studio with the new firmware, I’m convinced that the first-generation model is now one of the best smart speakers in the entire market — at least for what it’s aiming to do.

About this Amazon Echo Studio 2023 review: I tested the Amazon Echo Studio for four days. The unit was provided by Amazon, but Amazon had no say in the direction of published content.

Amazon Echo Studio

Multi-speaker design • Quality sound for most music styles • Alexa compatible

See review

See review

How good does the Amazon Echo Studio sound after the update?

A top-down view of the 2022 Echo Studio

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

It’s not a night-and-day difference after the update, but the Echo Studio did have initial issues keeping it from challenging other high-end speakers like the Sonos One. Perhaps the biggest was an overall lack of separation. Vocals, for instance, sometimes blended into the rest of the soundstage, because mids would drown out treble. Bass meanwhile was “bloated and muddy,” as we said in our original Amazon Echo Studio review. Don’t get me wrong — the Studio was pleasing to listen to, but for $200, you might’ve expected higher quality.

What’s crazy is that Amazon seems to have fixed essential problems and then some. Sound is better balanced after the 2022 update, making it a joy to listen to ambient music or film soundtracks as much as metal, EDM, or rap (if you’re into those). Vocals and instruments stand out in the mix, and bass is both deeper and more precise, even if you’d still technically do better with a dedicated subwoofer (the wireless Echo Sub being your only option in this case).

The Amazon Echo Studio is one of the best sounding smart speakers you can buy.

Let’s talk about bass a little more. For most purposes the Studio’s 5.25-inch woofer delivers enormous output, enough to rattle a desk with even modest lows, never mind hard bass hits. You might conceivably want more for a large party space or a Fire TV home theater system (more on that later), but the average person will have no complaints post-update.

My favorite addition is actually Amazon’s enhancement of conventional stereo mixes. For music that doesn’t already support spatial audio in the form of Dolby Atmos or Sony’s 360 Reality Audio, Amazon uses custom processing tech to widen the soundstage and create a facsimile. While there’s still a difference versus the real deal, the results are impressive — I found myself queuing up old favorites on Spotify just to hear a new dimension to them. Don’t expect any such miracles with mono mixes, unfortunately.

How does the Amazon Echo Studio compare with the Sonos One and Google Nest Audio?

Echo Studio volume and alexa controls

The most direct rival to the Echo Studio is the Sonos One, which is similarly priced. Both speakers are also loud, high-fidelity products that support automatic room tuning.

Differences grow pretty quickly, however. You need an iOS device to get Sonos’ room tuning working, whereas the Studio tunes itself on the fly. The Echo Studio has always delivered more bass, and it’s the only one of the two to support spatial audio. The Sonos One holds its own mostly by supporting both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, and producing ultra-clear sound, which matters if you prioritize fidelity. The Studio is exclusively Alexa-focused, even incorporating a Zigbee hub for pairing things like smart bulbs with the platform.

The Echo Studio is best suited to any space devoted to ‘serious’ listening.

After its software update, I think I genuinely prefer the Echo Studio to the Sonos One. I wouldn’t complain if I were forced to swap permanently, but it’s hard to ignore the impact of superior bass and spatial processing. It blows away the Nest Audio I normally use for work listening, and sometimes the HyperX Cloud II Wireless headset I use for gaming and meetings.

Ironically, the Studio’s biggest threat may be the 4th gen Echo. Both the Sonos One and Echo Studio have it beat in terms of specs — the standard Echo lacks spatial audio or any mid-range drivers, for example — but it’s an Alexa speaker that’s half the price and still sounds excellent in places like a bedroom or kitchen. It punches above its price tag, which makes me wonder if part of the incentive for the Studio’s update was improving perceived value.

Where the Studio justifies itself is in the living room, or in any other space devoted to “serious” listening. A single unit can dominate a room, and if you’ve got the money, you have the option of pairing with a second Studio for true stereo panning and overwhelming volume. Introducing an Echo Sub could make for a killer home audio package.

Is the Amazon Echo Studio still missing anything?

Rear ports on the 2022 Echo Studio

Roger Fingas / Android Authority

Yes, mainly in the home theater arena. While you can use 3.5mm or mini-TOSLINK for a physical connection, there’s no HDMI port for eARC, and you’re still just connecting a single speaker. The only way of using two Studios with a TV is by creating a wireless Home Theater group in the Alexa app, then pairing that with a Fire TV device like the Stick 4K Max or an Omni TV. You’re out of luck if you have something like a Chromecast or Apple TV 4K.

Musically, spatial audio is mostly reserved for Amazon Music Unlimited. That’s a shame, given that most streamers are subscribed to either Spotify or Apple Music. To make matters worse, you don’t automatically get Unlimited with a Prime subscription, and relatively few songs are Atmos-enhanced. Just a sliver of people will get to hear a Studio in its full glory.

Amazon Echo Studio 2023 review: The verdict

Echo Studio front profile shot

Amazon’s speaker and display products seem to be in a holding pattern. The company didn’t announce any major new hardware during its fall 2022 event, unless you count the 5th gen Echo Dot. Reportedly there were thousands of layoffs from its Worldwide Digital division a few months later, an attempt to staunch billions of dollars in losses blamed mostly on Alexa. It seems safe to say we shouldn’t expect an Echo Studio 2nd gen model anytime soon, which could be the main reason we got a software update. As well as the new Glacier White color option, which makes the Echo Studio look like the 2018 HomePod.

There are a few things I’d like Amazon to do with the Echo Studio, whether through further software updates or a sequel product. It’d be great if the company could figure out how to expand spatial audio support, for instance adding Apple Music’s format. I’m not holding my breath, as much because of Apple’s obsession with proprietary formats as anything.

The Echo Studio’s big update has given Amazon’s top smart speaker a new lease on life.

Amazon should also expand TV connectivity with more and better port options, and possibly think about enhanced PC/Mac support. My testing mostly involved app- or voice-controlled listening in my office, and I eventually found myself wondering what it would be like to connect directly to my laptop and enjoy spatial audio in games and other desktop apps. You can already connect directly, to be clear, but that involves a single speaker, using Bluetooth or a compatible cable, and no support for desktop-specific surround formats.

Overall though, I have to hand Amazon kudos for giving the Studio a new lease on life. Whether or not a future model gets any of the upgrades I’m crossing my fingers for, the one we have right now is a fantastic speaker within the scope of music, Alexa smart home control, and pairing with Fire TV devices.

Amazon Echo Studio

Amazon Echo Studio

Multi-speaker design • Quality sound for most music styles • Alexa compatible

One of the best sounding smart speakers you can buy

Powered by Amazon’s Alexa smart assistant, the Echo Studio is one of the best smart speakers on the market. A recent update vastly improved audio quality, making it a competent music player.

Source link

AMAZON

Binance’s BNB Chain to Offer New Decentralized Storage System

Published

on

Binance’s BNB Chain to Offer New Decentralized Storage System

The release of the decentralized storage system’s white paper was having a modest effect on the price of other storage tokens on Wednesday. Filecoin (FIL), storj (STORJ), and arweave (AR) are now trading 2%, 5% and 6%, respectively, above their pre-announcement prices.

Source link

Continue Reading

AMAZON

The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel Set Sounds Absolutely Delightful, Thanks To Rachel Brosnahan’s Adorable Pig Story

Published

on

Rachel Brosnahan playing Midge in the Season 4 trailer for Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.

Over the course of four seasons, and soon a fifth installment, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has managed to one-up themselves and make the scale bigger, the set pieces more extravagant and the monologues snappier. While all of this has been amazing for us viewers, one-upping yourself every time must be quite stressful, and it has been according to Rachel Brosnahan. However, she also came up with an adorable way to de-stress and help the cast and crew by hiring therapy pigs. This also goes to show just how delightful the set of this Prime Video show seems, even during stressful moments. 

Filming Season 2 of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which went on to win many Emmys in 2019, the cast and crew had taken on a much bigger challenge than they did in Season 1. By traveling around the world, and upping the ante overall the stress levels were high. However, Rachel Brosnahan revealed that she had a “delightful” stress relief activity planned involving therapy pigs, truly showing how wonderful this set seems. The actress behind Midge Maisel started her story about therapy pigs by setting the scene on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, saying:  

So this is actually from our second season, we shot ten episodes during our second season, that’s the only time we ever did that, we never tried it again. We started the season in Paris, we traveled to the Catskills, we were on the move a lot. It was a really, really tough season. The crew was really tired. And toward the end of the season, someone had told me about this service in New York, where you can order therapy pigs to come to your workplace and make you feel better. And so, I brought therapy pigs to set and it was kind of incredible.



Source link

Continue Reading

AMAZON

Amazon’s renewable energy portfolio swells to over 20 GW

Published

on

Amazon's renewable energy portfolio swells to over 20 GW

Amazon increased its renewable energy capacity by 8.3 GW in 2022, bringing its total portfolio to over 20 GW, enough to power millions of US homes.

Growing to become one of the largest global companies by market cap comes with great responsibility. The bigger the operations, the more damaging they can be to the environment with more energy use, carbon emissions, etc.

After the pandemic shuttered most people inside their homes, online shopping became a go-to for many.

As a result, e-commerce giant Amazon saw its business surge, with an over 200% rise in profits as shopping habits turned digital. To offset the company’s explosive growth, it has been investing in renewable energy projects and other sustainable activities to reduce its environmental impact.

Since 2014 Amazon has been on a mission to decarbonize its business globally by adding renewable energy capacity and electric vehicles to its fleet while striving to make packaging more efficient.

The e-commerce giant committed to rolling out over 100,000 EDVs from Rivian by 2030 as part of its Climate Pledge. According to Amazon’s latest update, over 1,000 Rivian EDVs debuted this past holiday season to make zero-emission deliveries.

Amazon-renewable-energy
Amazon Rivian EDV (Source: Amazon)

Amazon’s renewable energy portfolio expanded in 2022

Meanwhile, the company added significant clean energy capacity last year to help it reach its goal of powering operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025, five years ahead of its goal.

Amazon announced today it set a new record for the most renewable energy purchased in 2022, adding an additional 8.3 GW through 133 new projects in 11 countries.

Altogether, Amazon now has over 20 GW, enough to power 5.3 million US homes. The clean energy capacity is spread throughout 401 projects (164 wind farms and 237 rooftop solar projects) in 22 different countries. According to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, Amazon remains the most prominent corporate buyer of renewable energy, maintaining the position since 2020.

Once complete and operational, Amazon expects to generate 56,881 GWh of clean energy annually.

Head of sustainability research at BloombergNEF, Kyle Harris, says Amazon’s clean energy portfolio is now among the leading utilities globally, adding:

The fact that it announced a new annual record of clean energy in a year mired by a global energy crisis, supply chain bottlenecks, and high interest rates speaks to its forward planning and expertise in navigating power markets and executing long-term contracts.

Despite economic uncertainty, Amazon stood by its commitment last year, doubling down on its renewable energy efforts.

Electrek’s Take

You have to give credit where credit is due. Amazon is doing its part by deploying hundreds of clean energy projects across the globe.

Amazon says renewable energy reached 85% of its business in 2021. By doubling down this past year, the e-commerce giant is now on track to hit its goal of powering business operations with 100% renewable five years ahead of schedule.

However, the company still has a lot of work to do to lessen its environmental impact. According to research from Statista, packaging accounts for the most significant share of greenhouse gas emissions in the e-commerce industry, accounting for 45% of total emissions.

Amazon has also made strides in reducing emissions by reducing per-shipment packaging weight by 38% (eliminating over 1.5 million tons of packaging), optimizing materials, and offering vendors incentives to use fully recyclable materials.

The e-commerce giant is making significant progress in its renewable energy goals, yet there’s still a long way to go in reducing packaging waste and energy usage overall.

FTC: We use income earning auto affiliate links. More.

Source link

Continue Reading

Trending

en_USEnglish