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Amazon takes a shot at Apple and Sonos with $199 Echo Studio, a 3D smart speaker

Amazon’s Echo is one of the most popular smart speakers in the world, and while it’s got plenty of smart features, its primary function for most people is listening to music. It’s not a bad speaker for that activity, but it’s nowhere near as good as a Sonos One or an Apple HomePod, both of which offer voice assistants. Now, however, there’s a new Echo in town — the $199 Echo Studio — and it promises to make your smart speaker one of the best music-listening devices in your home.

Available for pre-order now and shipping in November, the Echo Studio uses a multi-angle driver configuration, which Amazon claims can deliver a fully immersive 3D-listening experience from just a single speaker. To back that claim up, the Echo Studio is compatible with two of the leading surround-sound formats: Dolby Atmos and Sony 360.

At $199, the Studio sits right beside the $199 Sonos One, while it undercuts similarly high-end smart speakers like the $350 Apple HomePod and (regularly) $399 Google Home Max, by up to $200.

Inside the Studio are left, right and top midrange speakers that create directional sound, a directional tweeter, and a built-in 5.25-inch bass driver coupled with a bass port.

Atop the Studio, you’ll find the usual complement of Echo buttons, the familiar LED ring light, and a seven-mic array. Using similar technology to both the HomePod and the new Sonos Move, the Studio can self-tune its EQ settings using these mics. Amazon claims this process takes as little as 10 seconds, according to The Verge.

To get even more out of the Echo Studio, you’ll be able to create a stereo pair if you buy two of them, and the speaker can also be synced to a 4K-capable Amazon Fire TV device so you can experience Dolby Atmos soundtracks (supported by Amazon Prime Video, naturally) via a wireless speaker.

Sonos One:

Apple HomePod:

Google Home Max:

The Echo Studio comes at an interesting time for Amazon as the company just announced a major upgrade to its Amazon Music Unlimited streaming platform called Amazon Music HD. Featuring both lossless and hi-res music tracks, it’s primed as the perfect music service to pair with the Studio’s high-caliber sound performance. To take advantage of the Studio’s 3D-audio prowess, Amazon Music HD has about 1,000 songs in this surround sound format. Picking one of these tracks while listening to the Studio will automatically stream the 3D version unless you choose otherwise.

As such, Amazon has suddenly moved ahead of both Spotify and Apple Music when it comes to sound quality while adding a comparable competitor to Apple’s HomePod at a price that runs as much as $100 less.

While the Echo Studio has a lot to live up to when it comes to its 360 sound promises — we’re not sure how potent Dolby Atmos can be through a speaker this size when it comes to creating truly spatial sound — just the fact that the speaker adds such specialized codecs is a second major indication in as many months that Amazon is getting very serious about sound.

Amazon also announced a whole bunch of new Alexa-powered devices including:

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the driver arrangement in the Echo Studio. The drivers are arranged in a multi-angle configuration. Also misstated was which Amazon Fire TV devices can sync with the Echo Studio. Only 4K-capable Fire TV devices can wirelessly sync with it.

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