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Amazon Fire TV update turns Echo devices into wireless home theater speakers

Amazon has released a new firmware update for the Amazon Echo, Amazon Echo Dot, Amazon Echo Plus, and Amazon Echo Studio that introduces the option to have them moonlight as an additional speaker while watching content through an Amazon Fire TV Cube, Amazon Fire TV Stick, or Amazon TV Stick 4K. The update amounts to a makeshift home theater solution for anyone looking to breathe fresh life into their entertainment setup with existing hardware.

You have the option to hook up as many as two Echo devices and an Echo Sub to create a makeshift 2.1 surround sound system. It shouldn’t sound bad, either. The Echo Studio can handle Dolby Atmos, while both the latest Echo and Echo Plus have Dolby Audio Processing to boot. This essentially means they’re armed with the same tools the basic home-theater-in-a-box setups have, even if the actual speakers themselves aren’t quite on the same level.

Here’s a look at the different configurations the feature supports:

  • 1.0 (one Echo device working as an external speaker)
  • 1.1 (one Echo device working as an external speaker with Echo Sub
  • 2.0 (two Echo devices working as external speakers, one as left audio and one as right audio)
  • 2.1 (two Echo devices working as external speakers, one as left audio and one as right audio, and on Echo Sub)

Setting up “Home Theatre System on Fire TV” is easy. It’s as simple as connecting an Amazon Fire TV and an Amazon Echo to the same network and Amazon account, then navigating the Alexa mobile application to configure the “Home Cinema.” The process takes about 5 minutes, from connecting the devices for the first time and linking them to an Amazon account to streaming something through Fire TV with the feature enabled.

A substitute for surround sound it is not

While Home Theatre System on Fire TV won’t be taking home any awards in the quality department, it’s still a nice feature for anyone looking to bolster their television’s audio output with a device (or two) they might have knocking around at home. In fact, at $100 a pop for the current Amazon Echo, it’s an even more economical solution for those looking to invest in some home theater hardware, running $200 for a basic two-channel setup.

Factor in all of the smarts that come part and parcel and this could prove to be a tempting bottom-of-the-barrel home theater solution for convenience viewers or a way to add some oomph to an otherwise standard bedroom viewing experience. But be under no illusion: This is no substitute for a proper surround sound setup. Start using this feature thinking it’ll be comparable to your local IMAX and you’ll be nothing but disappointed.

Expect a boost in volume and maybe a bit of punch from an Echo Sub (if you’re using one), and you’ll be happy.

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Josh Levenson
Having spent half a decade writing about the latest AV, mobile and social news for some of the world’s largest…
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