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Amazon gives everyone a first look at the new Echo with superior speakers

Alexa’s back, and she has a whole new look. At Amazon’s Devices Event on Wednesday, the company unveiled the latest model of its popular Echo smart speaker. Although the second-generation Echo wasn’t our favorite smart speaker in the world, we appreciated its compact design and huge suite of Alexa skills. Given the swelling roster of other Echo devices (including the tiny Dot and feature-rich Echo Plus), what does the new Echo bring to the table to make itself stand out?

The most notable change is in the speakers. When we reviewed the 2017 model, our testers were disappointed by the anemic bass of its 2.5-inch woofer. The Echo Plus, meanwhile, sported a 3-inch woofer capable of more muscular bass sounds. Amazon remedied the Echo’s sound problems in the latest generation, as the new speaker has “the same audio architecture as Echo Plus, including neodymium drivers, 3-inch woofer and increased back volume.” We thought the old Echo was fine for casual listening, but these sonic improvements could help the new model compete with mightier smart speakers like the Sonos One.

Those fancy drivers will be a boon if you plan on using Amazon’s new hi-fi music streaming tier, Amazon Music HD. At $13 a month for Prime members — $15 a month for everyone else — the service offers over 50 million tracks in the lossless FLAC format.

Higher sound quality means you’ll also be able to better enjoy Alexa’s new celebrity voice features. Users will be able to swap out Alexa’s traditional voice for various celebrities, the first of which will be none other than Samuel L. Jackson.

If you want to impress your friends with the Echo’s new speakers, invite them over to test out their favorite music. Alexa’s new Guest Connect feature allows users to quickly connect their own account to any Alexa speaker they come across.

Beauty may be more than skin deep, but that doesn’t mean Amazon has skimped on the surface details. The new Echo has the friendly cloth design that a lot of speakers are embracing these days, and it comes in three classic colors — charcoal, sandstone, and heather gray — as well as the new twilight blue.

The new Echo costs $100, and is currently available for pre-order.

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