After a flurry of complaints about subpar sound quality in the new Amazon Echo — including those of our own in our review — Amazon launched a firmware update to fix the issue. This move by the tech giant comes as refreshing news, considering it has only recently been possible to remotely apply a fix to sound quality in a speaker, let alone implement one so quickly.
Several customers who received their devices last week left scathing reviews on Amazon’s website, with many giving just one or two stars and dinging the poor acoustics. The new Echo — arguably Amazon’s flagship smart speaker — was ranked just three out of five stars on Amazon based on more than 300 reviews, with many noting that the sound quality, when compared to the original Echo, was just not there. Many said they had already returned the device or were planning to.
“Sorry Amazon, you got it all wrong on this one,” wrote John J. Ryan in the review section of the new Echo on Amazon’s website. “A second generation should be an improvement. I have one of the early 1st generation Echo(es), and I am a big fan. What a disappointment. The new unit was no competition. It truly sounded like a cheap imitation of the original.”
“YIKES! sounds like someone stuffed a blanket into the speaker,” added Love03 on November 5.
In response to the complaints, Amazon worked swiftly to address the issue, telling Digital Trends that the firmware update improved the speaker’s frequency response curve to provide a clearer sound with cleaner highs, more open midrange, and improved bass response.
“Because Alexa’s brains are in the [Amazon Web Services] cloud, we can adjust features or add functionality, very quickly, on behalf of our customers,” said Marcello Typrin, director of product management for Alexa experiences and devices. “In this instance, we assessed early feedback regarding audio on the all-new Echo, worked to make adjustments based on that feedback, and were able to quickly implement the change through the cloud and deliver it to customers’ devices.”
In our own review of the device, we noted that, “The older Echo has more prominent bass, a slightly more laid back midrange, and more muted treble. The new Echo has less bass and a slightly cleaner midrange, so vocals are a little less veiled in sound quality, but the treble, while more prominent, is a little on the dirty side. When volume goes up, so does distortion. As we switched back and forth between the two, the older, larger Echo was the clear winner. Our panel of five listeners were unanimous in this observation.”
We tested out the device again on Monday, November 6 after the firmware upgrade and found that the acoustics were much better overall in the new Echo. While the bass still wasn’t as robust as the original, the sound quality was a vast improvement — less tinny and much crisper, with overall clearer acoustics than the original. The speaker also seems to enjoy a boost in overall gain, achieving higher sound pressure levels (volume) with less distortion.
Several customers who initially complained about the device also seem pleased with the update. As of Monday afternoon, a few reviewers who initially gave the device one or two stars had upgraded their reviews, noting that the firmware made the all-new Echo sound better.
“I received my Echo 2nd Gen on the first day of release with great expectations,” wrote TommyB. “After setting the unit up, like many, I was disappointed in the sound quality. However, after the update, which downloaded automatically, I am very impressed with the unit. Thanks to Amazon for quickly addressing this issue. I have absolutely no reservations in giving it a 5-star rating.”
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