For starters, the Echo Sub isn’t a standalone device. It is meant to work with an existing Echo speaker. At the moment, Amazon officially supports the Echo (2nd generation) and the Echo Plus (2nd generation). The simple mission to add some serious bass to the music playback from the compatible Echo speakers, making the entire proposition even more enticing for those who take sound quality seriously.
Pull the Echo Sub out of the box, and what you get is something that looks like an oversized Echo Plus. Like a seriously oversized speaker. But then again, any subwoofer worth its salt, does need to have the dimensions game on its side. This is 8.3-inches in diameter and 8-inches in height. Complete with a matte finish on the top and charcoal fabric on the sides—much like the Echo speaker. Inside the 4-litre chamber is a 100-watt amplifier powering a 6-inch subwoofer. The Echo Sub is rated from 200 Hz down to 30Hz (-6dB), and this is down-firing by design.
Amazon have tried to keep the Echo Sub as simple as possible. The only connectivity option is the Dual-band Wi-Fi supports 802.11 a/b/g/n (2.4 and 5 GHz), no physical ports and just one button in case you need to reset it. To set this up, you need the Alexa app on your phone (free for Android and iOS). Here, you will be able to set this up in the 1.1 system (one Echo speaker and one Echo Sub) or 2.1 system (two Echo speakers for left and right channel audio, and one Echo Sub). To set this up, you need to follow the same process as you would with just any other Echo speaker—download and fire up the Alexa app on your phone (free for Android and iOS), select the set up a new device option, select Echo Sub from the list and follow the on-screen guidelines to get this ready and working with your Echo speaker. While Amazon added the equalizer option (bass, mid and treble) for Echo speakers a while ago, you’ll still be able to manually control the level of bass that the Sub outputs.
However, you cannot control the crossover frequency settings for the Echo Sub. At least that option isn’t available at the moment.
We first set this up in 1.1 configuration, and the Echo Sub does exactly what it advertises—adds serious bass to the sound. This most certainly isn’t some rough implementation for the sake of it—the way the Echo Sub manages the frequencies with the Echo Plus is impressive. You can simply say “Alexa, set Sub level to 6” to control the amount of bass you want. The vocals and soundstage aspects are still dictated largely by your Echo speaker, but the fact that you now get to hear and feel more frequencies adds to the experience.
However, the Echo Sub really makes its impact in a 2.1 channel configuration. That means, you have two of the same Echo speakers set up for the right and left channel audio output, and the Echo Sub adding the bass. The wider sound from the two speakers, crisper vocals and the thump added to the mix makes this one of the best sounding Echo speaker setups we have ever heard.
That said, the Echo Sub, which is in its first generation, isn’t without its own set of issues. The bass can sometimes sound slightly restricted in the sense that it seems to have been hemmed in artificially—you get the feeling that it could go wider but doesn’t. Yet at the same time, it sounds a tad too powerful with certain music. The rather limiting voice commands to dial up or down the bass level is certainly not always adequate—a certain degree of fineness is missing. Secondly, we noticed that at times, whenever we ask Alexa to pause or stop the music playback, the Sub lags a bit before it comes to a halt.
For all the impressive addition to sound that the Echo Sub brings to the table, there is the small matter of the price. The Echo Sub is priced at Rs12,999 and you will also need an Echo Plus (Rs14,999) or an Echo (Rs9,999). If we are to discount the Echo from the discussion for the moment and factor in the top-of-the-line Echo Plus, you will pay Rs27,998 for one speaker and one subwoofer. A lot of us would consider the Marshall Stanmore Bluetooth speaker (around Rs25,000) and hook it up to an Echo Dot (Rs4,499) and you will get arguably better sound for a bit more money—after all, the Marshall speakers are renowned for their sound signature. This becomes even more complicated of you are considering a 2.1 channel setup—add another Rs14,999 to the bill and you are paying Rs42,997 for the entire system. Again, a larger Marshall Woburn (around Rs34,000) paired with an Echo Dot brings the alternative expenditure to Rs38,399—with the Marshall sound signature as well as the Alexa smartness to boot.
There is no doubt that the Echo Sub adds the missing ingredient to the entire experience of listening to music on an Echo speaker. However, that addition does come for a significant investment, and there are alternative setups that could actually sound better. For casual users, the Echo Sub is a as simple as things come, and that is great. For those who want a bit more control over sound, the options are limited, at least for the moment.
Also Read | Amazon Echo Plus Review: This is Proof That Refinement is All That is Needed, at Times
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