In Amazon’s second (perhaps now annual) surprise Alexa event, it is making a bigger push into the home audio space with the Amazon Echo Sub. As was leaked yesterday, it’s a 100W subwoofer that is meant to supply the bass for a home audio setup. It can be paired with two “of the same compatible Echo devices” for full stereo pairing, and it will be controlled with the Alexa app or with your voice.
It ships later this month, available for preorders today. It costs $129.99.
The device itself is a big, cloth-wrapped cylinder that encloses a six-inch down-firing woofer. When paired with two Echo devices, it should create a 2.1 stereo system. The stereo pairing feature is also new — previously, you could group Echo devices into a room but not into actual stereo systems, as you can with the HomePod or the Google Home Max.
When paired with a single Echo you get 1.1 sound, with two Echos you get 2.1. They also will work in Amazon’s multi-room setup as groups. Alexa is also getting new music skills, like new music alerts from your favorite bands.
Amazon pushing into the home audio market makes sense — both Google and Apple have been doing the same — and it could represent a more serious threat to Sonos. Sonos has several Alexa-compatible devices (and Google Assistant support should still be coming soon), but it targets a more premium audience that is willing to pay higher prices for its products.
Alongside the Sub, Amazon also announced two more audio products, the Echo Link Amp and Echo Link. The Echo Link and Echo Link Amp are stereo amplifiers with multiple audio in and out options. The Link connects to receiver or amplifier, while the Link Amp has a built-in 60-watt dual-channel amplifier that links your Echo to play music on your stereo. The Echo Link costs $199.99 and will be available later this year, while the Link Amp costs $299.99 and will be available early next year. They support Ethernet and coaxial cables. Neither has a microphone, as they’re meant to work with other Echos.
Amazon’s Dave Limp also took a very subtle dig at Sonos while on stage. He talked about how Alexa drove more “ambient music” in the home, which has been Sonos’ raison d’être. He showed a photo of people listening on their headphones, saying “This is the antithesis of a communal, ambient music interface.”
In another bid to push for owning home audio, Amazon is opening up its multi-room music feature to third-party Alexa devices via an SDK. It’ll be available to all devices for free, starting with the Polk Command Bar later this year.
The big question, then, is whether people who are looking for a richer home audio experience will be satisfied with Amazon’s offerings. Historically, the Echo speakers have always been closer to the “good enough” zone when it comes to audio quality. Adding a subwoofer to its product lineup means that Amazon is competing on a different playing field than it was before.
We’ll hopefully have some hands-on impressions and more thoughts on the Echo Sub very soon. Stay tuned for more from Amazon’s event.