SEATTLE—”Echo Dot is the best-selling speaker ever.”
With that simple assertion, Amazon made no bones about its aspirations to keep making Echo-branded devices—and proceeded to unveil a significant number of voice-activated and connected-home products and technologies, with a mix of existing products and all-new ones.
The rapid-fire list:
Echo Dot: Amazon promises that this new model is 70-percent louder than the original, thanks to a bump to a 1.6-inch audio driver.
Echo Input: Echo now has its Chromecast Audio equivalent. This new no-speaker device, the shape and size of a thin disc, plugs in to existing speakers via a 3.5mm jack and connects them to your home’s Echo network of devices—all while including a series of microphones for voice recognition. The $34.99 Echo Input will launch “later this year.”
Echo Sub: This brand-new, 100-watt subwoofer will connect to other speakers in your home—and can create a 2.1-sound solution if you connect it to two other Echo devices, which will also receive true stereo support. The $129.99 Echo Sub will launch later this month with pre-orders beginning today.
Echo Link: If you have an existing audio receiver, plug the $199.99 Echo Link into that array—with support for a variety of audio inputs and outputs, such as coaxial, subwoofer, and RCA—to put that receiver’s series of products into your Echo sound ecosystem. For $299.99, you can opt for the Echo Link Pro, which includes a 60-watt amplifier. Weirdly, neither of these devices includes a microphone array; you’re expected to have additional Echo devices to tap into the Echo Link’s potential.
Echo Plus: Call it the Echo Plus Plus, if you’d like, as this takes the existing all-in-one, speaker-loaded hub and adds a new fabric casing, upgrades to its internal speakers, and a new, built-in temperature sensor. This model’s pre-orders begin today for $149.99, and the hub will begin selling later this month.
[Update, 3:50 p.m.: We just gave Amazon’s demo sound station a spin—two refreshed Echo Plus units, plus an Echo Sub—and commanded the speaker array to blast our usual battery of rock, jazz, and hip-hop tests. That’s roughly $430 of parts to pump out sound that isn’t necessarily more impressive than Apple’s $350 Homepod, though it’s still solid, with the $130 Echo Sub pulling most of the weight in the form of distortion-free, room-filling oomph across the board. (The highs on the Echo Plus units were the most disappointing element.) Amazon reps told us that an upcoming update to the Echo control app will let users individually adjust sound levels for highs, meds, and lows on a plus-six to minus-six scale.]
Amazon Smart Plug: This $25 dongle comes as a Trojan horse for Amazon’s promises of a new “frustration-free setup” feature for all Echo devices. Plug this single-outlet dongle into a power outlet, and within “30-45 seconds,” it will seek and log in to an existing, Echo-fueled SSID, which will prompt an existing Echo device to ask your permission to pair the new plug. At this point, it will exchange “encrypted and secured” wireless credentials and assign that plug a spoken name in your network, which you can freely change.
Echo Auto: This small device sees Amazon try to put a Siri- or Google Assistant-like experience in your car… by requiring a small hardware dongle. And the dongle only works if it’s wirelessly connected to your own Internet-connected smartphone. But, hey—Alexa skills integration! The dongle will start at $25 for “invitees,” who will receive offers to buy the Echo Auto’s first wave “later this year.” That will be followed by a general $50 rollout in the future. The dongle will connect to your car’s audio either via Bluetooth or an auxiliary jack, and it includes eight discrete microphones.
Fire TV Recast: Amazon’s first DVR product revolves around over-the-air broadcasts, and it’s meant to be installed in whatever room in your home gets the best bunny-ears reception for local channels. From there, the Recast will wirelessly send both live and pre-recorded broadcasts to any Amazon device with a TV-watching interface, including Echo Show and Fire TV. $229.99 pre-orders begin today, with shipments beginning later this year.
AmazonBasics Microwave: A $59.99 voice-activated microwave—with apparent recognition of various cooking options via voice commands. Today’s on-stage demo had the tester put a potato into this microwave, close the door, tap a button, and say “one potato.” The microwave started cooking with a roughly six-minute timer assigned to that request. It’s unclear exactly how many specific food types are supported or whether peculiar commands like defrosting get their own timer settings, but the microwave doesn’t include additional sensors. (Amazon emphasized that it engineered the device to play nicely with 2.4HGz.) Its release date is “later this year.”
Echo Wall Clock: We’re getting into Spaceballs: The Toilet Paper territory here. But if you like the idea of an analog wall clock with basic Echo voice-skill functionality, this simply designed $30 clock will meet your needs “later this year.” (And if you just want Alexa functions via a low-quality speaker, plus an actual clock, this costs the same as an Echo Dot, to be fair.) Its primary perk is a series of LED lights for every minute-hand slot, which hint toward upcoming within-the-next-hour timers.
Echo Show: This $229.99 refresh of the screen-equipped Echo Show, with pre-orders beginning today, boasts a larger screen, a new fabric backcover, and new dual, side-firing, 2-inch drivers for its speakers. A brief demo included a loud blast of clear-sounding music that filled the reveal event’s massive space, which bodes well for its indoor kitchen-filling chops. Pre-orders begin today, with shipments starting later this year.