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Lifewire / Benjamin Zeman
Good looking design
Great sound with both a woofer and tweeter
Excellent microphone pickup
Easily collects dust
Lots of problems with set up
Poor mobile app design and functionality
Fabric is difficult to clean
The Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is a big upgrade from the previous generation. Amazon abandoned the plastic body in favor of a shorter and more compact fabric covered design. The new Echo Plus looks and sounds better than its predecessor, and makes a great home smart hub with built-in speaker.
The Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is one of the best smart speakers you can buy right now. It’s not quite audiophile quality but its 360 degree Dolby Audio, with both a woofer and tweeter, make it competitive with other similarly-sized smart speakers. The built in smart hub also allows you to control a large number of third-party smart devices with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. We weighed the new design, audio quality, and functionality to see how well the Echo Plus really stands up to the competition.
At 3.9 x 3.9 x 5.8 inches, the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is a whopping 3.5 inches shorter than the previous generation (though it gained 0.6 of barely noticeable width). Wrapped in the same fabric as the new Echo Dot and Echo Show 5, the Echo Plus looks much more friendly and actually fits in with our home decor. At 27.5 ounces, it weighs a little less than the old Echo Plus as well.
It comes in charcoal, heather gray, and sandstone fabric options. We noticed that all three options work well together, so if you have a charcoal colored Echo Dot, it will still look good alongside a heather gray Echo Plus. The top, bottom, and power cord are all black like other Echo devices.
The Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is one of the best smart speakers you can buy right now.
The rounded edges on the top and bottom make a big aesthetic difference, even though they’re fairly simple design changes. The beveled edge on the top is accompanied by the familiar LED ring found on other Echo devices and helps a lot with visibility at a distance. We also appreciated the LED color choices and gradients that Amazon selected..
The Echo Plus still has a seven microphone array on top, right next to the control buttons. Instead of the two buttons on the previous version, the new generation has volume up, volume down, an action button, and a mic off button. They’re all analog rather than capacitive touch, and you can feel and hear the familiar click when pressing them down.
Inside is a 3.0” neodymium woofer and 0.8” tweeter. Near the bottom of the case, located next to the power port, Amazon has changed the 3.5mm audio port to be configurable through the Alexa mobile app as an input or an output. Previously, it was only possible to use the port to plug in external speakers. Now you can play your favorite music from your phone or portable digital music player as well.
Unfortunately, the setup process for the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) was a straight-up nightmare. Amazon needs to get their act together and fix their Alexa mobile app. We eventually got it working but have no idea what was wrong or why it miraculously connected one day.
The setup process for the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) was a straight-up nightmare.
We tried to pair the Echo Plus to the Alexa mobile app every day, several times a day, for over a week. No form of rebooting, manually trying to connect, re-installing the app, or anything we found suggested online worked. Eventually we gave up and moved on to another product we were testing. A couple days later we decided to give it another shot. Arbitrarily, it connected on the first try.
This wasn’t the only Echo device we’ve had trouble with. Of the group we tested, only the Echo Show 5 connected on the first try, and that’s probably because the setup was done on the device itself instead of through the mobile app. On that note...
Amazon Echo devices really have two totally separate aspects of the software—the hands-free, voice-controlled interface and the Alexa mobile app used to set it up. A lot of the Alexa mobile app is pretty terrible. It doesn’t matter what platform, take two minutes to look at the reviews and you’ll know you aren’t alone. We really enjoyed using the Alexa voice assistant after we finally got everything set up though.
The Alexa app uses groups to organize multiple Echo devices. We set up an Echo Dot in the kitchen, an Echo Show 5 on our nightstand, and paired the Echo Plus and an Echo Sub together in the living room. We needed to set up a speaker group in the Alexa app to pair them and then added the speaker group to our “living room” group. Speaker groups allow you to use up to two speakers for stereo sound and add the Echo Sub if you want some extra bass.
We named our three groups based on location; bedroom, kitchen and living room. Other smart devices can be added to groups, like some Philips Hue light bulbs we had kicking around. Now we can control the lights in the bedroom just by asking Alexa. Pairing the bulbs with the Alexa app was just as problematic as pairing the Echo Plus though.
Alexa is all about voice commands and there are alot of them. Many of them enable/install what Amazon calls skills. When we asked for the weather, a weather skills app was installed. Using Alexa with voice commands worked great for us. We loved asking Alexa random questions and being able to control podcasts, music and more with just our voice.
It’s been fun learning what Alexa can do, and Amazon says there are tens of thousands of skills and counting. Even though connecting the Echo devices to the mobile app and the general interface needs major improvement, the voice controlled side of Amazon’s Alexa software works great. If Amazon is able to fix up its mobile app and address the connectivity problems, the experience with Echo products will be a lot better.
One of the best aspected of the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is the audio quality. It delivers strong, dynamic bass balanced with clean mids and treble, all powered by Dolby 360 degree audio. You can even use voice commands to adjust equalizer settings and customize your sound.
Adding a second Echo Plus within a speaker group gives you stereo sound, and you can tack on an Echo Sub for even more bass. You don’t need to connect all three for great audio, though, and we thought the single Echo Plus sounded great by itself. It was also plenty loud, though we noticed some distortion at around 80 percent volume.
One of the best aspected of the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is the audio quality. It delivers strong, dynamic bass, balanced with clean mids and treble, all powered by Dolby 360 degree audio.
One of the primary reasons for the audio quality is that the Echo Plus uses two small speakers, one subwoofer and one tweeter. This allows different frequencies to be handled by whichever speaker is best suited and produces a much cleaner sound. Because of the speaker configuration, the audio is omnidirectional and can be heard at any spot around the speaker.
The seven microphone array also sounds good on the receiving end of voice and video calls. It picks up voice commands very well, even when we had music playing with the volume up a lot. In addition, the newest generation adds a 3.5mm audio input option, and music from our portable music player sounded great. The audio quality is one of the main selling points for the Echo Plus (2nd Gen) and it’s leading the pack when it comes to smart hub speakers right now.
The Echo Plus (2nd Gen) has two features called Drop In and Announce that act kind of like walkie talkies. The Announce feature can be used to have Alexa make an announcement like “Dinner is ready in 5 minutes!” in her own voice, while the Drop In feature is more like a traditional walkie talkie. Both features work by communicating from one Echo device to another but can also be used through the Alexa mobile app.
With the Echo Plus you can also now make free audio calls to US, Mexico, and Canada. Of course you can also use the smart speaker like any other hands free device to make regular phone calls through your mobile plan as well. The audio quality during calls is excellent.
In addition to regular smart hub functionality over Wifi, the Echo Plus has a built-in Zigbee hub to easily setup and control your compatible smart home devices. Zigbee uses the IEEE's 802.15.4 personal-area network standard to communicate with other Zigbee devices between 10–20 metres (instead of clogging up your Wifi or Bluetooth bandwidth). Zigbee smart devices also create a mesh where each device works sort of like an access point, so the signal doesn’t have to reach your hub as long as it’s close to another device.
The Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is $150 (MSRP) and often on sale. Other leading smart speakers like the Sonos One (2nd Gen) at $200 (MSRP) and the Bose SoundLink Revolve+ at $300 (MSRP) are quite a bit more and offer pretty much the same functionality. Considering everything that’s packed into the Echo Plus, it’s a great value for the money. At this price it’s also slightly easier to justify purchasing two so you can pair them for stereo sound.
The SoundLink Revolve+ is twice the cost of the Echo Plus, so if money is a big factor then the Echo Plus is certainly the winner, but the Revolve+ does offer some definite advantages by way of justifying its higher price tag.
The SoundLink Revolve+ has Alexa built-in, though we found the Echo Plus has better microphone pickup than the SoundLink Revlove+ and because of that, better smart hub functionality. The SoundLink Revolve+ does work pretty well though, and isn’t far behind.
Both smart speakers offer 360 degree sound. We think Bose’s speaker has much better sound quality, which isn’t surprising considering Bose’s reputation. We found the bass to be clearer and more articulate. We also noticed a wider soundstage and found it to be more open and clear. The Echo Plus falls a little short when it comes to clarity in the mids and highs as well.
Another major advantage of the SoundLink Revolve+ is that it’s portable and has a 16 hour battery. That means you can easily take it outside when you invite your friends over for a summer BBQ, bring it to the beach, or bring it from one room to another with ease. The Echo Plus is tethered to an outlet with its AC adapter.
The SoundLink Revolve+ doesn’t have an auto-off feature though, so if you want to leave it on you’ll need to plug it in using the USB charger. Overall, we like the SoundLink Revolve+ better for its audio and portability, but the Echo Plus definitely wins out when it comes to smart hub functionality. If you’re looking to leave your smart speaker and hub in one place, save your money and go for the Echo Plus.
The Echo Plus (2nd Gen) is a huge improvement over Amazon’s previous version.
We were pleasantly surprised by both the audio quality and how much better it looks. We have a lot of complaints about the set up process and the Alexa mobile app but after getting the Echo Plus connected, we think it’s a great little smart speaker and hub. At such an affordable price, if you’re looking to join the Alexa ecosystem, it’s a no brainer.
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