Amazon on Wednesday unveiled five new Echo products that raise the bar in the automated home market.
Among other things, Amazon has improved the sound quality in its second-generation Echo speaker to compete with several new competitors in the high-end audio segment.
The new Echo, which is more compact and comes in a variety of shell colors and finishes, offers more immersive sound. It has a new speaker architecture, a dedicated tweeter, Dolby sound processing, and a 2.5 inch down-firing woofer.
The new smart speaker uses Amazon’s second generation far-field technology, which offers improved wake word-processing, better beam-forming and enhanced noise cancellation. These improvements are designed to help Alexa understand users’ commands, even from across noisy rooms.
The Echo allows users to listen to music from several different streaming services, including Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeart Radio and TuneIn.
The new Echo speaker is available for a reduced price — US$99.
Amazon also unveiled Echo Plus, which includes a built-in hub for managing smart home devices.
Users can give the command, “Alexa, discover my devices,” to trigger the Echo Plus to find and set up lights, smart locks, electrical plugs, switches, and other devices without additional apps or hubs.
The technology is compatible with ZigBee devices like Philips Hue, GE and Kwickset, among others. Customers receive a Philips Hue smart lightbulb for free with the purchase of an Echo Plus, while supplies last. The Echo Plus sells for $149.99.
The Echo Plus also has improved sound, with 360-degree omnidirectional audio, and Dolby processing for deeper bass and crisper high notes. Users can stream from the above-mentioned music services. Amazon Music users also can search for songs by individual lyrics or time period — or the service can choose music for you.