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Echo Input review: Now every speaker can be a smart speaker

The Echo Input is an inexpensive way to add smart streaming and Alexa capabilities to almost any speaker.
February 23, 2019
Photo of a connected Amazon Echo Input 2 on a wooden table.

Smart speakers are convenient, I’ll give you that. But if you’re the sort of person who really cares about quality audio, a Google Home or Amazon Echo just isn’t going to cut it. But what if you could add smart streaming capabilities to your favorite speaker? The Amazon Echo Input lets you do just that.

The premise is pretty simple. Take the smarts of an Echo Dot, remove the speaker and slap it in a much smaller shell. The Amazon Echo Input isn’t the first to do this either. Remember the now discontinued Chromecast Audio? An audio-only cast receiver, the Chromecast Audio could output over 3.5mm or Optical, the latter allowing you to get high-resolution audio straight to a receiver. 

So is the new Echo Input worth picking up? That’s what we aim to discuss in this Amazon Echo Input review. 

Photo of the Amazon Echo Input held in a hand for size comparion.

The Amazon Echo Input is a deceptively small device. A flattened out disk, it is easy to hide away once you have it all set up.

Amazon has done a good job at making the Echo Input nondescript and the traditional ring of lights seen on Echo speakers is now just a single LED. Two buttons at the top let you mute the microphone or activate Alexa. Four far-field microphones can be spotted up at the top, just as on the Echo Dot.

Port selection on the Echo Input is limited to a Micro-USB power input as well as a 3.5mm audio out jack.

Let’s talk sound quality

Setting up the Amazon Echo Input is pretty simple. A 3.5mm audio jack can connect the Input directly to a pair of powered speakers. All commands to Alexa will then be routed out through your stereo speakers.

Side photo of the Amazon Echo Input ports featuring micro USB and 3.5mm audio jack.

Amazon hasn’t given out any details about the DAC or amp section onboard the Echo Input, but you shouldn’t expect audiophile-grade hardware here. Connected to a pair of bookshelf speakers, the Echo Input gave out a fairly clean output though volume levels topped off at a bit lower than we’d have liked.

The Echo Input can also connect to a speaker via Bluetooth. I paired up the Echo with an Ultimate Ears Megaboom Bluetooth speaker and the overall experience was quite good with one big exception.

Bluetooth speakers invariably shut down if you stop using them for a few minutes as a power saving measure. With the speaker shut off, the Echo Input has no way to give you an audio response and you will have to manually reach out and turn the speaker back on. Now, this isn’t really the Echo Input’s fault but it certainly is something to keep in mind as most audio receivers have similar power saving features built in.

All of the smarts

The Echo Input is really just a gutted out Echo Dot and therefore can perform all the functions of a regular Echo speaker. Be it something as mundane as streaming music from Spotify to booking you a cab, the Echo Input does it all.

Amazon Echo Input top with Alexa listening blue light

It can also be placed in a multi-room group so that your high-end living room speaker can join in the fun with a speaker placed in another room like the kitchen.

The Echo Input is also vastly superior to a Bluetooth receiver. The latter essentially takes over your phone and you can’t take calls or play a game without muting music streaming or broadcasting your audio all around. Neither of those is ideal. Since the Echo Input streams music directly over the internet, you are free to use your phone however you like.

Amazon Echo Input: Who is it for?

The Echo Input costs $35 or 2,999 rupees in India, making it a fairly reasonably priced entryway to adding streaming functionality to your existing speaker set up. The fact that your phone is not tied to the speakers over Bluetooth is a definite tick in its favor. The Echo Input can also be used to get a Sonos style multi-room set up on the cheap if you’ve already got speakers on hand.

Amazon Echo Input next to a retro radio on a wooden table.

The lack of optical out means that the Amazon Echo Input might not satisfy audiophiles but the audio quality here is good enough to satisfy all but the most discerning listeners. The bigger question, of course, is why would you choose this over a more capable and not much more expensive Echo Dot? The much more discrete size is a big one in the Input’s favor. Moreover, once you start adding a few of these to a large multi-room home audio setting, there are significant savings to be had.

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That’s it for our Amazon Echo Input review. What do you think about the Echo Input? Do you think this is a cool way to reuse your old speakers or would you prefer a more modern speaker that has smart capabilities integrated into it? Let us know in the comments.