Amazon Echo 2

  • 12 September 2017
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There are rumours of an Amazon Echo 2 being released soon, It'll be a very interesting time with all of these new 'Smart Speakers' being launched.

The Apple Homepod, the new Sonos speaker with built-in voice mics and the Echo 2 will all be competing to become the speaker of choice for those customers looking for a great sounding smart speaker.

Pricing will be critical, as although there are millions of people who are prepared to pay a premium for Apple products, mainly to keep everything within the Apple ecosystem, I'd imagine Amazon will have to undercut them significantly and Sonos will probably be somewhere in the middle if they release a new Play 1 style speaker with built-in mics.

The only issue that Sonos have is that they don't have their own voice control system, but will rely on Alexa, and Alexa already has a huge userbase, helped by Amazon using their affordable Echo dots as a trojan horse and 'converting' them to Alexa users before either Apple or Sonos have their own voice controlled speakers.

Although we all know that Sonos speakers sound fantastic, and it remains to be seen ( or heard! ) how good the Homepod or Echo 2 will sound, the sound quality advantage that Sonos currently has will be eroded, possibly to the point that for the vast majority of people will be more than satisfied.

Tough times ahead for Sonos, especially if Amazon announce the Echo 2 before the Sonos voice control.

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I agree, and IMO, challengers to Sonos need to achieve stability of music play at home at/better than Sonos levels more than sound quality itself; although one could argue that this is just another aspect of sound quality. Nothing destroys the listening experience as quickly as music stuttering/stopping/refusing to play; all other aspects are those that the ear/brain adapts to quite soon.
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Tough times ahead for Sonos, especially if Amazon announce the Echo 2 before the Sonos voice control.

A counter-argument is that the emergence of Echoes & their ilk will hugely expand the total market for streaming speakers, and Sonos will benefit from that market expansion. If Sonos adds voice control, for muitple voice services, AND maintains superiority in sound quality, stability and flexibility (e.g., configs like stereo pairing plus SUB), it has a good chance of leading that market.
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Yeah, the stability is a critical part of the experience, there's nothing worse than constant stuttering.

I'd be interested to hear from anyone using the multi-room audio feature on their Echo's with their experiences of the stability of their systems.

Sonos are still the leading company for the combination of ease of setup, audio quality and configuration options, it'll be interesting to see if more options are added to the Echo's such as stereo pairing and adding subs etc, I think it's unlikely though.

When writing this topic I forgot about Google Home, maybe it's just me, but I really don't hear anyone talking about the Google Home, and don't know anyone that owns one.

I certainly think Sonos have made the right choice in partnering with Amazon rather than Google, but again, time will tell.
Apple and Homepods may pose a bigger challenge I suspect, if Airplay 2 has made for much more stable wireless music play. From what I read, Homepod version 1.0 will beat Echo in sound quality, offer some sort of stereo play, and may not need a Sub quite as much the Echo may. I don't know how Siri stacks up compared to Alexa, but Apple isn't going to give up on that market. I am also not familiar with Amazon music service, but Apple Music is certainly another potent arrow in the Apple quiver.
PS: from the website: "Put another HomePod in the same room, and the two automatically detect and balance each other — for sound that’s even more lifelike."
Not a stereo pair perhaps, but more than just a single mono speaker source as Echo is.
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The Homepod better sound drastically better than an Echo, or it's going to be a disaster. Remember, it's going to sell for twice as much as the stock Echo price (349 USD). Amazon has more Echo "sales" than they do weekends, so no one even has to pay the MSRP.


I'm very curious and probably overly pessimistic about the Homepod. Apple has proven their fans will take a leap of faith, even if their initial launch of a product line isn't ready for primetime, and those early adopters can provide the motivation it'll take to try and catch up to Amazon. That said, Amazon realized they stumbled across a gold mine, and have been pouring an incredible amount of development dollars into the Echo/Alexa offerings .

Heck, at this point they have so much hardware it's becoming confusing:
- Echo
- Tap
- Echo Dot
- Echo Look
- Echo Show

Side note: After typing echo a bunch the spelling begins to look weird...
...

I'd be interested to hear from anyone using the multi-room audio feature on their Echo's with their experiences of the stability of their systems.


I'm currently testing multi-room and so far am very pleased. I like the way you define a persistent group with a unique name and then either play a song on the group or use the name of a single player and only play in that room. When you have multiple Echo Shows in the group they all display the lyrics of what is playing, very cool for parties. Has been rock solid so far but I am going to expand the group size to see what breaks it.

Biggest weaknesses are no option for wireless stereo pairs and no wireless sub but have worked around both issues using a Dot with other equipment. Still waiting to see what Echo2 and Sonos integration are going to bring to the table but I could happily live with what is available today.
like the way you define a persistent group with a unique name and then either play a song on the group or use the name of a single player and only play in that room.

Now that's really something!
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I agree with pwt. I think voice activation is big enough that all can profit from it. I'm not convinced that Amazon wants to overtake the hifi market. It seems to me that they just want to do what it takes to be the leader in the voice control market. Apple is somewhat similar, but I do think they want a good chuck of the hifi market.

Regardless, I think Sonos is going to remain strong if it can do/maintain the following:
- Continue to have high quality audio. This is going to be less of a strength ans competitors catch up, but it still a must have.

- Contine to have a strong variety of music sources. Again, not a huge advantage anymore, but still a must have.

- Integrate well with tv audio. This is soemthing the Amazon and Apple are not close to. I can see where it would be a deciding factor for many people.

- Work well with voice activation. We've already seen people come here and say they are leaving sonos for an inferior sounding product just because of voice control, so this has to do well. It can be a big advantage to sonos if it works well, and works with all the major voice assistance out there. That's something competitors won't be able to do either.

It's all yet to be seen, but it's entirely possible that Sonos ends up bigger then they are now, this time next year.
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Integrate well with tv audio. This is soemthing the Amazon and Apple are not close to. I can see where it would be a deciding factor for many people.

Sonos?
The Homepod better sound drastically better than an Echo, or it's going to be a disaster. Remember, it's going to sell for twice as much as the stock Echo price (349 USD). Amazon has more Echo "sales" than they do weekends, so no one even has to pay the MSRP.

Apple certainly has set a high bar for itself with that price point, so the sound quality needs to be close to play 5 levels, with stable music play.

Interesting times ahead, for sure. Of the three, Sonos will obviously be the most challenged for being less capable financially because of being much smaller, and for being completely reliant on success in just this sphere. Both aspects can equally well be turned around to advantage of course.
I was just glancing through the new iPhone X features. I use Apple only wherever it makes sense for me to do so, and am well served by a Moto G phone for all my needs, but I was very impressed with all the engineering that has gone into the X. If Homepod is served just as well, it may well impact the market in the same way that iPods did.
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At the time last year when John Mc Farlane sounded quite vulnerable about the company's future and implied that they missed a trick with voice control, I must admit I was a bit concerned. These days not so much. Not that competition is easing in any way but I think Sonos is responding in a fairly sensible way.

Firstly apart from the strength of the Apple brand which is a big factor, on a product face off perspective I think Sonos has clear selling points particularly if the next speaker launch ups the ante with speaker quality to rival the HomePod - which I heard sounds excellent. HomePod is Siri driven. Sonos taking a more agnostic approach and supporting multiple voice systems is a clear advantage. HomePod is Apple Music. Sonos is all and sundry in terms of music services. Not clear to me that Apple will have a family of speaker products. Sonos has a portfolio of products that includes home theatre options. Sonos is long in the business and have cleverly put themselves in a position to launch their new speaker ahead of HomePod. That opportunity should not be missed strategically. Sonos marketing team has angles with which to work.

What to say of Amazon echo? I suppose it remains to be seen how aggressively they choose to compete on sound quality. Are they going to go far enough to capture what I call fringe customers vascilating between both options. That remains to be seen. Again though, I maintain that Sonos and Amazon operate in slight different spaces. Sonos is a bit more niche and caters to music lovers. Amazon is a bit more mass market and more broadly focused on smart home convenience of which music is a main cog. Sonos must continue to pitch itself as the product that gives music lovers a richer and more rewarding experience and bank on there being enough people sold on it to turn a profit.
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I'm not sure I see any 'engineering' in the X (and certainly the 😎 that I've not already seen elsewhere in high end Samsungs for example. That doesn't seem to stop the usual customers claiming how revolutionary and new they are each time.
I'm not sure I see any 'engineering' in the X (and certainly the 😎 that I've not already seen elsewhere in high end Samsungs for example. That doesn't seem to stop the usual customers claiming how revolutionary and new they are each time.
Perception is reality, after all? And Apple manages that a lot better than what Samsung does; I for one can't be bothered to read about their latest launch, but what I do know is that they explode in flight!!
I would agree with upstatemike re multi room Echoes. I have 3 in a downstairs group which after a little initial fiddling now play synchronised music faultlessly - great for parties etc. As 2 dots are linked to reasonable speakers sound quality is good. Very easy to use with voice control, for one or all 3 speakers. However, if I want quality sound I still use Sonos speakers as their sound quality is by far the best.
If you have an echo Show and want an interesting user experience give this a try:

Connect a Dot to an amplifier that turns on when an audio signal is present and a nice set of speakers. Mute the microphone on the Dot so it does not accidentally get triggered from the TV or random conversations. Set up a persistent group including the Dot and an Echo Show. Adjust the volume on the Dot and Show so that the Dot system dominates when music is playing but you can still hear voice command responses on the Show. You now have a high fidelity voice controlled system that displays lyrics as the music plays.

We will probably be able to accomplish the same thing with Sonos gear once the integration is released but it isn't clear exactly how that will work until we get the details in (hopefully) October.
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@upstatemike, you can already do that, in a way, depending on your setup. I have a firetv with voice remote, so I can request music that way with voice, lyrics displaying on the tv. Since the tv audio is a playbar, I have voice control, lyric display, and multiroom. Of course the voice remote isn't as convenient as just speaking to an echo.

Related to that, I hadn't realized that the multiroom functionality is limited to echo devices only, firetv, fire tablets, and other Alexa enabled devices are not included. Somewhat disappointing, but understandable since these devices may not have the hardware needed, and these devices are capable of audio from sources outside of what an echo could do. I would then conclude that you would not be able to syncronize sonos and echo speakers once everything is integrated.

Out of curiousity, if you play a youtube video on an Echo show, can you synchronize the audio with an Echo or Echo Dot? I would guess not.
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Another comment on the Echo multi-room functionality, it has not nearly as robust as what Sonos does. From what I can tell, you cannot change groups dynamically. By that I mean that ones you start a song or playlist in one speaker or group, you cannot transfer it to a different speaker or group. You can't play a song in the kitchen, and then decide you want to continue listening in the bedroom and family room. You have stop it and restart. They may not be a big deal to some, and non-sonos users may not realize how useful the feature can be.

Related to that, you don't have the same kind of volume control. You control the volume of each unit separately, not as a group. You can control each unit by voice, hard buttons, or the Alexa app, but still somewhat of a pain.

All that said though, persistent groups is a very nice feature. If sound quality wasn't a factor, I'd be hard pressed to chose between persistent groups and Sonos dynamic grouping capabilities.
All good points and there is still not enough information about the integration or the upcoming Echo speaker release to know how it will all play out. Maybe Sonos will not be able to do dynamic group changes when controlled by Alexa or maybe Amazon will add that feature to their speakers in an upcoming release. Maybe the new Echo speakers will get a lot closer to Play one quality. Maybe a Show will be able to be linked to a Sonos speaker to display lyrics when playing from Amazon Music.

I haven't been able to trick Alexa into playing YouTube on non-video devices.
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Maybe Sonos will not be able to do dynamic group changes when controlled by Alexa or maybe Amazon will add that feature to their speakers in an upcoming release. .

My hope is neither. I don't want the integration to be so 'tight' that either system is limited by the other. Well, I want sonos to add persistent groups, and I want Alexa to fully handoff any audio related commands to sonos to deal with. I don't want to be limited to Echo sources, or lose the ability to control fully from Sonos.

I suppose it would be nice if my echos suddenly become fullfledged sonos zones, but that's really minimal value to me, and surely would limit future enhancements sonos might have in mind. Not to mention voice control from other voice assistants.
Just waiting for the indignant posts - Sonos, why aren't you supporting Alexa Glasses yet! You'll be out of business soon if you don't keep up! Sigh.
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I was very impressed with all the engineering that has gone into the X.

Yeah, it was even more impressive when Samsung put it into their phones early this year. ;)

Perception is reality, after all? And Apple manages that a lot better than what Samsung does; I for one can't be bothered to read about their latest launch, but what I do know is that they explode in flight!!

I'm always impressed by the brand loyalty that Apple instills in some of their customers. I don't really understand what they've done to earn it myself, but you can't dispute the existence.

Personally, I find it in my interest to be well informed about a device I'm going to spend more on than my Playbar. If you're absolutely crushed for time though, here's a concise article:
http://www.trustedreviews.com/news/galaxy-s8-vs-iphone-x-3286424
Just waiting for the indignant posts - Sonos, why aren't you supporting Alexa Glasses yet! You'll be out of business soon if you don't keep up! Sigh.

Probably not the intention but this brings up a good point: Will the Sonos integration with Alexa work with any Alexa enabled device or just with actual Amazon Echos? Alexa is starting to show up in a lot of third party devices as well as additional non-Echo Amazon devices like Amazon Glasses... are these all potential control points for Sonos gear?
Interesting question. I'd think, since it has to be a wifi connection (Sonos only has that 🙂 ), then it should be all Alexa enabled devices, assuming that they're connected to the same wifi as the Sonos device.

Although I'm honestly not sure how potential cases would be handled if it wasn't connected to the same wifi. I guess we can find out when Sonos releases the promised update this year. I'm pretty sure I can use Alexa on my Amazon app, but I'll be honest, I've never tried it, either in my home, or on the road.
Sonos has previously stated it will work with any Alexa enabled device, specifically listing Fire tablets and Fire TV (in addition to Echo) in the press release.