Home automation and smart assistance have quickly become the big thing for new speakers for your home.
While there are now a few competitors in the market, few can touch the ubiquity that Amazon has achieved with the Amazon Echo range of products. The only issue is many people have a system they love and have invested in already. This is where the latest in the Echo range, the Input, comes into play.
When you boil it down, the Echo Input is an Echo Dot that’s lacking any speaker abilities. It still has all the features you would hope for from a smart assistant, and the small size and low price point, make it an easy investment, especially if you have a “dumb” sound system begging to be updated.
The Amazon Echo Input is a small 8cm disk in black or white and built to be heard and not seem. The unobtrusive design fits part and parcel to its goal, to let your older audio tech join the voice assistant revolution. You will find no bright rings of light, fabric siding, or even bright LED’s that let you know it is always present. The Input acts as a true set it and forget it piece of technology.
Even with this minimal visual design, the Input packs all the features you would expect from an Echo based device, sans the speaker. A simple LED on the top of the Input lets you know when Alexa has been enabled. The minimalistic buttons beside the LED let you mute Alexa, along with calling Alexa with a wake word.
Since there are no speakers on the Input, there is no volume control on the device of any kind. It should also be noted that the Input will need to be connected to a stereo or powered speaker to function properly.
I/O on the Echo Input is as minimal as you would expect from such a small device. You will find a 3.5mm headphone jack used to connect the Input to your speaker system of choice, along with a single Micro USB port that is used to power the device. There is no 3.5mm input, so Bluetooth will be your input method of choice should you need local audio, with the slew of Alexa audio services working well for cloud-based listening.
Bluetooth Audio works well in testing, with no sign of audio dropping, or even spotty audio quality. While it is still hard to say if A2DP give as high fidelity a signal as a direct connection when dealing with a high-end audio setup, for most people the audio will be more than sufficient. The Bluetooth also managed to work flawlessly from an adjacent room, making it an easy option to give wireless audio to ageing, but still quality sound systems.
But, with this being an Echo device, there is far more to explore than simple wireless audio. The Echo Input uses the same quad far-field mic array as the Echo Dot, so you can expect the same level of comprehension and clarity you can expect from the more expensive device.
In a room with moderate to loud audio, the input had no real issue understanding commands, it was also easy to set up and get underway, with the full process taking no more than around 5-10 minutes total. Combine that with the fact you can place it anywhere your cables can reach, make the Input a painless experience to get you transitioned to the virtual assistant future.
The Alexa Input is not a revolution in the Echo brand, but it is a much-needed addition to the lineup. For the price of 34.99USD, it is hard to knock what the Input is trying to do. It works well and is a relatively painless device to get working. If you have an older Hi-Fi or Receiver and want to move it into the 21st century, it is hard to beat what the Input can offer.