Amazon Echo Sub: A Subwoofer Whose Time Has Come

It’s about freaking time. Amazon has just released the Echo Sub’ a subwoofer that pairs with a single or stereo pair of Echo smart speakers to finally address the bottom line. It’s a fact: small speakers can’t produce impactful bass, so the Echo Sub does the job. The past few years have seen an influx of small smart speakers that are certainly convenient, but not a single one had a decent bass response. Finally, Amazon has addressed the problem, and in my opinion, hit it out of the park.

The Echo Sub ($129) isn’t the first subwoofer that’s designed to work with a smart speaker. Sonos was first, but the Echo Sub is a fraction of the cost of the ($700) Sonos. The Echo Sub is designed to work exclusively with Amazon Echo smart speakers. In fact, there isn’t an audio input — it only works wirelessly, paired with the Echo. Two Echos can be set up to work as a 2.1 stereo left/right system, with the subwoofer supplying ample bass. This pairing is so appealing that Amazon sells it as bundle with two second generation Echos for $250 or two new Echo Plus for $330. I had a chance to review the Sub with the Echo Plus system, and will be posting a review of the Plus in the near future.

The Echo Sub features a down-firing 6” speaker powered by a 100-watt Class D amplifier. The lower frequency response is 30 Hz (–6dB) with an adaptive crossover from 50-200 Hz. It is 8” high and 8.3” wide, and is finished with a charcoal gray fabric that matches nicely with the new Echo Plus speakers. Unlike the smaller speakers, it lacks the light rings on the top — there’s only a small power/pairing LED on the back near the power plug.

The Echo Sub pairs quickly via the Amazon Alexa app. Once paired and set up with the other Echos, accessing your music is as simple as saying, “Alexa, play music.” As long as you haven’t changed your setup, the subwoofer will fire up automatically with the speakers for music playback. In addition to overall volume, you can control the amount of bass by voice control too. “Alexa, turn up the bass” or “Alexa, reset the equalizer”

The sound of the Echo Sub is quite impressive. Considering how many smart speakers I’ve listened to, I was blown away by having real bass again. Being able to get a wide image by placing the Echos far apart, the stereo imaging is great, but one does need to be cautious about the speaker placement. Normally, a subwoofer can go pretty much anywhere since bass isn’t localized. However, the crossover on the Echo Sub is rather high, so the subwoofer needs to be placed somewhat near the smaller speakers to prevent localization.

I checked it out across a wide range of music, playing from Spotify Premium. The bass was solid, tight and impactful. It was never overwhelming, and had a balanced sound. On songs with a natural bass, like Hozier’s “Nina Cried Power (featuring Mavis Staples)” the bass guitar is really showcased and the low notes from the organ and choir are distinct and pronounced.

While other companies are touting the sound quality of their smart speakers, Amazon has done exactly the right thing by introducing a subwoofer. I wish it was compatible with other smart speakers. I guess I know which smart speakers will be unplugged and stored, and which ones will stay out long after my review is done.