4 Reasons to NOT buy a Sonos Play to use with an Echo

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So early, I mean early Black Friday I ventured out to find a better speaker solution for my Amazon Echo. It's Ok, but it would greatly benefit from a better speaker.

I went to Best Buy and tried every Bluetooth speaker they had in the store. Meh. Some were OK but none sounded great.

Then I found the Sonos Play . (affiliate link, thanks) Wow, it sounded really great. I had read that the marriage of Alexa and Sonos in the Sonos Play had some problems in not be able to duplicate all the Echo's commands so that would not work for me. 

So given that it was on sale for 25% off at just $149.99 I figured what the heck!

The Good

Unboxing
Beautifully done experience. The packing was top notch. That's it. All I got.


The Bad (the promised 4 reasons)


What! No Aux in? Nuf said

Setup
To call it an almost nightmarish experience would be a vast understatement. Multiple sign up attempts, logging into both for Sonos and Alexa. It's required to:

  • Download the Sonos app
  • Create a new password for that
  • Connect it to the network
  • Log into Alexa
  • Enable Sonos Skill
  • Connect your Sonos
  • Enable all the music platforms on the Sonos
  • Set up ROOM for the Sonos name
Dam those Skills
To use it you need to say. Alexa, play Christmas music on Pandora in the Living Room. An extra thing to remember and say that would make me and my family nuts. 

The Sound
Well, this is where I finally said enough. It sounded good enough but not good enough to endure the shortcomings. Mostly the issue around adding the final command for what room to play in. Uggg. 

That's it. Back to PC Richards and Sons it goes. Note I bought it there because they close on Thanksgiving. I admire that. 

Have a great holiday. Next step is shopping for a new bluetooth speaker, or maybe I'll try the new Echo



Will speakers work with any receiver?

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In general yes, speakers will work with any modern receiver. From the standpoint that the receiver is driving current to the speaker and moving the driver, all speakers will work as long as they are designed for input via speaker terminals.

Things to consider:

  1. The speaker should be of appropriate ohm's to match the output of the receiver. This is generally 4-8 ohms.
  2. The speaker should not have it's own amplifier built in. This could damage both the speaker and receiver.
  3. The speaker should be of sufficient size depending on the amount of watts you're driving it with. Don't try and drive a 2.5" woofer with a 135 watt receiver, or at least don't try and turn it up to loudly.
Overall you should match the quality of the speaker with the quality level of the amplifier or receiver you're using. This has less to do with whether or not it will work and everything to do with the quality of the output you'll experience. The sound you eventually hear is only as good as the weakest component in your chain. In other words, using a $1,000 receiver with a pair of $50 speakers won't give you as good of results than if you purchased a $500 receiver and a pair of $500 speakers


Are speakers Analog or Digital

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Speakers by their physical nature are inherently analog. They are a physical device affecting physical space. 


Then why are some speakers sold as "digital ready"?

Because, marketing. Speakers work when current, a small amount, is sent through the speaker wire to the electric current flows through the coil, it becomes a temporary electromagnet. The permanent magnet on the speaker is attracted and repelled which moves the speaker cone, which moves the air to create sound.  

Are some speakers better at working with digital sources than others? The short answer is no because the source has nothing to do it the speakers function. 

Does a digital source have an affect on the sound?

Yes, what will have an affect on the sound of a digital source is the type of DAC (Digital Audio Converter) that is in your amplifier. 

Did Amazon stop making the Echo Tap?

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The short answer appears to be no. If you look at Amazon's posts about ALL the Echo's, something is missing. What happened to the Echo Tap? The Echo Tap is/was the only battery powered Echo in Amazon's lineup. Though originally you needed to tap the top to ask a question Amazon added hands free use earlier this year. So in effect it's a portable Echo. Here's a picture of the current lineup according to Amazon.

Hmmmm. No Tap. It would be a shame if the Tap were eliminated from the lineup given none of the
new products run on battery power. Besides running on a battery it came with a really nifty charging dock which I wish all bluetooth speakers came with. Plugging in a USB plug all the time is a pain in the butt. Dropping it into its cradle is a sinch. Now the tap did not sound as good as the full grown echo but it more than made up for that in portability and its 8 hour battery life.

I hope they are just working on a new one to either replace it, or maybe this was just an oversight. We'll see. Will you miss the Echo Tap if it's gone?

This article was updated to say Amazon did not stop selling the Echo Tap on 10/7/17

One Important, Overlooked Feature of the new Amazon Echo

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So far much has been made about the fabric and wood styled covers, the alleged better sound (likely it WILL sound better) and the smaller design. One thing a lot of folks have not really called out is that this time, the new Amazon Echo has a 3.5mm output jack so you can hook up external speakers.

Why external speaker matter on an Echo

As good as the Echo will likely sound better than the first generation, it's unlikely to sound incredible. It still only has a 2.5 "subwoofer" which is still a very, tiny, speaker to expect too much bass from.

Granted that most of the time you'll be happy listening to music, the weather and your daily briefing without deep bass but there will be times when you'll want that better sound. The first generation offered not ability to accommodate this since it did not have the jack. Now you can buy a nicer mono or stereo pair of self powered speakers to hook up for a party, special occasion or when you venture into the yard and need more volume.

In fact all the current Echo's now include this jack. On the Echo Dot it's pretty much a necessity but on the 2nd generation Echo and the new Echo Plus you may decide you don't need them, but it's sweet to have the option.

What do you think? Will you purchase external speakers to go with your new Echo?


Does the new 2nd generation Amazon Echo sound better?

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You know the answer already. Maybe. Actually, likely. The original Amazon echo had two speakers, one woofer and one tweeter, both pointing down according to the diagrams on the top right. According to Amazon the 2nd generation Echo (diagram on top left) has a 2.5” downward-firing woofer and 0.6” tweeter powered by Dolby to deliver crisp vocals and dynamic bass throughout the room. Note the tweeter in the new Echo point up and is apparently smaller than the previous model.

This seems a bit odd given the disruption the two frequencies will have on hitting each other on their way out of the device. But hey, it's difficult to tell from just this diagram. Also the missing Reflex port from the original Echo appears to be gone, likely due to the shorter size. All this said, there are many factors that go into how a speaker will sound. Then there is the "powered by Dolby" aspect which I'm sure has some audible effect but is likely there more for marketing purposes than actual sound quality.

But it's difficult to tell until we have one in hand, which of course we will.

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