Bravo, you have finally decided to jump on the smart speaker bandwagon. You would like the goodness of Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant to grace your home. But there is a hitch. You just invested in a nice speaker (perhaps a Marshall or a Bose or a Bang & Olufsen) or want this to be an addition to the elaborate home theater setup that you have in place, and don’t want that to get sidelined and gather dust. That means, you don’t really want an Amazon Echo (Rs 8,999) or an Echo Plus (Rs 13,499) smart speaker, and neither do you want to splurge on a Bose Home Speaker 500 40,000) (around Rs or the Harman Kardon Allure (Rs 21,699). This is exactly where the Amazon Echo Input comes into the picture. It is priced at Rs 2,999 and when connected with any speaker, can make it ‘smart’ by bringing the power of Alexa to it. It really is that simple
“Alexa, play some new trance music” or “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today” or “Alexa, what’s my sports update” will now become a part of the daily routine for you. What really is the Echo Input though?
The Echo Input is a very simple device. In many ways, the Echo Input feels like a Echo Dot (Rs 4,499 at the time of writing this), the smallest Alexa based speaker in Amazon’s Echo line-up. But without a built-in speaker. That means it is very compact in size—looks more like a coaster for your glass of white wine, as you sit and relax after a long day at work. It is just 14mm thick and has an 80mm diameter and is designed to blend in seamlessly. The matte black finish feels good to look at and to hold. Since it is matte, it doesn't pick up dust easily too, and remains a sleek visual sight. There are two ports at the back—one to power the Echo Input itself and the other is a 3.5mm jack to connect your speaker with. You can use Bluetooth as well to connect with a speaker, if that is an option for you but that will limit the ability to use the voice calling features which at the moment are supported only when the Echo Input is hooked up to a speaker via an audio cable.
In terms of what it misses out in comparison with the Echo Dot, the Echo Input doesn’t have a built-in speaker and also doesn’t have physical volume controls. This also doesn’t have the ring of light that illuminates every time you call out to Alexa, and instead makes do with a tiny light on the top which isn’t as visually appealing and you may not necessarily be able to see that visual cue from across the room. Apart from that, the other ingredients remain largely the same.
On the inside are four far-field microphones, which we notice do a rather fine job of hearing your requests even from the other corner of the room. However, you will have to be a bit careful with how you place the Echo Input in conjunction with your speaker, because if you place this inside a shelf with walls on either side, the Echo Input’s ability to hear your sound from all directions will be significantly compromised.
Once you’ve set this up with your preferred speaker or home theater system, Alexa and how you interact with it works exactly how it does with the standard Amazon Echo speakers. You call out with the wake-work, which makes the Echo Input get ready to listen to your demands. And it is plain sailing from then onwards. The sound quality that you hear, whether good, acceptable or not, totally depends on your speaker setup or the source device for the music playback. The Echo Input has nothing to do with the sound quality and does no audio processing at its end before sending out the audio to the connected speakers.
The one thing you do not compromise on is the full array of Alexa's smart services. The most popular use-case for almost any Alexa based speaker is music playback, which it does by linking up with your Amazon Prime Music library and also through third-party services such as Saavn. Skills, as always, remain a very critical fixture of any Amazon Echo product. This is where third-party apps plug into your Amazon account, and you can simply use voice commands the via any Echo device to get stuff done. Some examples include giving a voice command to change the purification mode of your Dyson air purifier, controlling the TV volume of a Sony Bravia TV and so on. The real smart stuff that you will genuinely use daily, safe to say.
We are in no doubt that the Amazon Echo Input works, performs or responds with exactly what is demanded from it. But it has more to do with the price of the Echo Input. Amazon in India is selling the Echo Input for Rs 2,999 and this is the most affordable Echo device that you can buy right now. Technically, that is. However, put this into perspective with the price of the Amazon Echo Dot (Rs 4,499 at the time of writing this), and you begin to wonder if the Echo Dot itself perhaps makes more sense for that bit extra cash outlay at the outset. With the latter, you get similar functionality in the sense that it can also be connected to any speaker that you may own, but there is the added flexibility of its own built-in speaker which may come in handy from time to time. There really can be no criticism of the Echo Input, and this is ideal to add the smartness to an existing fantastic speaker that you may already own. The direct result of this is also the fact that Amazon has further strengthened its smart speaker and accessory line-up in India, in comparison with Google which still sells the Google Home and the Home Mini speakers only at the moment.