Echo vs. Echo Plus: Is the Sound Quality Different?

Echo Gen 2 ($100)

  • This is Amazon’s second-generation Echo.
  • It’s $80 cheaper than the original Echo and is smaller (it’s 6″ tall compared to 9″ with the first generation and Echo Plus). In my opinion, 6″ is the perfect height for these speakers. It’s large enough to deliver robust sound, but not tall enough to be an eyesore.
  • It’s better-looking than the original Echo and comes in six different colors.
  • You can use it as a Bluetooth speaker without WiFi, as long as you originally paired it while connected to WiFi.
  • Sound quality: It has a 2.5″ woofer, 0.6″ tweeter and Dolby-powered sound. It sounds better than the first generation Echo and better than the original Google Home. The sweet spot for volume is around 70%. When it’s any louder than that, the sound gets distorted. There’s not much bass, and you can find better speakers for this price. But this is much more than a simple speaker. For reference, it sounds similar to UE Boom 2.

Echo Plus ($150)

  • It looks like the first-generation Echo but with a silver color. (The same ugly speaker grills are included too).
  • Echo Plus’ primary differentiation from Echo: it comes with a Zigbee radio so you can use it as a smart home hub. Six points on this:
    • What is a smart hub? It plugs into your home’s router and lets you control smart devices like lights, locks, and outlets (like Wink or SmartThings).
    • Echo Plus is only useful if you’re just starting to add smarts to your house because if you have smart devices, you already have a hub.
    • If you have Philips Hue lights, you already have a hub plugged into your router via ethernet.
    • If you have Apple products, you can’t use HomeKit with your Hue lights if Echo Plus is your hub.
    • Echo Plus only sends out Zigbee signals, not Z-Wave.
    • Even if you’re a beginner, you’re better off using a separate device as your hub.
  • You can use this as Bluetooth speaker without WiFi, as long as you originally paired it while on WiFi.
  • Sound quality: It’s almost identical to the second-generation Echo. The tweeter is 0.2” bigger, but it hardly improves the sound quality. In a blind test, I couldn’t tell the difference when alternating between Echo and Echo Plus on the same song.

Which one?

My favorite Alexa device is Sonos One.

My second-favorite is Dot. It’s small and unobtrusive with the same Alexa capabilities as the expensive Echos and it hooks up to any speaker setup.

If you’re looking for an Alexa device that’s made by Amazon, Echo (2nd Generation) is the best value. It’s a solid speaker (it’s loud and crisp enough), and it’s the one most people should get it.

Echo Plus is a good idea in theory but it would’ve been better if it was released three years ago. But right now? I don’t get it. Most people already have a smart hub to work their gadgets. Don’t bother with Echo Plus.