AMAZON ECHO STUDIO VS GOOGLE HOME MAC: THE BATTLE OF TOP SMART SPEAKERS

So you’ve narrowed down your choice of smart speakers to two of the first premium models: Google Home Mak, which arrived in late 2017, and Amazon Echo Studio, which arrived two years later. You have good taste, my friend. Both are very fine speakers, even if they do not compete with high quality silly speakers like the likes of Bovers & Vilkins, Naim or Bang & Olufsen.

Comparing Google Home Mac and Amazon Echo Studio on seven points reveals some important differences and one important similarity that should help you decide.

ROUND 1: AUDIO PERFORMANCE
Even if your only reason to buy a smart speaker is to control your smart home, you still buy the speaker. You will still be interested in how your digital assistant of your choice sounds when it answers your commands and queries even if you never intend to play music on that speaker. It might be less important with an entry-level smart speaker, but when shopping at this level, the musicality of the smart speaker is its most important attribute.

Google
Google Home Mac has a more traditional speaker design than Amazon Echo Studio.

And according to this result, Google Home Mac is better than any smart speaker on the market. While I wouldn’t classify it as an audiophile product, its dual 4.5-inch tweeter and two 0.7-inch dome tweeters powered by six Class D amplifiers deliver exciting audio performance with all kinds of music.

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Amazon Echo Studio, however, is very close to a second on this score, and that says a lot. Although its individual 5.25-inch subwoofer is smaller, it only produces very little less bass. On the other hand, the construction of its housing slightly prevents the vibrations from the speaker from being transmitted to any surface where the speaker is resting, coloring its sound during the process.

Amazon
This copy illustrates how Amazon Echo Studio drivers are configured to deliver 3D audio from Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Reality Audio encoded tracks.

Amazon is also unique for its support for 3D sound, via Sony’s 360 Realiti Audio and Dolbi Atmos. But you have to subscribe to Amazon Music HD to use it. TechHive author and home audio expert Scott Wilkinson has great things about the new Sony format that plays on headphones, but I was less impressed with it when it was shown in the Echo studio.

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Both smart speakers can be paired with a corresponding other speaker for stereo performance, and both can be nodes in a multi-room audio system. But only Amazon offers the option of adding a wireless subwoofer to play deep bass.

But fidelity is more important than hitting and sound tomfoolery in my book, so Google Home Mak has won this round.

Winner: Google Home Mak

2ND ROUND: RECOGNITION VOTE
The primary reason why someone buys a premium quality smart speaker is to listen to music. And if you listen to music on high-end speakers, you’ll probably play it out loud. The balance is that the microphones on the speaker need to be able to hear you say a word, even as the speaker plays your favorite tunes. Based on this result, I thought the microphones on Google Home Mac were more able to hear me speak (or shout, to be fair) “Hey, Google,” while the speaker was playing music at full volume than Echo Studio was shouting. “While he was kneeling similarly.

Michael Brovn / IDG
Google Home Mac has microphones on the right side, which becomes the top side when the speaker is vertically oriented.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are times when you certainly don’t want to raise your voice when you’re asking your smart speaker to do something for you – when you’re in bed with a partner who doesn’t want to be disturbed. Amazon’s Alec has a whisper mode that allows you to speak very softly to the Echo echo and Alec will respond kindly. Google Assistant Night Mode lowers the volume, emits a tone instead of a loud response, and limits the brightness of its LEDs; but this only works at certain times on certain days.

Otherwise, both speakers have excellent voice recognition. You have to decide which of the two advantages described above is more important to you, but I call it this link.

Winner: They

ROUND 4: PHYSICAL CONTROLS
Don’t underestimate the importance of buttons. Yes, you will use your voice to control a smart speaker 95 percent of the time, but there is nothing better than a sense of touch – at least when you are near the speaker.

Michel Brovn / IDG
There is no mystery about what Amazon Echo Studio controls do.

Amazon Echo Studio and Google Home Mak have physical controls, but different Echo Studio volume keys are better than the Google Home Mak’s touchscreen slider. Pressing the keys provides compelling tactile feedback that non-flexible touch controls cannot match. I would prefer even more old-fashioned rotary buttons, though they may not be aesthetically pleasing.

Winner: Amazon Echo Studio

ROUND 5: PRIVACY PROTECTION
Neither Amazon nor Google is in the process of protecting personal privacy. There are no scary privacy breach stories at all: Amazon has admitted that human error was also caused by one Echo user gaining access to more than 1,000 voice recordings made by another Echo user. And Google admitted last year that it used paid vendors to listen to audio recordings recorded by Google Assistant , including usernames, addresses and other personal information.

Michael Brovn / IDG
The red ring surrounding Amazon Echo Studio provides unequivocal visual feedback as its microphones are turned off for privacy.

While every company has made progress in improving its performance on this front, there is no doubt that putting a smart speaker in your home opens up your personal space to a third party.

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Both speakers allow you to mute their microphones, but this step is easier to perform in the Echo studio than on Google Home Mac, and Amazon’s speaker provides a better visual sign that its microphones are turned off. To mute the Echo Studio microphone, just touch the button on the left side of the speaker. When you do this, the LED light ring surrounding the tweeter turns dark red.

Michael Brovn / IDG
The row of orange dots is not the most intimate indication that Google Home Mac microphones have been turned off for privacy.

To mute the microphones on Google Home Mac, you’ll need to reach out and flip the switch to the back of the speaker. Not only is it less convenient, but the visual feedback of the speaker – the four static orange dots shown below its lattice – is a much less obvious sign that the speaker is not listening to you. So, Amazon Echo Studio won in this round – albeit barely.

Winner: Amazon Echo Studio

ROUND 6: SUPPORTING THE SMART HOME ECOSYSTEM
Google has been working hard to narrow the gap in this regard, but Amazon maintains very little leadership in support of third-party smart home device manufacturers. Most products ship new products with support for digital assistants, but none – perhaps not banned by Google Nest – owned by Google – ship without the support of at least Alek.

It’s also more natural to feel like “Aleka, turn on the light” than to say “Hey, Google.” Turn on the light. ” Aleka has a personality where Google Assistant never feels like much more than a cold-hearted robot. That last assessment might be a personal prejudice to me – you may feel differently. Google Assistant escapes with the next category, but Aleka won in this round.

Winner: Amazon Echo Studio

ROUND 7: GENERAL KNOWLEDGE QUESTIONS
There is no competition in this round. Google Assistant hooks in Google search give them a huge advantage when looking for general information over the need to play music, turn on a light, lock a door, arm your security system or perform similar tasks in your smart home.

The two platforms are equal only when you ask very simple questions, for example: How many ounces is in a cup? But in most other respects, even where you would expect Alec to lift his leg – answering questions about who acted or directed the film, for example, since Amazon owns IMDb – the smart speaker on Google Home beats Amazon Echo every time.

Winner: Google Home Mak

Michael Brovn / IDG
The Google Home Mak (left) has a much smaller footprint when vertically oriented.

BOTTOM LINE: THE CALL IS CLOSE, BUT…
I put more weight on the first comparison, music performance, to declare Google Home Mak the ultimate smart speaker over Amazon Echo Studio.

Yes, Google’s announcer won only two of the seven rounds and tied Amazon’s flagship speaker in the third. Well, yes, I’m putting my thumb on the scale. But if you don’t care about the sound fidelity of a smart speaker, there’s no reason to spend a few hundred bucks to buy – pick up an entry-level Nest Home Mini or Amazon Echo Dot instead.

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