Amazon Echo Input Review: Making Your Home Stereo Smart

My home entertainment system consists of an amplifier, a cable box, an HDTV, a turntable, and two speakers I probably paid too much for — and which sound amazing — but that I don't use when listening to music. Why? Because, like many other people, I use streaming services like Spotify, but my stereo isn't connected to the internet.

Enter the Amazon Echo Input ($35), which brings Alexa's smarts to your home stereo. It's not without its issues, but it will be greatly appreciated by those who don't want to invest in a smart speaker when they already have a way to play music.

Design

The Echo Input looks as if Amazon took a hockey puck and smushed it to half its thickness. At 3.1 inches in diameter, it's bigger than a Chromecast device, but at half an inch tall, it has a low profile, which should make it disappear among your stereo equipment. The top of the Input has two buttons, an action button and a button to mute the device's four microphones.

The side has a micro USB port to deliver power and a 3.5mm jack to deliver audio to your system (you can also connect the Input via Bluetooth). I know Amazon was trying to keep the price and size of the Input down, but optical audio or RCA output would have been welcome. What's more, the Input ships with only a 3.5mm cable, so I had to dig up a 3.5mm-to-RCA adapter, or use an adapter with my receiver's headphone jack. Good thing I have a huge box of random wires.

At least the Input can connect to 5-GHz Wi-Fi routers, for higher-fidelity streams.

Performance

I connected the Input to my stereo system, powered up Amazon's device and then set it up in the Alexa app. After that, it was just a matter of asking Alexa what I wanted to hear. The device can stream music from Amazon, Spotify, Audible, Pandora, SiriusXM and, now, Apple Music.

The Input being an Alexa device, I could also ask it anything I could of any other Alexa device, which includes news, weather, sports and more than 50,000 skills, along with control over smart home gadgets.

The Input was able to hear me from 12 feet away, even as I spoke in a low voice.

I found the four far-field microphones on the Input to be plenty sensitive; with music playing through my stereo, the Input could hear me from 12 feet away, even as I spoke in a low voice.

MORE: Best Amazon Alexa Skills

The only issue with using the Input rather than a dedicated Alexa-enabled speaker is that I had to remember to turn my receiver to the proper input, else I wouldn't hear anything. You can ask Alexa to raise and lower the volume, but I found it easier to program my Harmony remote for that purpose.

Bottom Line

Amazon's Echo and Echo Dot and every other smart speaker with Alexa built in are great for those who want an all-in-one audio-entertainment device. But what if you already have a stereo system that sounds far better? The Chromecast Audio fills a similar niche for music, but that device lacks a built-in voice assistant. The Echo Input is a device that I and, I suspect, plenty others have been waiting for.

Credit: Tom's Guide

7 comments
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  • nickjf22
    I don't understand what the echo input does that an echo dot doesn't already do at a lower price and with a built in speaker.
  • netstreamer
    Nothing. I don't get it either. I'm a little shocked that this review didn't address it...
  • garysgadgets1
    Two things, an RCA input? really, not a con, considering the size of the device, it would be twice the height to hold the RCA plugs, nothing that an adapter can't fix. Optical audio Outputs, well I doubt anyone is going to notice the sound quality of a online streaming audio service.

    Now for the other people don't see the purpose of this device....
    For those of you who have a real stereo system, one which has stereo or surround sound system, this is the perfect way to listen to online radio, podcasts, and for those who want music throughout your home.
    Listening to your favorite radio station on iHeart, Simple Radio skill, SiriusXM, and other services and even better if you have multiple devices. it's great if you entertain.
    It's cheaper to buy one Echo Input then to buy two Echo devices with a speaker, all of the other devices require to use two of them if you want true stereo sound.
    Most of the cheaper Bluetooth speakers are mono, and even if you use a good Bluetooth speaker that is stereo, the separation between the left and right will be greatly reduced.
    Using two of the same Echo devices will give you true stereo sound, while using Bluetooth speakers.
    So if you want true stereo sound, then either hook a Echo Input to your stereo or surround sound system, or a good pair of computer speakers. or buy a pair of Echo Inputs for true stereo sound to a pair of Bluetooth speakers, like DOSS Soundbox XLs, normally these speakers can't be stereo paired via Bluetooth, however with the Alexa app, it should be able to do this. 64 watts of power never sounded so good, who need a over priced sub-woofer from amazon.
  • nickjf22
    @garysgadgets1, thanks for your response. Am I understanding your point correctly that you are saying the Echo Input outputs a stereo signal, while the Echo Dot outputs in mono? From the Amazon website, they claim:

    "Echo Dot is a hands-free, voice-controlled device with a small built-in speaker—it can also connect to your speakers or headphones over Bluetooth or through a 3.5 mm audio cable to deliver stereo sound to the speakers you choose."

    "Echo Dot can also directly connect to speakers using a 3.5 mm stereo cable, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi for compatible wireless speakers to add voice control to your home stereo system in the living room or den."

    "Built-in speaker for voice feedback when not connected to external speakers. 3.5 mm stereo audio output for use with external speakers (audio cable not included)."

    If that is the case, I still do not see what he Input accomplishes over the Dot besides a smaller form factor. Either that, or Amazon's information--or my understanding of the subject-- is flawed. Please elaborate and let us know what you think.

    Thanks,
    -Nick
  • garysgadgets1
    Echo Dot, will output in stereo if you Bluetooth to a Stereo Bluetooth speaker or line out to a receiver, just like the Echo Input, but only the Echo Dot cost more, however if your using the built in speaker of the Echo Dot, then you'll be listening to your music is mono. The only way to listen to your music in stereo with the built in speakers of he Dot is to get a pair of Echo Dots.

    My friend just got his Echo Input last night, and it was able to make phone calls, and drop in, but the website has not updated that feature.
    The advantages are, lower power consumption, lower cost, better sound if you have a good stereo speakers, smaller size makes it easier to travel with, Expand your Echo network by adding several Echo Dots to speakers throughout your home and business on the cheap, especially now that it is on sale for $20, you can't beat it. I'm ordering two of them, so I can pair Two Soundbox XLs together.
    Your not gaining anything new with the Input over the Dot, but the savings adding Alexa functions to a speaker system that doesn't have it.
  • emiliano.pollazzon
    Anyone seeing this thing?
    After several years, Amazon now sells again Chromecast video, and Google is discontinuing Chromecast audio. Maybe this is an agreement so that Amazon has doors open for its echo input?
  • TedJohnson101
    One sticky point about the Echo that I misunderstood is that my speaker doesn't become the Echo input device because the microphones are on the Input. I had hoped to use this on a couple of outdoor speakers & keep the Input indoors under cover. With the Input, I'm able to get music, but I can't talk to Alexa without going inside where the Input is. How do I get a waterproof Alexa?