The Amazon Echo family has grown quite a bit with the addition of the Echo Link and Echo Link Amp devices. These devices provide Amazon Alexa functionality to either your current home theater setup or in the case of the Amazon Echo Link Amp, an entry-level 60W 2.1 channel audio receiver with RCA and Optical Audio inputs and outputs.
The Differences Matter
The Amazon Echo Link is tailor-made for those who already have an audio receiver or audio-video receiver in their home theater setup, and want to add a high fidelity Alexa option. The built-in digital-to-analog converter — or DAC, as it's more commonly known — provides greater sound quality and higher dynamic range than solely connecting an Echo Dot or Echo itself to the receiver. In layman's terms, it sounds significantly crisper than if you were to connect your Echo speaker via a 3.5mm audio cable. The only downside is that there are better options available with more functionality than what the Amazon Echo Link offers if you're willing to spend the extra money.
The Echo Link Amp is catered to those who want to step up their audio game in the home theater space and want to remain invested in the Amazon Alexa ecosystem. Containing the same DAC as the Echo Link, the Echo Link Amp lives up to its name, including a 60W, 2-channel stereo amplifier. This gives the Echo Link Amp the options to add a pair of speakers, removing the Echo Link's crutch of needing a separate audio receiver for proper functionality. Much like the Echo Link, there are other devices with more functionality, however, the Echo Link Amp is suitable for entry-level audio receiver needs.
What's amazing about both of these devices is the inclusion of RCA, Digital Coaxial, and TOSLINK (S/PDIF) Optical Audio inputs and outputs. The RCA is your standard analog input/output device — the red and white cables that came with older devices like the PlayStation 2 — while the coaxial and optical input/output are digital sources. In an ideal space, you can use the RCA or TOSLINK connectors to connect the audio leads from a gaming console, HTPC, or Blu-Ray player to your Echo Link for higher quality stereo or surround audio.
|Echo Link||Echo Link Amp|
|Size (LxWxD)||4.5" x 5.3" x 2.7"||8.5" x 9.5" x 3.4"|
|Input||Analog (1x L/R RCA), Digital (1x Coaxial RCA, 1x TOSLINK Optical)||Analog (1x L/R RCA), Digital (1x Coaxial RCA, 1x TOSLINK Optical)|
|Output||Analog (1x L/R RCA, 1x Subwoofer RCA), Digital (1x Coaxial RCA, 1x TOSLINK Optical), 3.5mm headphone jack||Analog (1x L/R RCA, 1x Subwoofer RCA), Digital (1x Coaxial RCA, 1x TOSLINK Optical), L/R Speaker Binding Posts|
The great thing about the Amazon Echo Link line of devices is that there's definitely an Alexa speaker option for everybody. If price isn't an option, and you want to improve the quality of your already-established Alexa connection in your home theater setup, the Echo Link will serve your purposes. The Echo Link Amp offers an all-in-one solution for those who don't want to use an AVR but still want high-quality audio from their TV, and all of the devices connected to their TV.
What hurts these devices, however, is the entry price for the limited functionality that they both have. The lack of a built-in microphone on both of these devices means that they will most certainly depend on you having another Echo device in your home. While enthusiasts will see the chance to jump at these devices, I cannot easily recommend any of these devices to the average consumer, unless a future revision adds a built-in microphone for one-device Alexa functionality.
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