Amazon’s Echo smart speakers put out pretty solid sound for their size and price, but they skimp a bit on deep bass and don’t even try to reach sub-bass levels. Enter the Echo Sub, a wireless subwoofer designed to be paired with one or two Echo speakers to help produce the low-end rumble the speakers can’t on their own. At $129.99 it’s an affordable wireless subwoofer that puts out fairly solid sub-bass. That said, it can’t shake the walls like home theater subwoofers, and it’s held back by a bizarre incompatibility with Bluetooth streaming.
The Echo Sub is downright puny compared with most other subwoofers. As a 7.9-by-8.2-inch (HW) cylinder, it’s about a quarter to half the size of the wireless subwoofers you typically find included with soundbars. It also weighs only 9.3 pounds, when most home theater subwoofers regularly weigh more than 15 pounds. It looks like a much wider version of the Echo Plus, featuring the same curved edges and fabric grille around the sides. The subwoofer is only available in black, with no white or gray versions like the Echo Plus and Echo Dot.
Unlike the Echo Plus and other Echo speakers, the Echo Sub lacks any buttons or the Alexa light ring on its top surface. This subwoofer can’t listen to your voice, or even work at all without at least one Echo speaker paired to it. A small notch on the bottom of the holds a power connector for the included cable and a pairing button. Under that notch, and the edge of the fabric, the subwoofer stands on a short disc-shaped base that keeps the cylinder lifted up slightly to give the 6-inch driver room to move air.
We tested the Echo Sub (middle) with a pair of Echo Plus speakers
Bring Your Own Echo
The Echo Sub has no wired inputs and can’t work on its own. It must be paired with an Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Plus (or two in a stereo pair) to function at all. The pairing process is simple and direct, through the Alexa app. Just plug the Echo Sub in and go through the same process you would to set up a regular Echo speaker in the app. It won’t speak to you, but the app will identify the subwoofer and show it as connected to your network. Once it’s connected, you can pair it with one or two compatible Echo speakers.
Note that you can’t use the Echo Sub over Bluetooth. Even if your Echo speaker is paired to your phone over Bluetooth and is connected to the Echo Sub, audio will only play over the paired speaker. This limits the sources of music you can listen to, with the Echo Sub only providing extra bass to services compatible with Alexa or accessible through the Alexa app. It’s a strange and frustrating omission, but hopefully one that can be remedied in a future update.
The Sub’s 6-inch, 100-watt driver puts out appreciable bass, filling in the low-end weakness of the Echo Plus and smaller Echo speakers. However, don’t expect full home theater system low-end like you’ll find with a solid soundbar and a separate subwoofer. We tested the Echo Sub with a pair of Echo Plus speakers, and the resulting sound was similar in volume and bass response to larger single speakers like the Google Home Max.
Our bass test track, The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” gets some wall-rattling thump with the bass synth notes and kick drum hits, where the Echo Plus would only offer an almost distorting punch on its own. The Sub adds impressive sub-bass response for small speakers, but it doesn’t hit quite the thunderous, room-shaking levels of most wireless subwoofers included with soundbars.
In Massive Attack’s “Teardrop,” the steady heartbeat-like drum beat becomes palpable with the Echo Sub, which gives the Echo Plus the room-filling low frequency beat it needs to balance the high-mids and highs of the track. Again, it won’t shake the house, but it rounds out the Echo Plus and smaller Echo speakers’ comparatively weak bass to offer enough low-end to provide a nice sense of force.
A Solid Addition to Echo-Heavy Homes
The Echo Sub capably shores up the relatively weak bass of the Echo and Echo Plus speakers, but it doesn’t particularly impress against any other sound system with a separate subwoofer. And the fact that you can’t stream Bluetooth audio to an Echo and Echo Sub pair is frustratingly limiting. Still, it’s a good way to improve the sound quality of your exisiting Echo speaker(s), particularly if you don’t often use Bluetooth streaming.
If you don’t already own an Echo speaker, the new Echo Show is a one-piece stereo device that not only gets impressively loud with very solid bass response, but has a 10-inch touch screen to provide visual information. Add full Bluetooth support and a $250 price that’s less than buying an Echo Plus and an Echo Sub together. For even louder sound in a smart speaker without a screen, the $400 Google Home Max is another one-piece device that can really put out some big sound, but it trades Amazon Alexa for Google Assistant.