Now is the time for the 4th review for the Echo Dot, the smallest Amazon branded Alexa smart speaker. After three rather wobbly first generations, does this new iteration finally succeed in convincing?
Amazon Echo Dot 4th Presentation
The fourth generation of the Echo Dot also ushers in a third “form factor” for Amazon’s smallest Alexa speaker. After the tube of the first generation, then the small roller of the second and third iterations, this new model now adopts an almost spherical shape and like the 2020 version of the “standard” Echo.
Within it is still housed a single 4.1 cm wide band loudspeaker, as well as of course a set of several spatially filtered microphones for the detection of voice commands. The 4th generation Echo Dot has been available since October 2020 at the indicative price of € 59.99. There is also a version with an LED clock on the front, for 10 € more.
While the design of the speakers in the Echo range never really appealed to us, the Echo Dot 4 easily stands out. Difficult to contain a small smile of satisfaction when unpacking by taking in hand this very cute little ball, and even ultimately quite elegant.
Without breathing luxury, the acoustic fabric covering the speaker is beautifully crafted, and inspires confidence in its longevity as well as the overall build quality of the object. There is just one small missed opportunity: the lack of IP certification or any other assurance of protection against humidity. However, it would have been very welcome on this speaker which could then have perfectly found its place in a kitchen or even a bathroom.
Like almost all speakers of its kind, the Echo Dot 4 does not bother with an abundant connection, on the contrary. In addition to the network connection (in Wi-Fi only, no Ethernet port available), the one and only audio input available is a Bluetooth interface. Do not be fooled by the mini-jack connector on the back of the speaker: as on all previous Echo, this is not an input, but a line output, allowing you to use an external audio installation as an Alexa speaker. In terms of multimedia compatibility, the Echo Dot is obviously integrated into the Alexa Cast ecosystem, with native support for Amazon Music, Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer streaming services.
The top of the speaker houses the controls typical of Echo devices: volume control, Alexa call, and mic on / off. It is obviously succinct, but we do not really dare to take offense, the speaker being of course designed to be above all controlled by voice.
Amazon Echo Dot Speech Recognition
Voice pickup is the only element that has not seen any real evolution since the Echo Dot 3. It works well overall, with speech recognition unresponsive to the timbre of the user’s voice and it also works well with voices. women than men and the effectiveness of which varies only slightly depending on the direction or the distance from which one addresses the enclosure.
Despite this, the reliability of recognition remains significantly lower than what is done by competitors, including Google Nest speakers. Thus, it sometimes happens, for reasons which escape us, that the detection of “Alexa” calls stalls for a few moments, and becomes ineffective even when one is near the speaker, in a calm environment, and that the we speak as distinctly as possible. The problem is by no means insurmountable, with the speaker usually recovering after just a few seconds. However, this little anomaly and common to all the Alexa devices that we have tested so far can be a little irritating at times.
Regarding the management of sound disturbances, the detection of voice commands is not very sensitive to external noise. On the other hand, the speaker tends to mute itself when emitting sound at high volume (sound level set at 75% or more); it is then necessary to push the voice a little so that it hears our calls.
Amazon Echo Dot Audio
Unlike speech recognition, audio reproduction is where the Echo Dot 4 is making the greatest progress over previous generations. Far from the coarse resonance and distortion problems that plagued its predecessors, this new iteration finally manages to offer a very correctly balanced sound, and a completely satisfactory clarity.
Let’s get along well: it does not accomplish any acoustic miracles for all that, so much so that there are many nomadic speakers of comparable size on the market offering superior audio performance. The Amazon speaker is satisfied with little in terms of rendering precision, and above all reserves unpleasant surprises for those who have their finger a little too heavy on the “Volume +” button even though its reserve of power does not is not very crazy.
To reach a level of 79 dB SPL at 1 m and 1 kHz (standardized level at which we usually carry out our acoustic measurements of portable speakers), it is necessary to increase the volume setting to around 85%; and at this level, the Echo Dot single 4 cm speaker is already beyond its capabilities. To keep up with the pace, he is forced to drastically reduce the presence of bass, and above all to apply a very unsightly dynamic compression to the signal, causing a flagrant pumping effect (we can clearly hear the oscillations of the sound volume near the peaks. signal strength, for example on snare hits). These problems disappear when the volume is reduced to about 50% of its maximum value, or a reduction of about fifteen decibels.
So do not count on this Echo Dot 4 to fill a living room with sound. But at least it does the trick for creating a little musical background sound in a bedroom, for example. This places the speaker at about the same level as Google Nest Mini and very noticeably above previous Echo Dots, which are barely good at rendering Alexa’s voice fairly intelligibly.
Amazon Echo Dot 4th STRONG POINTS:
- Balanced and pleasant sound (at low or medium volume).
- Efficient voice capture, not very sensitive to external noise.
- Successful design, good build quality.
Amazon Echo Dot 4th WEAK POINTS:
- Just decent precision of sound reproduction.
- Very limited power reserve, dynamics and bass collapse at maximum volume.
- A few unexplained little moments of speech recognition failure.
- No wired audio input.
Amazon Echo Dot 4th CONCLUSION
With the 4th generation of its Echo Dot, Amazon finally manages to give its smallest smart speaker performance comparable to that of its biggest competitors and notably Google Nest Mini. It is certainly very limited in terms of sound power, but it is finally a highly recommendable choice for Alexa users who are looking for an efficient and space-saving way to speak to their favorite assistant.