Amazon recently released two high-quality music streaming boxes in Canada called the Echo Link and the Echo Link amp.
The two devices are small, sleek-looking and let you can either connect your existing amp or receiver or directly to your speaker set-up to play high-quality music with Alexa voice controls.
If you care about high-fidelity music, these devices are for you. If high-quality audio isn’t your thing, the Echo Dot is a much cheaper solution that does the same thing. That said, I don’t want to knock these devices that much because they’re both good at what they do, despite their expensive price tags.
What are the specs and inputs
The smaller Echo Link is meant to connect to powered speakers, a receiver or an amplifier. In terms of ports, it features one analog set of left and right RCA inputs, a digital coaxial input, and an optical audio in port.
It has each of those types of ports for outputting sound as well, plus an RCA jack for a subwoofer. It’s also sporting a TPA6120A2 High Fidelity Stereo Headphone Amplifier with a 3.5mm output jack.
The larger Link Amp includes the same ports, but it can power passive two passive speakers via banana jacks or speaker wire. It’s able to power speakers that are plugged into these posts since it has a two channel, 60W at eight Ohms, Class D Digital Amplifier.
One of the main draws with these devices over the Echo Dot is the plethora of ports and an upgraded DAC. For those curious, the Link and Link Amp use the Cirrus Logic CS42526 audio codec.
What device is right for me?
If you want to add high-quality digital playback to an existing speaker/receiver set, then the Echo Link will work perfectly for you. Even if you want to add a pair of high-quality powered speakers to an Alexa multi-room audio group, this device will make sure that you can get the highest audio quality possible.
With this in mind, again, an Echo Dot will more or less accomplish the same thing, and to my ears, I wasn’t able to notice any differences in audio quality.
If you want to add high-quality audio to a set of decent passive speakers (the ones that use speaker wire and don’t plug into a power outlet), then you’ll need to step up and buy the larger Link Amp.
This is where the Link Amp separates itself from the pack since it’s the only Echo device that can do this. Other than this, the device does everything that the Link does.
Even though the larger device is called the Echo Link Amp, in my experience, it’s not a real amp. During my testing, I wasn’t able to amplify a vintage turntable. This means that if you’re looking for a modern device to connect to your old turntable, this isn’t it. The Echo Link Amp only works with amplified turntables.
For such an expensive device they’re missing quite a few things
Neither devices support TV/video connections, casting to Multi-Room Music from a line-in or Bluetooth input or compressed digital audio inputs, such as Dolby DTS/Dolby 5.1.
Another drawback of these two speaker boxes is that they don’t feature a microphone so you need to pair them with an existing Echo if you want to use voice controls. The Echo Input is a cheap option if you decide to buy one of these music boxes and don’t already have an Echo.
When you set up the boxes set up, it does become the default music playback device in a room. This means that you can say “Alexa, play Spotify,” and the music will come out of the Link Amp instead of the Dot.
Two other issues I had with the device is that there’s no convenient way to play Tidal without either plugging my phone into one of the box’s inputs or using voice controls. I’m sure this isn’t a massive issue for a lot of people, but since Amazon markets it as a high-quality lossless audio machine, it’s odd that it doesn’t work better with Tidal.
Amazon has a set of great setup videos online if you’ve bought these devices and are having issues using them.
Here’s the breakdown
If you’re looking to add some existing speakers to a multi-room Alexa audio group, Amazon’s Echo Link and Echo Link Amp can do that, but both devices ring in with a steep price tag.
If you want to attach some speakers to a multi-room audio group and you don’t have super high-quality speakers or if you don’t care about being able to play the highest quality music possible, the Dot is for you.
The Echo Link and Echo Link Amp are only worth it if you know you have high-fidelity speakers and you want to make sure you’re pushing the best audio possible through them. If you have a receiver or amp already connected to the speakers, get the Echo Link.
If you don’t and you just want to power a set of passive speakers, then look no further than the Link Amp.