Old Speakers Made Smart
Amazon's Echo Input houses a four-microphone array for capturing your voice from anywhere in the room even when the music is playing.
Smart speakers are fascinating as you can ask Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri to play music, bring news updates, help kids with their homework or run smart home devices. But chances are, most of us already own a speaker and might not wish to invest in a new one for accessing these features. In such cases, Amazon's Echo Input should be the perfect solution as it brings smart functionality to non-smart speakers by adding Alexa and audio-streaming capabilities.
The Echo Input is a small and compact circular device with minimal controls on the top. The mute button on the left turns off the microphone while the action button on the right launches Alexa or puts it into the pairing mode. It also houses a four-microphone array for capturing your voice from anywhere in the room even when the music is playing. There is a microUSB port for power and another socket for the auxiliary cable at the rear. My review unit in black blended perfectly with my home interior and also matched the speaker.
Setting it up was quick and easy as I used the Alexa app (available for both iOS and Android). You have to connect the device to local/home Wi-Fi and pair it with the speaker using Bluetooth or the auxiliary cable. When I selected the Bluetooth option, the Alexa app started looking for available devices and instantly connected it with the selected speaker. It took me less than a minute to complete the set-up.
The way you use Alexa via Echo Input is similar to what you do with Echo Dot or Echo. First-time users must activate 'skills' either from the Alexa app or ask Alexa to enable them (give exact skill names). From playing music to fetching news, booking cabs to controlling smart lighting, notifying deals of the day to adding items to Amazon shopping cart, Input was able to accomplish all these tasks and more. It was also able to operate devices connected via the Wi-Fi (like a smart switch) or those accompanied with their own hubs. The best thing about connecting it via Bluetooth was the clutter-free set-up. I placed the speaker on the side table and hid the Echo Input by placing it next to the plug point. In spite of some distance, the two managed to communicate flawlessly. For a non-Bluetooth speaker, the auxiliary cable bundled in the box will come in handy.