Have you Been Wondering What's the Big Deal with Echo Dot?

It can be confusing keeping track of all the different electronic devices out there.  One of those is the Amazon Echo Dot voice assistant.  It can be challenging to know the differences between the regular Amazon Echo and the shorter Amazon Echo Dot.  There is also some confusion as to how they can be used.  Let's get to the root of these questions in this article.

The Differences

The Amazon Echo Dot is the short sized cousin to the regular Echo.  It is only slightly smaller than a can of tuna and costs less than a third of the price of the full size Echo.   It contains the same seven-piece microphone system used in the regular Echo.   The Echo Dot can be used independently of the regular Echo and does not require any other Echo devices. 

For a while the Echo Dot could only be ordered from another Echo (not from the website online) and sometimes there is confusion to the fact that they think the Echo Dot can only be used along-side a regular Echo, but this is not the case. 

The Echo Dot does contains a very different built in speaker.  It is a much smaller speaker that does not have the ability to play all the audio nuances in music.  It is alright for voice, but really does not reproduce music very well.   

Also, The Echo Dot does not use a volume ring and instead has two buttons for volume up and down.   Of course you can always control volume with voice commands like: "Alexa, turn volume up" or "Alexa, set volume to 6".

The Echo Dot has two options for outputting audio.  First, it has a 3.5 mm (1/8") stereo audio output jack, which the regular Echo does not.   The Echo Dot also, can send its output to a Bluetooth speaker.  This is different from playing music from your phone to a Bluetooth speaker (which they both support equally well).  Remember, it does have the simle built in speakers, which are fine for voice, but if you consider yourself an audio buff at all, you will probably be unhappy listening to your music on.

For those of us who already have a speaker or a stereo system, we can route the output of the Echo Dot to our favorite amplifier or receiver and save some money at the same time.  

Second Generation Echo Dot

There are actually two versions of the Echo Dot.  The first generation has the same style volume control as the regular Echo and is about a quarter inch taller.  The second generation, which is the only one available now instead has volume up/down buttons.  The other big difference is that the first generation cost almost 40% more.  The choice of a volume control is minor and although the volume ring is a little nicer, it is not worth 40% more.  The only way to get a first generation Echo Dot is on the used market, try either eBay or Craigslist.  Here is a comparison, with the first generation on the left and the second generation on the right.  Notice the extra buttons on the right for volume control.

How To Playback To a Bluetooth Speaker

Connecting the output of the Echo Dot to your own stereo (or set of speakers) is easy, and requires a cable (not included) to connect to the 3.5 mm jack on the Echo Dot and the other end goes to your stereo.  You might need to get an extra adapter to convert to another style connector (like RCA jacks).

To send the output of the Echo Dot to a bluetooth speaker, you need to use the Alexa Companion App.  You head over to the Settings tab, then choose Bluetooth > Pair a New Device.  Put your Bluetooth speaker into pairing mode, which you should shortly see appear in the list, choose it by name, and it will be paired.  If you go back to the Bluetooth screen, the speaker is now listed.  When you choose it, the Echo Dot audio output will be sent to the specified Bluetooth speaker.  Even if you have a physical cable plugged in, you can still send output to a bluetooth speaker.

There is a limitation with Bluetooth support on the Echo Dot you should know about.  It has to do with the fact that you cannot both send output (say from your phone) to the Echo Dot and also send the output of the Echo Dot to a Bluetooth speaker.  This is probably minor, as you'll most likely be listening to your music from a cloud based device when you are listening to the Echo Dot.  But, you should be aware of it, as sending bluetooth output from your phone (or other device) is a common situation with some.

Summary

This article focused on the Echo Dot and what differences it has from the original Amazon Echo.  You learned how to send the Echo Dot's output to a bluetooth speaker using the Alexa Companion App.  I hope this article cleared up any questions about this amazing device.  Amazon actually sells six-packs of Echo Dot's for people with big homes.  The deal is buy five and get one free.  There are users who are so enthusiastic with the technology, they put one in every room of their house.  I can't wait to see where this goes.

 

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