Speaking of (and to) Speakers...

A while back I mentioned I'd made a couple of mildly overboard speaker purchases--one set for the living room (borderline justifiable) and a another (shamefully unnecessarily) set for the bedroom. Both sets turned out to be extraordinarily enjoyable (as guilty pleasures often are), but the bedroom set was especially so--those are a set of Amazon Echo Studios (paired as a 2.0 stereo system). That's a total of TEN speakers between the two (and they sound like it), but the killer part of that set up is that (with a subscription to Amazon HD music), you can just tell the speakers what you want to hear--and damned if they don't play it! No fiddling with phones or apps or whatever, you just command Alexa to play it, and she obeys.
Echo Studio (one of two, five speakers in each) The other set is pretty nice too, they're the Edifier S3000 Pros and they have built-in voodoo on whole 'nuther level. They're powered monitors with built-in amps and DACs (in each speaker). Their coolest trick is to (unlike most powered speakers) connect to one another without cables--it's wireless voodoo--all they need is an electrical outlet (one for each speaker) and a signal from a sound source (they accept up to FIVE).
Edifier S3000 Pro That source bit it the other cool trick! I bought them because they are (among other things), 5.0 Bluetooth speakers. I can stream Qobuz, Roon, Spotify, Amazon HD, VLC, even iTunes) from my computer or any other Bluetooth device handy (phone, tablet, laptop) and wham-o, big, big room-filling sound, like magic--without hooking up or plug anything else into them. Lot a good things in that arrangement, but speaker placement can't be under estimated--you can put them virtually ANYWHERE in the room allowing you to really tailor the sound to your circumstances. But that's not all--there are plenty of options beyond Bluetooth. There are connections for USB, Optical, Coax, Balanced Cables (more about that later), and RCA. I tried out the the USB, and Optical connections first--both sounded great. I decided to skip the Coax connection (I don't really have anything to try it with. Maybe my TV? No real interest there--I could use the optical, but the Bluetooth saves the bother of the cable). Now for those who insist on swimming against the current, there is an option to connect a set of balanced cables to the set (but that would be crazy). Of all those methods, the one I was sure I'd never use (along with the balanced cables) was the lowly 3.5mm RCA connection. But as mentioned earlier, the ability to just tell Alexa what to play (without searching for it first on an app, play list, steaming service, or device) was just so damn appealing and slacker-friendly, that it started to bug me that I couldn't do that with the Edifiers in my living room (admittedly a pretty first-world problem, as they say), but still--the slacker force has always been strong with me... And suddenly, it hit me! What if I connected one of those Y-Connector 3.5mm cables to an old first-gen Amazon Echo (Puck) I had kicking around (that happened to have a 3.5mm port I'd never known what to do with) and then plugged the other red and white ends into the corresponding jacks on the back of the master Edifier speaker? What would happen?!!!
Well, I'm sure YOU knew what was going to happen, but buddy, you could have knocked me over with a Jewel Case when I said: "Echo--play Kenny Burrell" And it/she did! And still does--I say it and she plays it, right through those Edifiers! So there you have it, six ways to connect your music to a really impressive sounding pair of 6.5" speakers. And at least three of those methods are good for everyday use, with NO DISCERNIBLE sacrifice in sound quality among them. My current setup is to keep an older MacBook (used strictly as a music server) connected via USB, along with the Alexa/Echo puck connected via RCA. Truthfully the MacBook is just there because it's there. I might use it when I'm doing something else on my desktop computer. Can't imagine yet what that might be? Listening to something different on my desktop speakers at the same time--who does that? Yeah, no doubt about it, Bluetooth is going to remain the primary source--it's just too damn easy to stream good music from one of the better services. Alexa will be a close second option when I'm just too damn lazy to find whatever on my own. Moral of the story: Bluetooth is good, Alexa is very obedient and knows a lot of tunes, and those old, first-gen Echo puck things aren't the dust collectors I once thought they were.


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