Amazon has set a release date for the Echo Link. It will be released on December 13th and is now available to pre-order. The Echo Link is the first “high-fidelity streaming music” hardware from Amazon. It’s meant to be a bridging device that connects your existing hi-fi stereo equipment to the Alexa and Echo ecosystem.
The Echo Link does not have microphones, like all of the other Echo devices in Amazon’s line-up. Instead, it’s simply a node that can be controlled by Alexa through another device. The assumption is that it will output superior audio quality, thanks in part to its RCA, Coaxial, and optical connection options. The Echo Link needs to be connected to an amplifier if it’s being used with speakers, but the Echo Link Amp, which is not yet available for pre-order, can be connected directly to speakers, thanks to its built-in 2-channel amplifier.
It’s easy to understand how one would use the Echo Link’s audio output connections to play streaming music via Alexa through an existing home stereo, but there is some confusion about how the Echo Link’s input connections can be used. A note on the product page states that “casting to multi-room music from a line-in or Bluetooth input” is not supported, however that seems like the main reason to have audio inputs on a device like this. A Reddit user asked Amazon’s customer support if it’s possible to connect a CD player to the Echo Link’s inputs and have the CD audio played through on all Echo devices in a music group and the customer service representative said yes, that was possible, which contradicts the note on the product page.
If the Echo Link can be used as a bridge to play local audio sources through an Alexa music group, then it becomes a much more attractive product because there is no way to achieve that through any other Echo model. The Amazon Echo Plus is unique in that its auxiliary port can be configured as an input source, but the input audio can only be played through that one speaker and will not be broadcasted to a whole-home audio group. If all the Echo Link can do is output better audio quality than the other Echo devices, but with no additional functionality, it’s a much more niche device.