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Review: The tiny $129 Echo Sub is a huge audio upgrade

Want to make your music more interesting? Add a subwoofer. That’s what Amazon did and, suddenly, the entire Echo smart speaker lineup is a lot more interesting. If you were not impressed with the sound of an Echo, consider trying again with the Echo paired with an Echo Sub. The subwoofer changes the game. The Echo Sub is a small, round sub covered in the same fabric as the Echo speakers. Currently it’s only available in dark gray. It’s designed to be sat on the floor or a sturdy desk and serve up the low notes the Echo speakers are unable to reproduce. The Echo Sub does its job, making audio from the Echo speakers more full and enjoyable, well-balanced and healthy. The Echo Sub is a must-have for Echo owners. Review Amazon provided TechCrunch with a pair of $99 Echo speakers and the $129 Echo Sub. This kit is available for $249, but Amazon also sells the Echo Sub bundle with two Echo Plus devices for $329 — that’s the bundle to get since the Plus models have larger speaker drivers. I suspect the difference will be worth the additional $30.

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Security researchers found a way to hack into the Amazon Echo

Hackers at DefCon have exposed new security concerns around smart speakers. Tencent’s Wu HuiYu and Qian Wenxiang spoke at the security conference with a presentation called Breaking Smart Speakers: We are Listening to You , explaining how they hacked into an Amazon Echo speaker and turned it into a spy bug. The hack involved a modified Amazon Echo, which had parts swapped out, including some that had been soldered on. The modified Echo was then used to hack into other, non-modified Echos by connecting both the hackers’ Echo and a regular Echo to the same LAN. This allowed the hackers to turn their own, modified Echo into a listening bug, relaying audio from the other Echo speakers without those speakers indicating that they were transmitting. This method was very difficult to execute, but represents an early step in exploiting Amazon’s increasingly popular smart speaker. The researchers notified Amazon of the exploit before the presentation, and Amazon has already pushed a patch, according to Wired . Still, the presentation demonstrates how one Echo, with malicious firmware, could potentially alter a group of speakers when connected to the same network, posing concerns with the idea of Echos in hotels. Wired explained how the networking feature of the Echo allowed for the hack: If they can then get that doctored Echo onto the same Wi-Fi network as a target device, the hackers can take advantage of a software component of Amazon’s speakers, known as Whole Home Audio Daemon, that the devices use to communicate with other Echoes in the same network. That daemon contained a vulnerability that the hackers found they could exploit via their hacked Echo to gain full control over the target speaker, including the ability to make the Echo play any sound they chose, or more worryingly, silently record and transmit audio to a faraway spy. An Amazon spokesperson told Wired that “customers do not need to take any action as their devices have been automatically updated with security fixes,” adding that “this issue would have required a malicious actor to have physical access to a device and the ability to modify the device hardware.” To be clear, the actor would only need physical access to their own Echo to execute the hack. While Amazon has dismissed concerns that its voice activated devices are monitoring you, hackers at this year’s DefCon proved that they can.

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Alexa Cast will let users cast Amazon Music to Alexa devices

Amazon today announced Alexa Cast to allow for better music control on Alexa devices. Users will be able to more easily transition from listening to through the Amazon Music app to listening to Amazon Music on an Alexa device. This is a much-needed function for Amazon’s core services. Before Alexa Cast, it can be messy switching between listening to Amazon Music on different devices. The service does not have the same sort of controls found on other services like Spotify . It sounds like Amazon is finally building out features that will turn Amazon Music into a legit music service and Alexa Cast is a good step forward. The service is available starting today. Users need to update their iOS and Android app to access the feature. Just like with Spotify Connect or Apple AirPlay users will need to tap on the Alexa Cast icon and select the device they want to playback the streaming music. It’s unclear from the initial announcement if Amazon will bring this functionality to other apps or let developers use it.

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Amazon puts its own devices on sale early for Prime Day

Amazon is kicking off today’s Prime Day a bit early. Although its annual sale technically begins at 12 PM PT / 3 PM ET this afternoon, it put its own devices on sale 12 hours early. The company is marking down its Alexa-enabled products like Echo, Fire TV, and Fire tablets, as well as its home security products like the Cloud Cam and more recently acquired Ring Video Doorbell. The retailer has also released a list of Prime Day deals, which encompasses other Amazon product discounts, as well as those from other manufacturers. This year’s Prime Day promises to be the largest yet, both in terms of the number of deals and the length of the sale itself, which has been stretched to 36 hours. Prime members will be able to shop over 1 million deals worldwide in an expanded number of international markets outside the U.S. That’s up from over 100,000 deals just two years ago, the retailer noted. The Amazon devices on sale now include the following: Save $20 on Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote, only $19.99 Save $110 on Toshiba 50-inch 4K Ultra HD Fire TV Edition, only $289.99 Save $30 on Echo Spot, only $99.99 Save $30 on Echo (Second Generation), only $69.99 Save $20 on Echo Dot Kids Edition, only $59.99 Save $100 on Echo Look, only $99.99 Save $60 on Amazon Cloud Cam, only $59.99 Save $75 on Ring Video Doorbell Pro, only $174 Save $30 on Fire HD8 tablet with Alexa, only $49.99 Save $30 on Fire HD 8 tablet and new Show Mode Charging Dock bundle, only $79.99 Eligible Prime members get 10% back on select Amazon devices, including Echo, Fire TV, and Kindle, when they shop on Prime Day using the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card or Amazon Prime Store Card Prime members new to Amazon Music Unlimited can six months free of the premium music streaming service with purchase of select Amazon Echo devices during Prime Day Amazon heavily discounts its own devices on Prime Day, so you can be sure these are pretty good deals. For example, the lowest price on the Fire TV Stick before today was $24.99 – now it’s $19.99. The Fire TV (Pendant) is also $10 less than it was during its biggest price drop. And even the brand-new Fire TV Cube has been marked down from $119.99 to $89.99. If you bundle it with a Cloud Cam, you can save $90 off both. Though oddly not in Amazon’s advertised list above, the Echo Dot is on sale, too. The smaller Echo speaker was last year’s best seller on Prime Day, and Amazon is clearly hoping to repeat history by marking down the Dot again. Last year, it was $34.99 on Prime Day, now it’s $29.99  – and one of the better deals to be found

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