Amazon has officially announced the second-generation model of its popular Amazon Echo smart speaker. The new model boasts an all-new design, upgraded acoustics and the next generation of voice recognition software. Amazon has also revealed that the second-generation Echo will be more affordable than its predecessor.

The second-generation Amazon Echo is around half the size of the original model, and features an updated design that brings a subtler look. That’s largely thanks to the device now being clad in cloth, rather than being a tall cylindrical plastic device that sits on the kitchen counter. This gives it a more premium-looking design, despite this Echo actually costing less.

Users purchasing the new Echo will not only notice the upgraded design, but they should also hear the difference in acoustics between the old and new models. Amazon says that it has given the second-generation Echo a dedicated woofer and tweeter, meaning it shouldn’t sound as muted as the old model. Dolby has also certified the audio of the new model, so consumers can be assured that music will sound better than ever.

Sound quality has been a big battleground in which smart speakers have been constantly fighting. The Google Home launched promising better acoustics, the Apple HomePod claims to be the audiophile’s choice of smart speakers, while Sonos, Sony and just about every other speaker manufacturer have asserted that they have the solution for so-so audio quality from the current generation of smart speakers.

Multi-room Support

It’s the competition from the likes of Sonos and Apple that have pushed Amazon to include multi-room audio support, a major request for Echo users since its initial launch. Now users buying multiple Amazon Echo speakers can link them together and play the same song around the house in perfect synchronisation.

Multi-room functionality isn’t exactly exclusive to the new Amazon Echo, in fact, those with a first-generation model will be able to take advantage of the exact same feature. The lower cost of the new generation does make it easier to take advantage of the multi-room functionality, however.

Echo Phone Home

At the launch of the Echo Show earlier this year, Amazon officially unveiled the ability to call other Alexa-enabled devices, although the feature has received a major upgrade alongside these new models. Now not only can the Echo phone other Alexa-enabled devices, but it can also call phone numbers, including 911 – although that functionality is only available in the US, Canada and Mexico for the time being. UK and German users will get the Echo-to-Echo calling functionality, however.

Google has already rolled out calling features to its smart speaker, although like Amazon’s approach it’s only available in the US and Canada. In fact, Amazon goes further than Google because at least users can call other Echo devices for free, something Google doesn’t offer its customers.

New Look, New Price

The second-generation Amazon Echo will cost significantly less than the first-generation model with £60 slashed off its list price. That means the new Echo will cost just £89.99 in the UK, compared to its previous price of £149.99. The price difference is even more drastic in the states, where $80 has been taken off its retail price – with the new model costing just $99.99.

While the new Amazon Echo is cheaper, it’s also more customisable than ever. Users used to have the choice between a black and white model, while now they have the choice between charcoal, heather gray or sandstone fabrics, an oak or walnut veneer, or a brushed silver finish.

The new Amazon Echo is available to pre-order now, with the model set to be released on October 31.