Alexa, Alexa, Alexa: What to do with all those extra Amazon Echo speakers

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There are some distinct advantages to putting Amazon Echo in every room inside (and outside) your house.


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Admit it — you’ve got at least one Echo Dot stuffed in a junk drawer somewhere. I had two — both were white 3rd gen (aka “hockey puck”) models that have since been upgraded to the better-sounding 4th gen “orbs.” But the old model doesn’t sound bad, right? Like, not so bad you can bring yourself to toss it out, anyway. Hence, the junk drawer.

I finally found homes for those two unused Dots — one in my half-bath and one in the upstairs hallway — bringing my inventory of Alexa devices up to a whopping 11 total, including one Echo Flex (see photo for how absurdly small that is). That’s roughly one Alexa speaker or display for every 122 sq. ft. of house.

Is that overkill? Absolutely. Should you put an Alexa speaker in every room of your house (even the hallway and garage) anyway? Believe it or not, there are some distinct advantages to having a houseful of Alexa. (Keep reading — that’s what the rest of this article is about.)

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Echo Flex is the smallest Alexa speaker, with sound quality that’s not great.


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Of course, having multiple Alexa devices within earshot of one another does cause some problems, too. For one, Alexa is supposed to be able to figure out which device you’re speaking to and respond accordingly, but — in practice — that rarely goes off without a hitch. I’ve got fixes for that too.

Here’s how I manage my own not-so-little menagerie of Alexa devices and some of the cool things I do with it, like pipe music throughout my entire home all at once.

Better with more Alexas

Some Alexa features just work better the more Amazon Echo speakers and displays you have set up in your home. For example, if you’ve never experienced whole-house audio before, it’s a surprisingly dazzling experience — even if most of your speakers are Echo Dots (and even if you don’t have an Amazon Echo Subwoofer). On days when you’re moving a lot from room to room — cleaning the house, say, or hosting a get-together — it’s remarkable how neat it is to have music playing everywhere you go.

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Those old 3rd gen hockey puck Echo Dots make perfect speakers for your garage, hallway or other less frequently used spaces.


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But there are other nifty ways to use a houseful of Alexa, too. Besides Multi-room music, here are some of my other favs:

Announcements: Say, “Alexa, announce dinner is ready,” or, “…announce that it’s bedtime,” and check out what happens (hint: Alexa adds some audio “color” to the message).

Drop In: You can have an intercom-like conversation with someone in a specific room — “Alexa, drop in on the kitchen” — or with the whole house at once — “…drop in everywhere.”

Multi-room audio (but in the same room): You may only be able to pair identical speakers together in stereo, but you can put any two or three or more speakers together in the same room, even though the feature is called “Multi-room.”

But before you get started on any of this, the first thing you’ll want to reign in is all those Alexas that could mistakenly respond to you (up next).

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The 2nd gen Amazon Echo is still a formidable smart speaker, so don’t shove yours in a drawer and forget about it.


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Choose your wake words wisely

About half of the Amazon Echo speakers and displays in my house are really meant to be one-way only speakers. In other words, they’re there to play audio, not necessarily to listen for commands. For those speakers, I’ve assigned a wake word other than “Alexa.”

For example, in my bedroom I have two Echo Dots on either nightstand, connected as a stereo pair (i.e., right and left channels — I’ll show you how in the next section). I only need one of them to listen for commands (the one on my side — duh). On that one, I’ve left “Alexa” as the wake word, but on the other, I changed it to “Echo.”

That way I don’t have two nearby speakers competing for my attention when I holler “Alexa!” Here’s how to change the wake word on individual devices:

1. Open the Alexa app and tap Devices on the bottom menu bar, then tap Echo & Alexa at the top.

2. Tap the name of the device whose wake word you want to change, then scroll down and tap Wake Word.

3. Pick a wake word other than Alexa (you may want to stick with just one alternative, lest you forget which is which).

4. Tap OK when a popup lets you know it might take a few minutes to change over, then either back out of that menu or close the app.

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When setting up a stereo pair, the Echo Dot with Clock, Echo Kids and Echo Dot are all interchangeable. 


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Create stereo pairs and multiroom audio groups

If you’ve got two identical devices (or functionally identical — the same generation Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock and Echo Kids are all interchangeable) you can pair them so that audio is divided into left and right channels (like a bona fide stereo system). That pair will then appear as a single speaker in the Alexa app when directing audio in a routine or creating an even bigger set of speakers (more on that shortly).

Before you set this up, make sure both speakers are in the same virtual “room” in your Alexa app and that both are on the same network. Then, do this:

1. Open the Alexa app, tap Devices on the bottom menu bar, then tap the plus sign (+) in the upper right corner.

2. Tap Combine speakers, then tap Stereo pair / subwoofer. Tap one of the speakers you want to use, then the app will highlight compatible speaker options — tap one, then tap Next.

3. The app will assign the right channel to one and the left channel to the other, but you can tap Swap Speakers to toggle the options, then tap Next.

4. Name your new stereo pair (I usually stick with the name of the room, i.e., “Master Bedroom”).

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You don’t need an Amazon Echo Subwoofer to make whole-house audio sound good (although it would help).


Sarah Tew/CNET

Multi-room audio works similarly, but without the stereo separation. Also, you can combine un-alike speakers (and previously paired stereo pairs) — as many of them as you wish. And, again, the speakers don’t have to be in different rooms, even though the feature is called “Multi-room.” Here’s how to do it:

1. Open the Alexa app, tap Devices on the bottom menu bar, then tap the plus sign (+) in the upper right corner.

2. Tap Combine speakers, then tap Multi-room music. Tap all of the speakers you want to include in the group, then tap Next.

3. The app will assign the right channel to one and the left channel to the other, but you can tap Swap Speakers to toggle the options, then tap Next.

4. Either choose a name from the list or type your own custom name at the bottom, then tap Save.

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