Excess echoes: why you should put an Alexa device in every room of your house

Excess echoes: why you should put an Alexa device in every room of your house

This story is part Tips for the houseCNET’s collection of handy tips for getting the most out of your home, inside and out.

I’d bet that title made you do a double take. I mean, what kind of weird person has an Amazon device in every room? Well, call me weird – but don’t judge until you hear me out, because there’s so much cool stuff you can do with what’s not in use echo dot stuffed in a forgotten drawer or that Amazon Echo speaker which is gradually becoming dusty in the corner of your living room.

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I had two Echo Dots – both white third generation models which I had since replaced with the better sounding fourth generation “orbs”. But those old hockey pucks still rock, especially when paired with my black echo show 8, so I dug them up and found homes for them both. One third-gen Dot went to my half-bathroom, the other to my upstairs hallway – bringing my menagerie of Alexa devices to a whopping 11 smart speakers and smart screens. This means that I now have an Alexa speaker or display every few feet in my house.

Is it overkill? Yeah, you could say that. Should you still install an Alexa device in your bedroom, bathroom, and garage (you got the gist!)? Well, absolutely. Once you’ve done it, you’ll wonder why you’ve never done it before. That’s because there are unique benefits to keeping a house full of Alexa devices.

Here are all the tricks you can implement with the Amazon gadgets you already have, plus some tips on how to keep everything tidy. And if you fancy buying new Echo devices, Amazon is hosting an event next week to unveil new products and services. (You can always consult the best alexa devicesthe best cheap alexa devices and the best smart displays already on the market too).

Read more: The true cost of setting up an Amazon smart home

Why so many Alexa devices? Because more is better

Some Alexa features work best with the more Amazon Echo speakers and displays you have set up in your home. For example, if you’ve never experienced whole-home audio before, it’s a surprisingly dazzling experience, even if most of your speakers are Echo Dots (and even if you don’t have Amazon Echo subwoofer). On days when you’re moving around a lot from room to room, like cleaning the house or hosting a meeting, it’s remarkable how nice it is to have music everywhere you go.

Three 3rd generation Amazon Echo Dot speakers sitting on a table

These older, third-generation Hockey Puck Echo Dots are perfect speakers for your garage, hallway, or other less frequently used spaces.

Ry Crist/CNET

But there are also other nifty ways to use a house full of Alexas. Besides multiroom music, here are some of my other favorites:

Advertisement: Say “Alexa, announce dinner is ready” or “announce it’s bedtime” and watch what happens (Alexa adds audio “color” to the message).

drop-in: You can have an intercom conversation with someone in a specific room – “Alexa, go to the kitchen” – or with the whole house at once – “go everywhere”.

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

But before you start anything, the first thing you’ll want to master is all those Echo devices that might be responding to you in error (next).

A second-generation white Amazon Echo smart speaker from an overhead view

The second-gen Amazon Echo is still a terrific smart speaker, so don’t put yours in a drawer and forget about it.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Assign wake words other than “Alexa”

If you’re like me and have multiple Echo devices in the same area, you already know how annoying it can be to shout “Alexa!” and let each device compete for your attention. If you have two or more devices in the same vicinity, it’s best to give each its own wake word.

For example, I have an Echo Show in my kitchen and an Echo Dot in the living room a few feet away. I use the Dot primarily for playing music, not necessarily for listening to commands. I gave this speaker (and other speakers I use for audio only) a wake up word other than “Alexa”.

While Amazon’s traditional options for summoning your voice assistant are Alexa, Computer, Amazon, and Echo, there are several newer wake word additions you can use like Ziggy and Hey, Disney. Unfortunately, you can’t give it a name other than those, so you’ll have to wait until you call your device “Buddy” or something else unique.

Here’s how to change the wake word on individual devices:

1. Open the Alexa app, go to Devices.

2. Faucet Echo and Alexa from the top row of icons.

3. Tap the device name with the wake word you want to change. You will need to change the wake word for each device separately.

4. Select the Settings icon in the upper right corner, then scroll down and tap wake up word.

5. Choose a wake word other than Alexa (see above for your options).

6. Faucet OKAY when a pop-up informs you that the change may take a few minutes, exit this menu or close the application.

You can also change the wake word with voice commands. Just say, “Alexa, change your wake word.” Alexa will ask you to choose from the list of suggested wake words. Then select the word you want.

Now you are ready! And you can always go back and change the wake word at any time.

Read more: All the Amazon Echo Wake words that aren’t Alexa – and what they do

Three round Echo speakers on a table

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

Julie Snyder/CBS

Pair Alexas for stereo and multiroom audio groups

If you have two identical (or functionally identical) devices – the same-generation Echo Dot, Echo Dot with Clock, and Echo Kids are all interchangeable in this sense), you can pair them so that the audio is split into left and right channels, like a real stereo system. This pair will then appear as a single speaker in the Alexa app when directing audio into a Routine or creating an even larger set of speakers (more on that shortly).

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

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

2. Faucet Combine speakersthen touch Stereo/subwoofer pair. Tap one of the speakers you want to use, then the app will highlight the 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 press Swap the speakers to switch between options, then touch Next.

4. Name your new stereo pair (I usually stick to the room name, eg “Master Bedroom”).


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Multiroom audio works the same way, but without the stereo separation. Also, you can combine different speakers and previously paired stereo pairs, as many of them as you want. And, again, the speakers to have to be in different rooms. Here’s how:

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

2. Faucet Combine speakersthen touch Multi-room music. Tap all 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 press Swap the speakers to switch between options, then touch Next.

4. Choose a name from the list or type your own custom name at the bottom, then tap to safeguard.

Protect the privacy of your Amazon Echo

With all those Echo devices scattered around your home, you’re probably wondering: Is Alexa still listening? It’s a good question since no one wants Alexa to know about our confidential conversations.

Echo devices have raised many privacy concerns. Even though they only record and transmit audio to Amazon’s cloud when the blue light activates, it is well known that Echo devices can be activated without your knowledge if either of them hears something similar to their wake word (for example, if you say something like “election” or “I’d like it” instead of “Alexa”). It is also worth understanding that Amazon employees can listen to your Alexa conversations if you do not take certain precautions.

Luckily, there are settings and other hacks to keep Amazon out of your business.

For one, you can unplug the device or mute the mic by pressing the mute button on the microphone to make sure Alexa isn’t always listening. You can also update the settings for delete your Amazon voice transcriptions immediately so they cannot be reviewed by Amazon employees. You can read our full overview of privacy tips here.

For more cool Alexa tricks, take a look at six useful tips for Amazon Echo you will want to use every day, some fun things you can ask Alexa and a few others commands you can try tonight.

More tips for Alexa

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