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Smart Home

New Amazon Echo? 6 essentials tips you need to know

A new Alexa speaker can be a tad overwhelming. Here's how to get started.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

So, you snagged a new Amazon Echo smart speaker. Now what? 

Amazon's line of smart speakers are more popular than ever, and for good reason. They are a great start to making your home smart, and they can do so many things for you. Alexa -- the artificially-intelligent assistant built into every Echo -- can give you the news, turn on the lights and play audiobooks just by asking. And that's only the tip of the iceberg.

We totally get that using an Echo speaker can feel a little overwhelming at first. Where should you begin? What should you try first? What features truly matter?

Here we'll give you the must-know tips that will help you get started with your new Echo speaker.

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Give it a home

There's not really a "wrong" place to put your Echo speaker. However, how you want to use it will help determine the best place for it in your home.

Not sure where to start? Our guide will help you decide where to put your smart speaker, based on your needs.

Are you worried your new Echo will clash with your home's aesthetic? There are a few ways to disguise your Alexa speaker so it fits in.

Learn the basics

Once you've plugged in your Echo and set it up in the Alexa app, what's next? There are a few essential settings you should set first to get the best experience:

Voice commands

The most common ways you'll use your Echo speaker is to ask it to do something for you. "Turn down the volume," "Remind me to get milk," "Set a timer for 30 minutes," "What's the first rule of Fight Club?" -- you get the idea.

While the list of voice commands is ever-growing, there are several you'll actually use regularly:

You can also make your own custom Alexa commands that do exactly what you want.

Also, Alexa can handle multiple voice commands said together, like "Play Madonna on Spotify" and then "lower the volume." Here's how to string multiple Alexa commands together.

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Play all the music you want on the Echo.

Josh Miller/CNET

Play DJ

If you plan to play music on your Echo regularly, there are a few tricks you should know. Of course you can always say "Alexa, play '80s pop," but there's more you can do to enhance your listening experience:

Plug into your smart home

One of the best ways to use an Echo is to control your other smart home products, including smart lights, switches and locks.

According to Amazon, there are more than 10,000 smart home devices that are compatible with Alexa. With just a bit of set up, you can use your voice to turn on lights, lock the front door, lower the blinds, turn on the TV and more.

Here's how to get started with using smart home devices with Alexa.

Troubleshooting

Echo speakers are reliable devices, but they still have issues sometimes. To save you hassle in the future, learn about these eight common Amazon Echo problems and how to fix them.

Most Alexa devices have a ring of lights that illuminate when you talk to the speaker. But sometimes you'll notice those lights are a different color. Here's how to decode what those light ring colors on your Amazon Echo mean.

Even more tips

The CNET Guide to Smart Living: Everything you need to know to live smarter.

Smart Home 101: How to create your own smart home.