One of the features I value most about Google Home is its ability to string together two, three or even a couple dozen smart speakers so I can blast music throughout my whole house. Up until now, however, getting all those speakers to sync up has been a frustrating process -- never mind trying to add or delete speakers from a group once it's been created. Thankfully, that all changed with version 2.31 of the Google Home app.
The new update introduces streamlined media controls that let you spontaneously create a speaker group without having to go into the settings menu. You can also bring speakers in or out of the mix on the fly, while music or other audio keeps on playing. With these new media controls, rocking out while navigating my townhouse -- with its office on the first floor, kitchen and living spaces on the second and sleeping quarters on the third -- just got a whole lot easier.
The new control panel is fairly simple and intuitive, but there are a few ways to use it that work better than others, as well as a couple of pitfalls you'll want to watch out for. Here's how I've been following the music -- and having the music follow me -- with Google Home's new media control interface.
How to find the new media control panel
To get to the new media controls, open the Google Home app and tap the green circular button near the top of the screen labeled Media. It should be grouped with similar (but differently colored) buttons for Lights, Broadcast, Routines and possibly some others.
This will open a screen with either the current track (if you're already jamming) or the logo for your default music service at the top, followed by a list of your devices with small circular buttons for selecting turning them on or off. You may need to tap More devices in the lower right corner if you have a big enough collection (like mine -- currently, eight). At the end of the list an option to Stop the music will appear when music's playing.
After all the device names, you'll see a list of speaker groups (if you've created any) and, at the very bottom of the screen, there's a menu labeled Manage your system. The oval buttons labeled Music, Video and Radio will take you to the settings for those categories (where you can link services, choose defaults and, under Video, link
). Create group opens the page where you can create and save a specific speaker group.
You can start playing music in the app, but don't
If nothing is playing on any of your speakers, you can technically get the party started from the control panel within the Google Home app itself, but you're extremely limited in what you can play. First, you can only play from your preferred music service, which for many people might be all they use. I, however, have three different services linked to Google Home:
(my default), Pandora and SiriusXM.
Second, it seems to only be able to play a random selection of songs I've listened to before, which would be fine, I guess, if I didn't listen to an array of genres that includes reggae, jazz, classical, grunge and, lately, holiday music. Bob Marley followed by Miles Davis, Mozart and Carol of the Bells can get a little disorienting. There's a much better way to kick things off, so keep reading.
Start music with a voice command, then fiddle with controls in the app
The best way to get some tunes going is with a voice command. It doesn't matter which speaker you're near or if you'll want to keep playing through it -- you can change that in a minute. Just pick a song, playlist or channel you want to hear from any one of your linked music services with a command like "Hey,
, play [song, playlist or channel] on [music service, if other than your default]."
Once something's playing, open up the controls to make adjustments. You can add and subtract speakers (by tapping the circle buttons beside your devices' names) as well as adjust volume, both for individual speakers on the sliders that appear under their names or for everything that's playing on the slider at the top.
Don't let volume get out of control
Getting the volume dialed in perfectly on multiple devices can be a bit of a challenge. You don't want the speaker in another room to overpower the one in the room you're in, and if you're not careful, turning up the system volume could crank a faraway speaker up beyond reason.
Here's what I did to get the mix just right: I slid the main system volume button right to 50% then played some music through all the speakers. Starting in the first-floor office, I adjusted the speakers in the room I was in, then moved to the next room and did the same until I'd been through the entire house. Then I did one more walk-through to make sure I didn't get any spillover from other rooms.
From then on, I only touched the main system volume slider, never the individual devices, which kept them all perfectly balanced with one another. Whenever I added a new speaker on the fly, I moved the main volume back to 50% before adding it so the ratios between speaker volumes remained consistent.
You may see wonkiness, but you can fix it
Most of the minor problems I encountered when I started testing out the new media controls were solved with a simple router reset. Still, the whole system still seems a little fragile. For example: I found it best to wait until one new speaker is connected and playing music before adding another, or it might take more than one try to connect successfully. Sometimes, even when I took my time adding speakers to the mix, a duplicate menu would appear showing a different track playing.
Also, if a speaker starts playing and is slightly out of sync with the rest, don't mess with the Group delay correction settings. Just disconnect and reconnect it and it'll most likely sync up the second time.