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Smart Home

Alexa’s new music feature makes your Echoes work like Sonos speakers

Playing music around the house with your Alexa speakers just got a lot better. Here's how to set it up.

Taylor Martin/CNET

While Amazon's Alexa speakers are capable of controlling your home, helping you cook dinner and order things without lifting a finger, the speakers especially excel at streaming music. However, until recently, Alexa speakers haven't played well together. Having multiple Echo or Echo Dots spread around the house was more like having several independent speakers instead of satellite speakers that communicate and work in unison.

Added in June, the Drop In feature allows users to call one another using supported Echo devices and, within a household, the feature effectively turned a network of Echo devices into an intercom system.

Now, if you have multiple Echo speakers, you can use them to control music playback around your house, a la Sonos. In fact, this new feature could be indication that the release of the rumored Alexa-powered Sonos speaker is nigh.

To play music on another Echo speaker, you'll need either the Echo, Echo Dot or Echo Show ($229.99 at Amazon.com). (The feature is not yet available with the Tap or the Look.) Then, just add the name of the speaker you want to play music through to the end of your request. For example:

  • "Alexa, play folk music on bedroom."
  • "Alexa, play focus music in the office."
  • "Alexa, play Band of Horses in the living room."
  • "Alexa, play Criminal podcast in the kitchen."

With that said, it's a smart idea to rename your Alexa speakers to something that is easy to remember and pronounce -- ideally, the name of the room the speaker is in.

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Asking for an audiobook to play "in the bedroom" queued a questionable sample.

Taylor Martin/CNET

Currently, remote playing only works with music and podcasts. We tested audiobooks and having Alexa read Kindle books, but these commands seemed to confuse Alexa. Saying, "Alexa, play 'A Game of Thrones' in the bedroom," simply played the audiobook on the speaker used to request it. And asking something like, "Alexa, play my audiobook in the bedroom" appeared to interpret "in the bedroom" as describing the book, which queued up some questionable audiobook samples.

You can also use any Alexa speaker to control the music playback on other speakers around the house, by saying things like:

  • "Alexa, next song in the bedroom."
  • "Alexa, stop on kitchen."
  • "Alexa, play in the office."

Unfortunately, these remote commands won't work for volume control. Instead, you'll have to adjust volume on speakers by talking directly to them, manually turning the light ring or pressing the volume buttons, or through the Music Playback tab in the Alexa app (Android, iOS).

Like with a Google Home ($129.00 at Jet.com) or Sonos speaker, you can also stream music to multiple rooms at once. To do this, you will need to create an Audio Group. Open the Alexa app and go to Settings > Multi-Room Music. Choose a group name from the drop-down menu, select which devices you want to add to the group and click Create Group at the bottom. Then to queue up music on your group of speakers, just ask for the group name, such as, "Alexa, play Fleet Foxes everywhere."

If you already have some Sonos speakers in your house, they will also play nicely with Alexa in the near future.

Editors' note, Aug. 29: Updated to reflect Alexa update with multiroom audio playback.