Smart Home

Amazon launches multiroom music playback for Alexa

Finally, Alexa can control multiple speakers at once.

Chris Monroe/CNET

If you've got a couple of Amazon's Alexa-enabled smart speakers scattered throughout your home, then here's some news you've probably been waiting to hear. Starting today in the US, UK and Germany, you can sync those speakers up for whole-home audio playback, or tell one speaker to play music on another.

To get started, you'll need to open up the Alexa app and make sure each speaker has a name that's easy to remember (Amazon recommends using the room the speaker is in). Once you've done that, you'll be able to tell Alexa to play music on a specific speaker by using its name, a la "Alexa, play Beyonce in the kitchen."

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Got an Echo device in every room of the house? Now, you can group them together for synchronized music playback.

Chris Monroe/CNET

You'll also be able to group your speakers together, then tell Alexa to play music through one of those groups. For instance, if you had an Echo in the living room and an Echo Dot in the kitchen, you could group them together as "downstairs" in the Alexa app, then say, "Alexa, play White Reaper downstairs." Your music would begin to play through both speakers simultaneously. 

That sort of synchronized playback has long been one of the most oft-requested Alexa features. Launching it now should also help Amazon's increasingly personal assistant stave off competition from the Google Home smart speaker, which already offers multi-device playback.

In addition to the Echo and the Echo Dot, multiroom support will also work with the touchscreen-equipped Amazon Echo Show, but not the battery-powered Amazon Tap, Amazon confirmed.

Third-party Alexa-enabled devices from outside manufacturers won't work at launch, either -- but that won't be the case for long. Early next year, Amazon plans to launch new software tools to help those manufacturers take advantage of Alexa's multiroom controls. Once they do, you'll be able to group those third-party Alexa devices with your Echoes, Echo Shows, and Echo Dots for synchronized playback of whatever music you like.

In addition, Amazon is launching a developer preview of new software that will let the makers of non-Alexa-enabled internet-connected speakers add in Alexa controls via an outside Echo device. Amazon tells us that it's working with Sonos, Bose, Sound United and Samsung to get those kinds of integrations across the finish line, and from the sounds of it, the Sonos integration could be here within weeks.

At launch, multiroom playback will work with Amazon Music, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Pandora. Support for Spotify and SiriusXM is coming soon, Amazon says.