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5 tips for your new Amazon Echo

A new Alexa speaker can be a tad overwhelming. These five tips will help you get started and make the most of it.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Amazon's Alexa speakers are full of helpful features. You can get the news, turn on the lights and play your audiobooks just by asking, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. But, frankly, a new Alexa speaker can feel a little overwhelming at first. Where should you begin? What should you try first? What features truly matter?

Here are five important things to try first with your new Alexa speaker.

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Set up your Flash Briefing

Think of the Flash Briefing as your own personal updates with only the information you care about. When you ask for your Flash Briefing, Alexa will tell you the weather for the address you set in settings, followed by all the news and sources you subscribe to.

To change what sources play in your Flash Briefing, and which order they play, go to alexa.amazon.com from a browser or open the Alexa app on Android or iOS. Then go to Settings > Flash Briefing. There you can toggle sources on or off, remove sources and find new sources, which range from NPR, Top Reddit Posts and CNET News to sports channels, Word of the Day and recipe tips from the Food Network.

To play your Flash Briefing, just say, "Alexa, what's in the the news" or "Alexa, play my Flash Briefing."

Get personalized responses

Earlier this year, Amazon added voice recognition to its multi-user support. It's called a voice profile and it allows Alexa to learn your voice, distinguish it from other people who might use your Alexa speakers and gives you personalized results. You'll get to add events to your own calendar and items to your shopping or to-do list. And you won't have to specify that it's you to see what's coming up on your calendar or to play your preference in music.

To set up a voice profile, open the Alexa app on your phone and go to Settings > Accounts > Your Voice. Tap Begin and select the nearest Alexa speaker. Follow the on-screen prompts and read the 10 phrases aloud. Once finished and after you give Alexa about 15 or 20 minutes to learn your voice, you can ask, "Alexa, who am I?" And she will tell you who is speaking.

"Can you say that again?"

One of the most overlooked commands that can be helpful to anyone -- beginner or expert -- is making Alexa repeat something. All you have to say is, "Alexa, what did you say?"

Change the default music services

Out of the box, Alexa speakers can play music from a handful of different sources: Amazon Prime Music, Amazon Music Unlimited, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, TuneIn and SiriusXM.

After setting up your account with any of these services, you can simply tag which service you want to play music on to the end of your command, such as, "Alexa, play Christmas music on Spotify." But if you use that service more than any other, you can also change the default music service for both music libraries and radio stations.

Open the Alexa app and go to Settings > Music & Media > Choose default music service. Once you change the default, you will no longer have to specify where you want music to play from.

If your preferred music service is not supported by Alexa, you can still play your favorite tunes with your speaker. All you have to do is pair to your phone, tablet or computer using Bluetooth. To do this, say, "Alexa, pair." Then open Bluetooth settings on your phone or tablet, locate the Alexa speaker on the device and select it to pair.

Once paired, any time you want to connect your device to Alexa, just say, "Alexa, connect." Then you can play any audio through your Alexa speaker.

Explore the wide world of skills

From time to time, Alexa will tell you that's she's sorry, and she "doesn't know that one," or she's "not sure." When this is the case, it's a good time to check out the skills section in the Alexa app.

Skills are to Alexa speakers as apps are to your phone: They are third-party software that fills in a lot of the blanks. They range from games like Jeopardy! and Twenty Questions to travel apps like Kayak, support for smart home devices and ambient sounds. With over 20,000 skills available, the list of possibilities for Alexa only continues to grow.