The Sonos One may be the hottest smart speaker right now, but if you have an existing Sonos system you don't need to spend $200 to control your system with your voice.
Now anyone with a Sonos and an Amazon Echo can control their music collection by simply speaking into thin air. "Alexa, play The Pixies in the living room," for example, will cause your Sonos speaker in there to start belting out "Bone Machine." Technically, Sonos is calling the capability a public beta, but if you have an Echo device you can do it now.
The cheapest Alexa device is the Echo Dot ($50), and if you own a Sonos speaker, adding one to enable full-fledged voice control is almost a no-brainer. While owners of the One are handheld through the process, adding an Echo takes a little bit more work. Here's how to set it up.
- First, install the latest versions of the Alexa and Sonos apps for either iOS or Android. If you don't have a smartphone, you can instead access the desktop app for Sonos; alternatively Alexa also has a webpage. This guide focuses on mobile setup.
- Next you'll need to sign up for the Sonos Public Beta. It's pretty easy: open the Sonos app, then press the More button. Next choose "Settings", and then "Advanced Settings". Tap "Beta Program", and then select "Join the Beta Program". That's it -- you're in the club! Regardless of if you use Alexa or not having the latest beta is handy as the company is always adding useful features and extra streaming services.
- One thing that may come up is that you should make sure your Sonos speakers are named something recognizable. I had mine named "Play:1" (with the colon), and Alexa couldn't find it. Otherwise, if you named yours "living room" or something similar you're fine. That's about all you'll need the Sonos app for at the moment.
- Now it's time to add the Sonos skill. Open the Alexa app and go to the Skills option in the Menu. At the moment the "Sonos" is one of the highlighted options, but you may find you need to search for it. Add it, and then keep clicking OK until you get to the part where you need to give permission for Alexa to control your Sonos. Press OK again.
- The app will then prompt you to Sign into your Amazon account. You're almost there.
- A pop-up should appear asking you to choose your "devices." Press the discover button and it should find the Sonos devices on your system. If you add more Sonos speakers later, you will need to repeat this step again for Alexa to use them. You can find this step via the Smart Home tab in the Alexa app.
- Finally, use your Amazon Alexa app to choose your default music service by going to Music, Video and Books, selecting the service you want, and if necessary, signing in. By default Alexa will use Amazon Music, but if you'd rather use another service such as Pandora or Spotify, choose that instead. And that's it. You're done.
Time to talk to the speaker
If you haven't used Alexa skills before, it does take some getting used-to. You'll need to utter the wake word, typically "Alexa," each time you want to give a command. Annoyingly, there's no way to specify one speaker as your default. Instead, you'll need to say the name of the speaker, like "living room," each time you begin a playback session. For subsequent commands, saying the name again isn't usually necessary, however.
Typical commands can go like this:
- "Alexa, play Meat Loaf 'Bat Out Of Hell' on living room"
- "Alexa skip to the next song"
- "Alexa, what song is playing?"
- "Alexa, turn up the volume"
- "Alexa, stop"
Overall I found the system worked pretty well, though it had some small issues. Asking Alexa to playback Spotify Playlists didn't work so well, and sometimes the song would be completely wrong. While my Australian accent could also have something to do with it, Google Home ($109.00 at Jet.com) seemed to work much better. Also, voice control is only really good for "snacking." If you want to sit down with an album on a specific service, using the Sonos app on your phone is still the best option. Lastly, you also can't group speakers or transfer music from one speaker to another with your voice yet.
Alexa control on Sonos is relatively straightforward to set up once you know the steps to take. If you ever get stuck, I found that unplugging the devices from the power source and plugging them back in helped. But otherwise, go out there and have fun! The future of voice control is here, it's free, and it's pretty fun.