Amazon has refreshed its Echo line again, and this time the speakers are shaped like balls rather than cylinders—though all of the key functionality remains the same.
Your Echo can do so much more than summon Alexa, so we’ll steer clear of giving you a long list of commands you can use—you already know most of them, or can at least figure them out. Whatever model of Echo you own, these key tips and tricks will help you get the most out of your smart speaker.
One of the most fun ways to take control of your household is to broadcast a message to all of the Echo speakers on your network. Just say, “Alexa, announce...” or, “Alexa, broadcast...” followed by your message (something along the lines of dinner being ready, or that you’re ready to leave the house).
Your message of choice goes through all the Echos in the home, unless you’ve turned Communication off from the Echo settings page in the Alexa app. You can also exclude speakers from announcements, via the Do Not Disturb mode.
Just like your phone, Echo speakers have a Do Not Disturb mode that’s self-explanatory: The speaker will stop speaking and pinging and making noises during the times you specify (timers and alarms aside). It’s particularly useful when you want to get some sleep.
To enable Do Not Disturb on one or more of your speakers, open the Alexa app on your phone and tap Devices, then Echo & Alexa or a room group, then your Echo. Select Do Not Disturb and you’re able to turn the feature on and off manually, or based on a schedule.
The Echo is getting better at user privacy. To see all the voice commands your speaker has logged (and delete them if necessary), log into your Amazon account on the web, go to the devices page, find your Echo device from the list, and then click Delete voice recordings.
You can use your voice, too: Tell your Echo, “Alexa, delete what I just said” or, “Alexa, delete everything I’ve said today,” for example, adjusting the commands as needed. Your Echo also has a mic off button (a line through a circle) that stops the speaker from listening.
The Echo can pump out a decent tune on its own, but you can also combine it with other speakers for an audio upgrade. Any other compatible Echo device can be used with your speaker to form a stereo pair, and you can also add an Echo Sub to the mix as well.
To set up either of these options, open the Devices tab in the Alexa app on your phone, then find the Echo speaker you want to start with. Choose Stereo Pair / Subwoofer from the list, then follow the instructions to pick the speakers you want to connect together.
You don’t always want responses from Alexa booming back at you, especially late at night, and your Echo comes with a special Whisper Mode to help deal with this. To turn it on using a voice command, just say, “Alexa, turn on whisper mode” to your Echo speaker.
To enable the mode inside the Echo app, choose More, Settings, and then Voice Responses to find the toggle switch. However, even with the mode enabled, you still need to whisper your commands to your Echo speaker to get it to whisper back in response.
Amazon has made much of the improving audio quality in successive generations of the Echo, and the 4th-generation model that was just announced is especially impressive in this department. It might not replace your Sonos speaker, but the audio has a real kick to it.
You can adjust the bass, mid-range and treble output of your Echo by diving into its settings. From the app on your phone, tap Devices, Echo & Alexa, and then your speaker and Audio Settings. For the best results, make these changes while music is playing.
You can directly link Spotify to your Echo via the Alexa app: Choose More, Settings, Music & Podcasts, Link New Service, and then Spotify, and follow the instructions. Choose Default Services from the Music & Podcasts menu to set which service gets used first.
Once that link is created, it means you can ask for your playlists and particular tunes using your voice, but it also adds the Echo as a Spotify Connect device. Tap the devices button in any Spotify app on any gadget in your house, and you can send the audio to your Echo.
If you have multiple people in your household, then you probably want personalized results from Alexa when it comes to queries about your calendar or placing calls to your contacts, not to mention access to your own curated playlists for music requests.
Setting this up is easy enough—just say, “Alexa, learn my voice” within range of your Echo to get started. You can also add a new voice profile (or delete existing ones) from the Alexa app on mobile, by choosing More, Settings, Account Settings, and Recognized Voices.
The Routines feature is one of the most powerful that the Echo offers, enabling you to combine several actions together, all launched with one trigger command. Saying “good night” could turn off all your lights and start up your low-fi chill-out playlist.
From the Alexa app on Android and iOS, tap More, then Routines. You can create a new one via the + button in the top right-hand corner, or switch to the Featured tab to see examples provided by Amazon (you can edit the trigger and the responses for each one).
Amazon keeps on trying to get you to use as many of its products together as possible, and that extends to using one or two Echos as a sound system for your Fire TV device, if your television set’s built-in audio options aren’t all that impressive.
To set this up, you do of course need all your devices registered to your Amazon account and connected to the same wifi network first. Open the Alexa app and choose Devices, then the + button (top right), then Set Up Audio System and Home Cinema.