In what may be one of the most significant disruptions in the lifestyle audio segment of the AV universe, Amazon has announced a new feature for its Alexa powered echo devices: multi-room audio. Now, users can play their tunes on the device or group of devices they choose including the Echo speaker and Echo Dot player.
Setting up multiroom audio is as simple as going to the settings in the Alexa app, finding the new Audio Groups subsection, and selecting Multiroom Music. Once there, you can assign individuals speakers to your new group, give it a name, and then control it by saying something like “Alexa, play DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince downstairs.”
If you’re thinking “that sounds an awful lot like a challenge to Sonos,” I’m here to tell you that’s an understatement. But in reality, Amazon is pitching a big tent and letting other companies join the party because support for this capability is coming to non-Echo Alexa Voice Service (AVS Forum) devices soon.
The ability to synchronize music playback across multiple devices works with several streaming services: Amazon music, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Pandora with Spotify and SiriusXM coming soon. Amazon customers in the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany can start using this new feature today.
“In just the last few months, we’ve added dozens of new features to Alexa that enhance your entertainment experience—control of Amazon Fire TV and your home entertainment systems via Echo; music lyrics, Amazon Video, and movie trailers on Echo Show; and activity-based music searches—and we’re just getting started,” said Toni Reid, Vice President, Amazon Alexa. “Today, we’re making Alexa even smarter with an all-new feature that lets you play music synchronized on multiple Echo devices to provide room-filling music throughout your home.”
Concurrent to this news, Amazon announced new tools that allow device makers and developers to bring multiroom music control to their own speakers. These tools will be available early next year, and Amazon says it is excited to be working with Sonos, Bose, Sound United, and Samsung to bring this capability to products from those companies. So maybe this disruptive new feature won’t actually spell the death of Sonos after all. Perhaps it will spur a new golden age of audio where a nearly infinite catalog of music is just a voice command away.
Sonos, Sound United and Samsung all had something to say about this development:
“Alexa set the standard for voice in smart homes, so working with Amazon to bring voice control to Sonos for the first time was an obvious choice,” said Antoine Leblond, VP of Software, Sonos. “This has been a close collaboration from the beginning as we’ve worked together to combine the magic of Alexa with the seamless multi-room audio capabilities that Sonos pioneered. We’re proud of the work we’ve done together as Amazon’s first multi-room partner – all you’ll need is an Alexa-enabled device and playing music out loud on Sonos will be as easy as saying ‘Alexa, play music in the living room.'”
“Sound United is constantly striving to provide consumers with the best possible user experience. With AI voice services simplifying how we control our home environments and products, we’re excited Denon, Marantz, and HEOS customers will be some of the first to experience Alexa multi-room audio compatibility and the power of voice control,” said Kevin Duffy, CEO and president, Sound United.
“Soon, users will be able to play their favorite song, alter the volume, or change an input in any room where our connected products are placed, simply by asking Alexa to do so.” said Jun Young Kim, Vice President of AV Business Team, Samsung. “With Alexa multi-room audio and Samsung, customers will simply be able to ask Alexa to play their favorite music in any room of the house – using only their voice. Listening to great music on Samsung speakers has never been easier.”