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Friday 28 December 2018

Alexa and Sonos Play 1

I have the older Sonos Play:1 speakers that do not include Alexa. I wanted to include some voice control for these. I investigated a couple of options but Amazon's Alexa looked like the best bet to get the desired features.

As a proof of concept, the first job was to setup the speakers on the mobile App. In my case on Android.

Setting up the Android app was fairly easy:

  • Download the Alexa App
  • Login with my existing Amazon account
  • Go to Devices > Other devices
  • Detect Devices
  • Once it found the Sonos devices it required me to authenticate with Sonos and grant permission for the Alexa app to manage the Sonos speakers. That took two attempts.
  • Then I had to detect the devices, again. This time they all appeared and Alexa required me to setup each speaker.
  • Setting up each speaker was no more than adding it to a group.

With that done I could control the Sonos speakers from within the Alexa app.
I also made the Alexa app the default personal assistance so I could hold the menu button to talk to Alexa.

On an Android phone, Alexa will not listen until a button on the phone is pressed, either from within the Alexa app or by activating the default digital assistant.

I could use voice commands such as, 'Alexa, play ZZTop in the kitchen.' or 'Alexa, stop the music in the bathroom.' or ' Alexa, play Absolute radio in the kitchen.'

Much to my surprise, this gave me access to the library on Amazon Music.

With that set up and working, the next step was to add an always on smart hub, of some sort.

Apparently the disadvantage of using an Echo Dot or the larger Echo version, is that Alexa is most likely to play from their speaker, rather than the better quality Sonos.

The Echo Input, is the only option, that does not include a built in speaker. Various sites, say it is not compatible with the Sonos speakers but others say it is the same as an Echo Dot but without the built in speaker so it should work.

Only one way to find out for sure, and that's to buy one and try it out. At £35 it was worth taking a chance.

Having set up the Echo Input, I understand why there are mixed messages about its compatibility. It works perfectly to control the Sonos speakers BUT the Alexa voice will not play from the Sonos speakers. She will only play from the connected speaker.

That was a minor issue and means there is no point in using an Echo Input with Sonos speakers.  Might as well buy an Echo Dot.  It's tidier.

It does have a tendency to play the music via the connected speaker instead of the Sonos however I solved this by creating extra groups. The Echo needs to be in its own group and each Sonos in separate groups. In the Echo group set the preferred speaker to be one of the Sonos groups.

Using that setup, the Echo always played the music on the Sonos speaker.

None of that was the problem. The problem was that we do not use music streaming. It is very difficult to get the Echo to play from music saved on a mobile phone.

You can do it but you have to initiate it from the phone so there is no advantage over using the Sonos app from your phone.

For that reason Alexa does not add any benefits for us.


Summary - Using Amazon Echo with Sonos Speakers
- The Echo devices will not talk through the Sonos speakers
- The Echo Input is therefore pointless for use with Sonos speakers.
- The Echo Dot would be a better choice
- The Echo voice control will play music through the Sonos speakers
- The Echo voice commands will control the volume of the Sonos speakers
- The Echo voice command cannot directly play music from phone playlists
- The Echo voice commands will plays streamed music such as Amazon Music or Spotify through the Sonos


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