Amazon just dropped a whole bunch of Alexa-equipped gear on us, including a redesigned Echo speaker with a price tag of just $99. That’s a bargain compared to the $189 price of its predecessor, but you can take advantage of Alexa’s best new feature on your old Echo stuff right now, for free: Multi-Room Music is rolling out across the platform.
What is it?
Multi-Room Music allows you to play your tunes or talk radio (woo!) simultaneously across a variety of Echo devices on the same network. It works like a Sonos system, pumping audio to individual speakers throughout a house. Or, you can place several speakers around a really big room that’s covered by the same network, a technique often used by gyms, studios, or other large spaces. Basically, wherever you are in the house, Slayer can be there, too.
You can also control the music playback in another room from the closest Echo device. So, if you forgot to turn off the Megadeth in your kids’ room upstairs, you can turn it off by asking Alexa on the Echo in your living room.
What gear do you need?
Multi-Room Music currently works with the old Echo, the new Echo, Echo Plus, Echo Show, and Echo Dot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with the portable Amazon Tap, at least not yet.
The Dot’s built-in speaker is rather pathetic, so you’ll want to attach it to an external source of sound, but note that you can’t use Bluetooth to do so when using Multi-Room Music.
Third party speakers aren’t natively compatible just yet, but Amazon’s software tools will give outside manufacturers the ability to sync up at some point down the road.
How do I set it up? The Echo devices you want to include need to be included in a group. This used to be an annoying task because Echo devices had limited group functionality, but an update rolling out in October will give the devices full group access and prevent conflicts.
Beyond that, it’s a simple matter of following the Alexa app’s instructions, which you can also find here.
What music services can it play? This is the biggest drawback of the whole system. Right now, it only works with Amazon Music (duh), Pandora, IHeartRadio, and internet radio service TuneIn. So, if you’re a Spotify user, you’re out of luck. Same goes for Apple Music (double duh). Amazon has said that both Spotify and Sirius XM support are coming down the road, so make some Pandora stations and hang tight for now.
Shucks, too bad I use Google Home… Cheer up, pal! Google Home also has a similar feature that works with its Google Home speakers as well as the Chromecast Audio devices (the regular Chromecast can’t hack it). You can check out this page for specific instructions on how to set it up on your devices.