Google Home Mini
This article focuses on how to get the audio output from inexpensive Voice Assistant Devices like the Google Home Mini and Amazon’s Echo Dot into your whole-house audio system.
Any Voice Assistant Device (VAD) must be located where its built-in microphones can detect your voice. In most cases, the ideal position is near the center of the room and, wherever possible, in the ceiling so that other people and objects do not obstruct the most direct path from mouth to device. We have ceiling mount solutions for that, but unless you are building a new home or undergoing a major renovation, that location may not be feasible. Alternatives are available that depend on the Whole House Audio (WHA) system you have and wiring that may or may not already exist in your home. In certain circumstances, using Bluetooth or WiFi to pair the VAD to another device that includes an audio output is possible (and often your only solution), but be aware that this type of connection sometimes limits the functionality.
Hardware: Amazon Echo Dot versus Google Home Mini
The Amazon Echo Dot is ideally suited for WHA systems. It includes all of the features and benefits of Alexa, is inexpensive, and importantly includes a 3.5mm audio output. The Google Home Mini is also inexpensive and provides the benefits of the Google Assistant, but it unfortunately does not include a wired audio output. You must pair the Google Home Mini with another device that includes an analog audio output in order to hear its streaming content in your WHA system.
A Significant Shortcoming of Google Home Mini: With the Google Home Mini, a voice request to Google Assistant to stream music will cause the audio to be output from the paired device. The problem is that simple voice responses from the Google Assistant (time of day, weather, answers to questions, etc.) are only output through the small built-in speaker of the Google Home Mini that detected your voice. This is unfortunate because the audio quality is not the same as in your WHA system, and there will be times when you are listening to a different source in that zone and the tiny Google Home Mini will have to “compete” with your main speakers. We are hopeful that Google will resolve this issue with software so that at some point soon you will have the option to output all of the Google Assistant’s responses through the paired device.
Options for the Echo Dot
Option 1: Mount the Dot in the ceiling or wall of your room using one of our Alexa Ceiling Mounts. A single Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable (Cat cable) is required between the Dot's location and your centrally located equipment. This is the slickest and most custom oriented solution which also happens to allow for optimal positioning of the Dot. The end result is a centrally located cable with RCA plugs carrying the Dot's audio which can be plugged into your WHA system as a source or directly into an amplifier with Auto Detect and Switch (ADS). See “Connection Options at the Central Location” below.
Option 2: If you have a Lync system, an easy option is to simply plug the Dot into a Standard Input Panel (SIP) attached to a LyncTouch or LyncPad keypad. Alternatively, you can connect to an Analog Input Panel (AIP) or pair it with a Bluetooth Input Panel (BIP). In every case, the Dot automatically becomes one of the sources available to your system. Music streaming and Alexa voice responses can be heard throughout your WHA system.
Option 3: Connect a Dot or Echo Link directly to the centralized whole-house-audio controller to use as one of your sources. Place other Alexa devices throughout your home. Issue commands to Alexa on those devices to play out of the centrally located device. As an example, name the central Alexa device "Main Dot". Then issue commands to any other Alexa device in the home to use the "Main Dot". Example: "Alexa, play prime music on the Main Dot". Any zone that has the "Main Dot" selected as the source will hear the music stream. Note that with this option, answers to questions posed to the Alexa device will still be heard out of that same device.
Option 4: Make use of an existing Cat cable that extends from anywhere in the room back to your centralized WHA equipment. Sometimes Cat cable that was originally installed for home networking is available to be repurposed. Use a pair of audio baluns (a type of adapter used for sending analog signals long distances over Cat cable). Plug into a source on your WHA system or directly into an amplifier with Auto Detect and Switch (ADS). See “Connection Options at the Central Location” below.
Option 5: Pair the Alexa device to a Bluetooth receiver located centrally near your WHA equipment. Note that in most cases the Bluetooth device must be within 30 feet of the Alexa device for pairing to be reliable so in practice, this option is rarely feasible. See “Connection Options at the Central Location” below.
Options for Google Home Mini
Option 1: If you have a Lync system, the easiest option is to pair the Google Home Mini directly with a Bluetooth Input Panel (BIP) connected to one of your zones. This automatically makes the streaming features of the Google Home Mini available as a source in your Lync system. But be aware that voice responses from the Google Assistant will continue to be output only through the Google Home Mini’s speaker.
Option 2: Pair the Google Home Mini to a Bluetooth receiver located centrally near your WHA equipment. Note that in most cases the Bluetooth device must be within 30 feet of the Google Home Mini for pairing to be reliable so in practice, this option is rarely feasible. Also, be aware that voice responses from the Google Assistant will only be output through the Google Home Mini’s speaker. See “Connection Options at the Central Location” below.
Connection Options at the Central Location
Connect to a source input on your WHA system. Once you have the audio available at the central location, you can always simply connect it to a source input on your WHA System to make the VAD one of the sources available to the entire system.
Connect to an amplifier with Auto Detect and Switch (ADS) With Alexa Options 1, 3, 4 and 5 and Google Home Mini Option 2 (described above) you can get additional functionality by incorporating an amplifier with ADS, such as the 2-channel PLA-240ADS and 12-channel DMA-1240ADS. With this option, you can hear the VAD at any time through the speakers powered by the ADS amplifier, regardless of the source already selected for that zone (even if the zone itself is turned off!), by simply commanding the VAD to stream audio.
And here is a big advantage Alexa devices have over the Google Home Mini: When you use an Echo Dot connected to an amplifier with ADS, you can ask Alexa a question and whatever source you were listening to in that zone will temporarily go away so you can hear her response. Once Alexa is finished speaking, the source you were previously listening to automatically returns. As mentioned earlier, with Google Home Mini, the Google Assistant’s responses are only output through the Google Home Mini’s speaker, not the WHA system.