Amazon refers to their Alexa solution as a Voice User Interface (VUI, pronounced voo-ee). In much the same way that a Graphical User Interface (GUI) changed the way people interact with a computer, Amazon believes VUI will change the way people interact with all of the technology in their homes. Product offerings from Google, Apple and a few others suggest this same conclusion.
Amazon’s Echo Dot is an excellent add-on to nearly any audio system. The “Dot” is a relatively small and inexpensive device that is controlled by voice and the Alexa app. The Dot provides all the benefits of Alexa and, importantly, includes a hardwired audio output. This feature, which is not available with Google Home Mini, makes the Dot the best solution for adding a voice assitant to stereo and whole-house audio systems.
Here are some great ways to utilize one or more Echo Dots in your home . . .
Where possible, install the Dot in your ceiling.
We created a unique bracket and set of adapters for doing this! We call the combination a "Dot Kit" and we have one for every iteration of Echo Dot, from Amazon's first version to the current spherical 4th generation. Run a Cat 5 (or higher) cable from your stereo, home theater receiver, or whole-house audio system to the Dot's location. See our Alexa Ceiling Mounts page for details.
When ceiling installation and running Cat cable is not possible, there are other options.
- Connect the Dot to a Source Input panel within the room (only available with our Lync system).
- Pair two Dots together over WiFi using the Alexa app so that one Dot is located somewhere in the room and the paired Dot is located at your equipment.
- Connect one or more Dots at the central location and, without pairing, use other Dots spread throughout the home to issue commands to them. As an example, if the centrally located Dot is named "Main Dot", then use a voice command like this: "Alexa, play [song, artist, playlist, genre, etc.] 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, and not out of the whole-house audio system.
Each of these options has some limitations. Watch our YouTube video to learn more.
Note: Some, typically older, homes have Cat cable pre-installed for home networking. If this is your situation, you may have another option. You can "re-purpose" that cable for home audio. If Cat 5 (or higher) cable is already run between a room in which you want to add a Dot and your central location where the audio system resides, you can add an Audio Balun to each end of the Cat cable in order to send the Dot's audio signal cleanly over a long distance. Read more.
Once the audio output from the Dot is located near your equipment, you have several connection options . . .
Connect the Dot to a Source Input.
This will allow you to hear the Dot whenever that Source is selected on your stereo, home theater receiver, or whole-house audio system.
Connect the Dot directly to inputs on an amplifier.
If you are NOT using a whole-house audio system but do have a multi-channel amplifier powering all of your speakers, this is a great option. Volume is controlled only by voice or the Alexa app. We call this configuration Alexa Centric. It has some limitations compared to a full-blown whole-house audio system, but it may be the best fit for your situation. Click to learn more.
Connect to a Voice Assistant Input on an amplifier with Auto-Detect and Switch (ADS).
If your whole-house audio system includes an amplifier with ADS, this is likely your best option. This unique input dedicates the Dot to one zone where it can be used with or without the whole-house audio system. Volume for the Dot is only controlled through voice or the Alexa app. But, when the whole-house audio system is in use, the Dot can still be used to override the source selected by the whole-house audio system so that Alexa's voice responses and audio streaming will always take priority before returning to the source selected by the whole-house audio system. All of our mid-level MC systems and advanced Lync systems include the option to select an amplifier with the ADS feature.
I can't run speaker cable to a central location. What are my options?
You won't be able to utilize a traditional centrally located whole-house audio system, but if you can run speaker cables to the ceiling within a room, you have an option to get a similar whole-house audio experience. You will essentially create a "smart speaker on steroids" where the speaker is in the ceiling, a small stereo amp is located within the room, and the Echo Dot can be located within the room or even within the ceiling using one of our Dot Kits. Multiple rooms set up this way can be wirelessly played in sync using voice commands and the Alexa app. We call this solution Hybrid Wireless. Read more here.
Can I use Alexa to control my whole-house audio system?
Alexa can be used to control many devices like smart lights, locks, and thermostats. You can also use it with many streaming services, like Spotify, Apple Music, and Prime Music. The key is to set up your Dot (or other Alexa device) with your favorite streaming service as the default. Amazon prime music is preset as the default, but this can be changed. While listening to the Dot as your audio source, you can use your voice to request a specific artist, song, playlist, etc. This is how the vast majority of our customers use Alexa when listening to their whole-house audio system.
Occasionally, we will receive a request to somehow fully automate one of our whole-house audio systems using Alexa. Typcially, this means a way to ask Alexa to set a particular zone to a particular source at a particular volume. While this is technically doable, it requires a third-party hub to communicate with the Amazon cloud, and programming skills to enable it. We provide our hexadecimal code lists in the Downloads section of our website for this purpose. HTD does not have the resources to support all of the different home automation platforms, but you may be able to find support from other HTD customers who have braved this technically challenging landscape. We have heard of customers achieving various levels of success with Control 4, Vera, Homeseer, and several others.
We provide a free app that allows our customers to easily control all aspects of their system. In addition to independent zone control, it also includes the ability to execute multiple commands across the entire system from a single button press, and to control multiple groups of zones all at once. This, along with the ability to use an Echo Dot to request a specific artist, genre, song, or playlist, provides all the control most users typically want.