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How to Connect an Alexa or Google Assistant Device to a Whole House Audio System
updated Oct 10, 2019
Echo dot
Echo Input
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 and Echo Input into your whole-house audio system. To learn how to control an HTD whole-house audio system with home automation and voice, please check out our home automation page as well as Alexa Best Practices and Google Home Best Practices.

OVERVIEW

 
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 a ceiling mount solution 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: Alexa Echo Dot and Echo Input versus Google Home Mini
Amazon offers two models in their Alexa line, the Echo Dot (Gen 1, 2 & 3) and Echo Input, that are ideally suited for WHA systems. These models include all of the features and benefits of Alexa, are inexpensive, and importantly include 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 fix 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 Echo Dot and Echo Input
Option 1: If you have a Lync system, the easiest option is to simply plug the Alexa device 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 Alexa device automatically becomes one of the sources available to your system. Music streaming and Alexa voice responses can be heard throughout your WHA system.

Option 2: Mount the Alexa device (Echo Dot Gen 1 & 2) in the ceiling or wall of your room using our Voice Assistant Mounting Kit. A single Cat 5e or Cat 6 cable (Cat cable) is required between the Echo device 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 VAD. The end result is a centrally located cable with RCA plugs carrying the Alexa device’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 3: 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 an audio balun (a type of adapter used for sending analog signals long distances over Cat cable) with a 3.5mm plug to connect the Cat cable to your Alexa device. Use an audio balun with stereo RCA plugs at the other end of the Cat cable to plug 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 4: 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.

Option 3. Pair the Home Mini with a Chromecast Audio located near your WHA equipment using Wifi and the Google Home app. While music streaming will be output through the Chromecast Audio, be aware that voice responses from the Google Assistant will only be heard 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 2, 3 and 4 and Google Home Mini Options 2 and 3 (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 or Echo Input 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.

Click to read more about each of the following:
 
DMA-1240ADS
PLA-240ADS
Voice Assistant Mounting Kit
Hybrid Wireless Solution which is a combination of the PLA-240ADS and Mounting Kit

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