Goodbye Sonos? Echo devices just got multi-room audio for free
Announced earlier today in a press release, Amazon has added multi-room audio playback to all Echo hardware. This means you can synchronize music across multiple Amazon Echo devices in your home. The song you are playing in your kitchen can also be played on the other side of the house in your bedroom.
This functionality is ideal for parties or generally anyone moving all over the house all the time. In addition, Amazon will let you group specific sets of Echos for music playback. If you only wanted to play the speakers downstairs, you would setup an Echo group with all the devices on the first floor.
All of this is integrated into Alexa voice control as well. For instance, you would be able to say something like “Alexa, play Taylor Swift upstairs,” and all the Echo devices upstairs will play all the music Swifties can handle.
At launch, Amazon is currently supporting Amazon Music, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and Pandora. Support for Spotify and SiriusXM is in the works and coming soon. Amazon is also working with speaker manufacturers to integrate Alexa into speakers directly to support multi-room audio.
Amazon is the new Budget Multi-Room Audio Leader
With a software update, Amazon just moved into 1st place when it comes to cost. If you don’t have any speakers yet, purchasing a Dot + a speaker is significantly cheaper than going the Sonos route. Here’s an example:
An Echo Dot + a VAUX Cordless Home Speaker (designed for the Echo to drop into) will run you about $90 most of the time. Let’s say you purchase five of these for different rooms in your home. That will run you about $450.
Conversely, if you go with the base model Sonos speaker, the Play:1, that’s going to cost you $199 a speaker. Five speakers will run you roughly $1000, more than twice the price of the Amazon alternative!
However, the true value of the Echo is that it doesn’t force you into a specific, expensive speaker ecosystem. An Echo Dot can be attached to any speaker system in your home to tie it into a whole home, multi-room audio system.
If you have speakers already (which most people do), you don’t actually have to buy anything beyond an Echo Dot. The Dot occasionally goes on sale for $35, an ideal time to stock up if you are going the multi-room audio route.
Yes, Amazon’s multi-room audio system doesn’t appear to be tied into Apple Music. While you can connect directly from a smartphone to an Echo device to play music within Apple Music’s app, Alexa functionality currently isn’t available. That functionality that requires a Sonos for multi-room (for now).
However, you can upload your iTunes music into the Amazon cloud in order to take advantage of Alexa. Another option would be to setup a media server in your home, like Plex, in order to have a central location for all your music.