Amazon this morning announced a new feature for its Echo devices called “multi-room music,” which allows owners with more than one Echo to control where their music is played, or even sync it across a group of Echo devices using voice commands. For example, you’ll be able to tell Alexa to play your music in the living room, play music upstairs or downstairs, or even just play your music everywhere.
Beyond just saying “play my music,” followed by a location, you can also ask Alexa to play your favorite artist, or use other music-related commands, as you would normally.
The feature, at launch, works across some – but not all – of the music services supported by Echo. Naturally, it supports Amazon’s own music service (which also just slashed its student pricing today), as well as TuneIn, iHeartRadio and Pandora. The company says that support for Spotify and Sirius XM is coming soon, but didn’t provide an exact timeframe.
Echo devices, Echo Dot and Echo Show smart speaker systems will support multi-room music in the U.S., U.K., and Germany, starting today.
The ability to synchronize your music across your home could make Echo devices a poor-man’s alternative to pricier home audio and speaker systems. While Amazon’s speakers aren’t necessarily known today for having the best sound quality – it’s Alexa that’s really selling them – rumor has it that Amazon is working on a high-end speaker to compete with Apple’s forthcoming HomePod.
Adding multi-room music support ahead of an updated, better quality Echo device makes sense as gives time for Amazon to get its software working, as well as put tools into the hands of other device makers that will allow their own speaker systems to work with Alexa in this way, too. That could potentially impact demand for Apple’s device.
On this front, Amazon also today introduced the Alexa Voice Service (AVS) multi-room music SDK, which will allow device makers to integrate with the new music feature. Once enabled on devices, consumers can stream their music across Echo and other AVS devices at the same time. For instance, you could play your music on a couple of Echos and a set of standalone speakers at the same time.
The SDK is becoming available early next year, but a sign-up form is available now.
Related to this, new connected speaker APIs are also rolling out that will allow device makers of connected audio systems to control their music playback using Alexa. This one is particularly clever because it makes Echo a companion device and not a competitor to other popular audio systems.
Amazon says it’s already working with Sonos, Bose, Sound United, and Samsung to integrate this technology into their devices. That means you could use an Echo – perhaps an Echo Dot, which is too small and underpowered to deliver great audio – to ask Alexa to play your music on your Sonos system instead.
“Alexa set the standard for voice in smart homes, so working with Amazon to bring voice control to Sonos for the first time was an obvious choice,” said Antoine Leblond, VP of Software at Sonos, in a statement.
“This has been a close collaboration from the beginning as we’ve worked together to combine the magic of Alexa with the seamless multi-room audio capabilities that Sonos pioneered. We’re proud of the work we’ve done together as Amazon’s first multi-room partner – all you’ll need is an Alexa-enabled device and playing music out loud on Sonos will be as easy as saying ‘Alexa, play music in the living room,'” Leblond added.
Sonos, it was also revealed this week by way of an FCC filing, is getting into the voice-controlled speaker game itself, with plans to sell a speaker that would have voice control, far-field microphones and supports “multiple voice platforms,” the filing said. It plans to announce a new device on October 4th, at an event in NYC.
The connected speaker APIs are launching into a developer preview today.