Unsolicited Amazon Echoes: A Short Story
From Accidental Hoarder to Surround Sound Maestro
I have always been a big fan of automation and making things "smart". Except, I have never had to "buy" an Amazon Echo device, and at this moment, I own four of them. Let me give you some insight into how I acquired each one and what I do with these many devices without letting them sit in the dust.
1️⃣ Amazon Echo (2nd Generation)
The Amazon Echo 2nd Gen was the first voice-user-interface device that dragged me into the world of voice-controlled automation. Back in 2018, it was fascinating to have a device that would talk back to you, in its own words. I got this one as a prize for winning an interschool event and used it to test the skills I'd build on the Alexa Skills Kit.
2️⃣ Amazon Echo Dot (3rd Generation)
Towards the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, just when the lockdown had started to settle in, like most student developers, I too was hungry to learn new things, venturing into the offerings of various EdTech platforms. That's how I ran into GUVI, which hosted weekly competitions giving Echo Dots as prizes for winning them. Needless to say, I won a web development-related webathon and took home my second Echo device.
3️⃣ Amazon Echo Dot (4th Generation)
I completed a year at DigitalOcean this year, and as a reward, guess what I received? ANOTHER. AMAZON. ECHO. DOT. Well, 4th Gen this time, and I am not complaining.
By this point, I already have three Echo devices, all of them different but beautifully blending. Enter the fourth one, the grandest of them all.
4️⃣ Amazon Echo Show 8 (2nd Generation)
Once again, courtesy of DigitalOcean, I added the final (hopefully) Echo to my collection. While the touchscreen isn't the best, it looks great on my setup. This one has the crispiest sound with just the right balance of everything.
The question arises: what do I do with these many unsolicited Alexa-enabled devices?
🛠️ The Setup
I had just the Echo Dot 3rd Gen on my desk for the past couple of years, and upon the addition of the Echo Show, I decided that it was now time for surround sound in my room, which also expands as my home office.
The Alexa app allows you to combine speakers via three different settings:
Now the issue with the latter two is that all the devices that I own are different, and the app requires you to combine similar sets, so the stereo pair was out of the picture. More information on this is available here. For home theatre, there's an additional criterion that you need a Fire TV stick to set up, for obvious reasons.
This leaves multi-room music as the only viable option, and how does it make a difference if all the devices are in my room? Since the music I played synced across all the devices, I went ahead with the first option.
Placement of the Echoes
While I do have 4 echos, placing all of them felt unnecessary, so I kept the Echo Dot 3rd Gen in the living room and set up the remainder three in my room. The Echo Show sits on my desk, right in front of me, so I can see the lyrics of the songs playing and control things via the touchscreen display. The Echo 2nd Gen is placed in the corner of the room, next to my bed, since it has a stronger bass, and the Echo Dot 4th Gen is placed in the adjacent corner, so I can still hear if someone rings the doorbell. Trust me, I am considering integrating the doorbell somehow.
Goosebumps. With a little tweaking and balancing the volumes, my room feels like a theatre. With a custom Arduino-powered RGB lighting system, it's the best setup I could've ever asked for. Since the devices are placed in a triangular way, the centre where everything blends happens to be where I place my chair (totally planned), so one can hear all the intricate details of the song sitting down. As an instrumentalist, that is pure bliss. ✨
📝 Ending Notes
Was it worth the effort and planning? Yes. Would I recommend setting up an Echo surround sound system? Definitely. All the more if you have multiple Echo devices in your house. I can successfully say that it boosted my productivity, as I don't just sulk in my chair anymore and enjoy working longer hours. 10/10 would recommend.