If you have more than one Amazon Echo, there’s a real advantage to configuring the smart speakers in the Alexa app to be in virtual rooms in your home.
Amazon added the ability to create groups quite a while back and has improved the feature over time. Now you can tell the app which rooms your Echo devices are in, grouping them with other smart gadgets you may have that work with Alexa such as plugs, lights and switches.
There are a couple of benefits, but the main one is that you can more easily control those devices in those rooms. When you’re in your living room after setting this up, you can simply say “Alexa, turn on the lights” (or dim the lights) and she will know you mean the living room lights because they’re associated with the Echo assigned to that room in the app.
It also allows you to say “Turn on lights in master bedroom” even if you’re in a different room asking Alexa on a different Echo, and all the grouped lights in that room will turn on. The same works with music: you could say “Alexa, play kids music in the nursery” or “Alexa, play jazz in the dining room”.
You can also choose in the app which Echo in a group is the preferred one for playing music. This is useful if you have, say, a Fire TV Cube and an Echo in the same room as you may not want music playing from your TV, but instead to come from the better-sounding Echo.
Here, we’ll explain how to set it all up.
How to create a room in the Alexa app
Rooms are a type of Group, and you can set them up like this:
- Open the Alexa app
- Tap Devices at the bottom right
- Tap the + symbol at the top right
- Choose Add Group
- Tap ‘Create a room or device group’
At this point you’ll start a three-step process of naming the room, adding devices to it and the adding Alexa devices. This is slightly confusing if you’re expecting to see your Echo devices in the list: they appear in the final step, not the ‘devices’ list.
If you don’t have any smart devices in the room you’re setting up, just tap SKIP at the bottom.
Note that you might not be able to add third-party devices with Alexa (those not made by Amazon) to a room. Sonos and Bose devices are supported, though.
When you’ve finished setting up a room, it will appear in the Devices section of the app under GROUPS.
In each room you will see controls for any lights, plugs and switches you added in the ‘devices’ list, and those work as shortcuts to turn them on and off if you don’t want to ask Alexa to do it (useful late at night when everyone else is already in bed, for example).
Tap anywhere in the group rectangle, but not on one of the device icons, and you’ll see a full list of the smart devices you’ve added to the room: individual lights, plugs and speakers, and you can turn them on and off individually.
You can also tap on the name of individual devices to see more settings, such as brightness and colour for a light that supports dimming and different shades of white or colours. This is will largely depend upon the level of integration the manufacturer has provided, though, and you can find out more in our separate guide to enabling Alexa skills.
And if you want to add a device later on to a room, just tap the room then tap Edit in the top-right corner which will allow you to change the room’s name as well as add any Echo (or other Alexa device) and new lights, plugs and other gadgets to the room.
How to set which speakers play music
In the Alexa app, tap Devices and then tap on the room (in the GROUPS list) that you want to set up. If you haven’t already created the room, follow the instructions above.
Under the SPEAKERS section, tap Choose Speakers to pick which ones play music.
This brings up a somewhat confusing list, as it won’t show the Echo devices you’ve assigned to that group: they are already set as the speakers for that room.
Instead you’ll see a list of all your other Echo devices that are currently connected to Wi-Fi, meaning you could select any of the to play when you say “Alexa, play music in the Lounge” or whichever room you’re configuring.
Note that this is different from Multi-room music, even though it’s essentially doing the same thing.
The other thing you can do here is to scroll down to PLAYBACK OPTIONS and make sure it says “Only when you say the group name”.
If not, tap change and choose that option, otherwise music will always play on those speakers when you say “Alexa, play music”.
How to group rooms together
Another handy tip is that you can combine rooms. You might like to create a group called “Upstairs” and another called “Downstairs” so that you can more quickly turn on or off lights. Sure, you can set up routines to achieve the same thing, but it’s easier to use the new ‘large areas’ feature to do this.
The process is initially the same for creating a single room, so tap Devices, tap the + symbol at the top right and then tap Add Group.
Now you choose the other option: Combine rooms or groups.
Tap Next and then choose a name for the large area. If none in the list suit, you can scroll to the bottom (as you can for individual rooms) and tap Customised Name.
Now tap the rooms you want to include in the big group and tap NEXT, the DONE. That's it. You can now ask Alexa to turn off all lights Downstairs.
There are of course other reasons to have multiple Amazon Echo speakers in your home, including broadcasting announcements such as “Dinner’s ready”, having a private conversation with a family member, the ability to listen to different music in different rooms and multiroom audio.