I own the first generation Amazon Echo Dot, and I’ve been using it since May 2016, and almost the entire time it’s been plugged into my Sonos PLAY:5 speaker. With some trial and error, I’ve cobbled together five solid tips for getting the most out of using it with Sonos. The Dot I own is essentially the same as the Echo Dot (2nd Gen) that you can buy today, so all of the tips in this post directly apply to it as well.
UPDATE October 2017: Sonos recently announced a wireless integration that enables you to send music to Sonos speakers by speaking to an Amazon Echo. While this is a nice new feature, it does not make your Sonos the primary speaker that Alexa uses every time she speaks. You tell Alexa to play things on your Sonos, but she communicates with you only with the speakers in the Echo.
- If you want Alexa to use your Sonos speakers every time she speaks, you should follow the instructions in my How to use the Amazon Echo Dot with Sonos post.
- If you want to set up the new wireless integration, follow the instructions in this dedicated post on the subject.
- If you have a newer Alexa device, follow the instructions in my How to use Sonos with the Echo (2nd Gen), Echo Plus, and Echo Spot post.
And now, on to the tips…
1) Turn on Autoplay on Sonos
When I first started using the Echo Dot with my Sonos, I would launch the Sonos app on my iPhone, tap the hamburger menu in the top left corner, and select Line-In from the menu that slides out from the left. However, this is unnecessary.
Sonos has a feature called Autoplay that automatically changes the music source to Line-In when it detects audio in that port. So basically, when you speak to Alexa, your Sonos will automatically switch to the line input when she starts speaking, even if you’re actively streaming music that you started from the Sonos or Spotify apps.
How to get Autoplay working:
- Launch the Sonos app on your phone or tablet, tap the hamburger menu in the top left corner, scroll down to the last option in the menu that slides out from the left, and tap on Settings
- On the next screen, tap on Room Settings
- On the next screen, tap on the name of the Sonos component that your Echo Dot is plugged into (for example, it may be named Living Room)
- On the next screen, tap Line-In
- On the next screen, tap Autoplay Room and select the name of the Sonos device
- That’s it!
2) Turn on the notification sound in the Alexa app
If you use Autoplay with your Sonos (and you should), there is one downside: when Alexa starts to speak, you won’t hear the first word or two. This is because your Sonos processes audio coming into this input, and unfortunately, this cuts off Alexa’s first couple of words. It’s annoying, but thankfully there’s an easy fix.
What you need to do is turn on the Start of Request notification sound on your Echo Dot. This adds a little blong chime after you say the wake word “Alexa!”. If you have the line-out of your Echo Dot plugged into your Sonos device , you won’t hear the chime, but you will hear every word Alexa says.
How to get the “Start of Request” notification working:
- Launch the Alexa app on your phone or tablet
- Tap the hamburger icon in the top left corner, beside the word Home
- Tap Settings in the menu that appears on the left
- On the next screen, tap the name of the Echo Dot that is plugged into your Sonos device in the section labeled Alexa Devices (for example, my Dot shows up in this section named Sam’s Echo Dot Online)
- On the next screen, tap Sounds & Notifications
- On the next screen, tap the Start of Request switch (the switch will turn blue when it is turned on), you can also turn on the End of Request chime, if you want to hear it to notify you when Alexa has finished speaking
- That’s it!
3) Position your Echo Dot away from your Sonos
Your Echo Dot will be able to hear you better if it isn’t sitting right on top of, or directly beside your Sonos speaker. It makes perfect sense if you think about it. The Dot does an impressive job of being able to hear you from across a room, but it works even better if you position it away from noisy things, like speakers.
Since the Dot doesn’t come with an audio cable, you are going to need to purchase one separately. This 4-foot (1.2m) cable from AmazonBasics is a good starting point, but if can place your Dot even further away from your speaker, this 8-foot (2.4m) version of the same cable is a good one to get.
4) Don’t control everything with your voice
As useful as it is to ask Alexa to play something instead of grabbing your phone and opening the Sonos or Spotify apps, you will find that it makes more sense to sometimes use an app instead. Yes, in an ideal world we would be able to get anything we want just by barking out a command, but there are times with using an app to control Sonos just makes more sense.
“…you could scream “ALEXA!!!! STOP!!!!” But, obviously, this is unpleasant…”
For example, if you’re in another room and you want to stop the music from playing on your Sonos, you could scream “ALEXA!!!! STOP!!!!” But, obviously, this is unpleasant, and if you have visitors, they’re going to think you’re a freak.
NOTE: If you use Spotify, you should definitely use the new feature that lets you to send music to Sonos speakers directly from Spotify mobile apps. Clearly written instructions for how to use it are in this post.
5) Music sounds better from an app
There’s no doubt that the Amazon Echo Dot and Sonos make a great pair, but if you have an ear for sound quality, you will notice that music sounds better when you use either the Sonos or Spotify apps, compared to how it sounds when you play it from the Echo Dot.
Why? The line-out on the Dot needs to convert the audio from digital to analog, and the line-input on your Sonos needs to convert it again from analog to digital. Unfortunately, this degrades the sound quality, and if you have ears like mine, you can hear it.
Does this mean buying an Echo Dot is a waste? I don’t think so. It’s nice to be able to play music in a pinch, when you don’t have your hands free. It’s also great to speak to Alexa to do things besides playing music, like getting weather reports, news, and finding out what time local stores and restaurants close.
UPDATE, January 2nd 2017:
While researching the answer to a question that someone posted to the Comments section of this post, I stumbled upon a 6th important tip…
6) Turn up the volume of the Sonos line-in
If you just plug the line output of the Amazon Echo Dot into the line-in on a Sonos, the volume level of the Dot may not be strong enough, even when the volume of the Dot itself turned all the way up.
I noticed this when I started using the Spotify app to send music wirelessly to my Sonos Play:5. I would listen to Spotify for a while at a given volume, and then when I spoke to Alexa, she would respond at a volume that was too low.
This can be rectified by launching the Sonos app on your mobile device, tapping the hamburger menu in the top left corner, scrolling to the bottom and tapping Settings, then tapping Room Settings, then tapping the name of the Sonos device your Dot is plugged into, then tapping Line-In, then tapping Line-In Source Level. The default is Level 2. I changed it to the option named Level 6 (Mac Computer) and was pleased with the results.
Thanks for posting that question, John! I love it when people engage on this blog. Good things happen. :)
Amazon Echo Dot - Amazon USA, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, there are some interesting bundles at B&H Photo
4-foot (1.2m) cable for connecting Dot to PLAY:5 - Amazon USA, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr
8-foot (2.4m) cable for connecting Dot to PLAY:5 - Amazon USA, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr
Sonos PLAY:5 - Amazon USA, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr
Used Sonos Play:5 - eBay USA
Sonos Connect - Amazon USA, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr
Sonos Connect:Amp - Amazon USA, Amazon.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr