The long awaited Alexa Sonos integration is here. Hooray. Sort of.
I bought an Echo Dot a year ago, in part because I wanted it to control my Sonos Play 1 speaker. Sonos promised it would release an integration with Alexa. In the interim year I’ve found other ways to do it using the Harmony Hub and IFTTT.
The process was:
- Set up an activity in Harmony that caused a specific favorite in the Sonos app to play over the Play 1.
- Set up an Applet in IFTTT that causes the activity to occur with a trigger word.
- Say “trigger xxxx” to Alexa, where xxxx is a word associated with a Harmony activity.
It’s an annoying process, and it doesn’t allow you to create a new activity on the fly. But it worked. I just said “trigger acoustic blues” to Alexa and my Pandora acoustic blues station started playing from the Sonos Play 1.
BUT NOW – the formal Alexa Sonos integration is here. And it’s marginally better than what I had before.
- Follow the instructions here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=172&v=UMvTF_pFw5w
- Tell Alexa “play acoustic blues station in the xxxx”, where xxxx is the zone name.
If you simply say “play acoustic blues in the xxxx” and leave off the word “station” it will play music from Amazon Music rather than Pandora. There’s only a handful of audio sources you can use, not the full list of Sonos services. For example Spotify doesn’t work yet, and there’s no word if Apple Music will work (I doubt it).
But if you tell Alexa to play a station that doesn’t yet exist, it will ask if you want to create it, and then do it for you. So you can create new Pandora stations on the fly.
The official integration is better than what I set up because you don’t have to go back into any settings to create a new station. But it requires a long command that is very unnatural. And it’s hard to see what took a whole year. The end result isn’t much different than what I was able to do by myself.
What would I have liked? I would have preferred that Sonos was listed as a music service in the Alexa app. Right now if you set up Spotify as your primary Alexa music service, when you say “play the rolling stones”, rolling stones music from spotify starts playing over the Echo.
That should have been how Sonos works. You tell Alexa “play the rolling stones” and music starts playing over Sonos from whatever your default Sonos music service is. If you have a favorite album or playlist, saying “play the name-of-the-favorite” causes Sonos to play.
If certain music services don’t want to be controlled by Alexa (like Apple Music), just exclude them from the Alexa integration.
As far as zones, there should have been a default zone for each Echo. So if you say “play …” it plays on the default zone. You’d have to say the name of the zone if you want it to play elsewhere or in multiple zones.
I’m not a software engineer, but this doesn’t seem that hard.
I described above the way I thought the Alexa Sonos integration “should” work. Well apparently Sonos thinks so too, but it decided to sell new speakers rather than do a more complete integration.
The first new speaker is essentially the Play 1 with Alexa built in. It’s called the Sonos One. There’s no indication that the Alexa app has changed so default music libraries are still limited to Amazon Music (and Spotify in the future), and default station services are limited to Amazon Music, Pandora, Tunein, SiriusXM and iHeart Radio. To access the rest of Sonos services you still need an app.
This seems more like a better sounding Echo with Sonos built in than vice versa.
This price is $199, which is the same price as the old Play 1. I assume the Play 1 will either be phased out or drop in price. Not much reason to choose the Play 1 over the Sonos One.
Amazon just announced a lower priced version of the Echo. It’s between $100 and $120 depending on the decor. Both the Echo and the Sonos have multi-zone capability.
It will be interesting to see whether the Sonos One sounds good enough to justify double the price.