Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This Week's Sponsor

End users aren't your enemy! Kolide gets users to fix their own device compliance problems–and unsecure devices can't log in. Click here to learn how.

By Jason Snell

Amazon Echo Dot and Sonos? Not… yet.

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

Sonos Play:5 comes with a line-in jack.

As Dan wrote about earlier today, Amazon has expanded the Echo family, and I’m intrigued by the $90 Echo Dot. It seems to be the original Amazon Echo, with most of its speaker technology sliced out, so it’s shorter and cheaper. Instead of having the better-quality speakers of the original, the Echo Dot is made to work in contexts where audio quality is less important (as a bedside clock radio, for example) or with external audio sources, such as Bluetooth speakers or any speaker that can use a standard headphone jack.

Echo Dot can play out via a headphone jack. Buddies?

As someone with a couple of Sonos speakers in my house, I immediately wondered if this might be the first step toward a joyous combination of Sonos’s whole-home audio system and Amazon Echo’s smart voice control. It might very well be, but Sonos and Amazon really need to work together if this is going to be a bountiful relationship.

An esoteric, somewhat unsung Sonos feature could be helpful: If you’ve got a Sonos device with a line-in jack (such as a Play:5 speaker or a Connect), you can connect an external device like the Echo Dot and use it as an audio source. Most important is an esoteric feature called Line-In Autoplay, which will force a Sonos device to immediately switch to the line-in jack if it detects any audio being played by the device on the other end. Without this feature turned on, you have to manually switch a Sonos speaker to the line-in input before you can hear the audio.

With a device like the Echo Dot (or an AirPort Express), you wouldn’t want to have to get out your phone and launch the Sonos app before you could even hear what was going on. You’d want to ask Alexa a question and hear the answer, even if that meant the music you listened to would be paused while the interaction went on. It looks like Sonos and the Dot can do that today.

Still, it’s only a first step. Amazon’s Echo infrastructure currently has no support for Sonos speakers.1 If Sonos cut a deal with Amazon to allow you to control Sonos audio from the Echo, most of the problems here would vanish entirely. (You might not even need to attach the Echo Dot’s audio to your Sonos system at all, since Sonos already supports pretty much all the audio sources that the Echo supports.) I’d love to be able to voice control Sonos with an Echo or Echo Dot.

If you’re someone who wants to use an Amazon Echo with a home stereo system or a really nice external speaker, the Echo Dot seems like it’s going to be a great addition. If you’ve already got a Sonos system, though, I don’t think the existence of the Echo Dot will help you much. But if Sonos and Amazon can agree to talk to each other, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

  1. There’s a hack for this on GitHub if you want to play around with that. I don’t think I do. And there’s no official IFTTT support for Sonos, either. 

If you appreciate articles like this one, support us by becoming a Six Colors subscriber. Subscribers get access to an exclusive podcast, members-only stories, and a special community.

Search Six Colors