Amazon’s range of Echo smart speakers are some of the most popular tech products on the market. They all use Amazon’s voice-control system Alexa, which offers a huge range of functions and allows you to operate it with your voice rather than a remote control.
As well as Amazon’s own range of Echo speakers, there are lots of other Alexa-enabled smart speakers available.
Can you listen to radio on Alexa? Yes!
In this guide, we’ll explain how to get radio on your Alexa device and list some different stations and services you can listen to.
How to ask Alexa to play a radio station
To get Alexa to play a radio station, all you need to do is say, “Alexa, play [radio station name]”. This will request the radio station from Alexa’s default provider and start playing it.
If this doesn’t work or you have any problems with the streaming quality, you can try requesting a radio station from a specific service using this command:
“Alexa, ask [service name] to play [radio station name]”.
For example, you can say:
- “Alexa, ask the BBC to play Radio 2”
- “Alexa, ask TuneIn to play Classic FM”
You can also get news updates from the BBC by saying: “Alexa, give me BBC news”.
There are lots of different radio commands available, so we can’t list them all here.
What radio stations can Alexa play?
The Amazon Echo can play more than 400 UK stations and over 10,000 stations from around the world. Here are just a few of the most popular UK radio stations the Amazon Echo can play:
- Absolute Radio
- BBC 6 Music
- BBC Radio 1
- BBC Radio 2
- BBC Radio 3
- BBC Radio 4
- BBC Radio 4 Extra
- BBC Radio 5 live
- Capital London
- Classic FM
- Magic Network
This is by no means an exhaustive list—Alexa can play thousands of stations, so it wouldn’t make sense to list them all here.
Can Alexa play local radio stations?
Yes. As well as big national stations, Alexa also allows you to listen to local radio stations, provided they also broadcast online and are available on services such as TuneIn.
How radio works on Alexa
Amazon Echo devices stream radio via the internet using streaming services such as TuneIn, BBC Sounds and Radioplayer. Each of these services has an Alexa ‘skill’, which allows you to access it.
Echo devices don’t have an FM or DAB tuner, so they don’t pick up stations over FM or DAB. However, they can still play almost all stations available on FM and DAB because these stations also broadcast online.
Alexa radio skills
Apple Music and Google Play Music aren’t currently supported, but several other services, including those listed below.
Radioplay gives you a choice of over 450 UK radio stations (see the full list here). You can also ask it for recommendations based on where you live, what’s popular and other things you have listened to.
Radioplayer is a non-profit organisation with the goal of offering a simple way to listen to UK radio stations online.
TuneIn lets you listen to thousands of radio stations from across the globe, including almost every national, regional and local radio station in the UK (see the full list of UK stations available here).
The iHeartRadio skill lets you listen to thousands of stations on iHeartRadio. You can also listen to podcasts, like or thumbs down songs and set a sleep timer.
To use Spotify on the Echo you first need to connect your Spotify and Amazon accounts together. Once you’ve done that, you can just say things like “Alexa, play Penny Lane by the Beatles”. You can control the speaker by saying things like “pause”, “stop”, “volume up” and so on.
You need a Spotify Premium account to use Spotify with Alexa.
If you have an Amazon Prime account, you can use the Echo to play music from Amazon Prime without needing to set anything up.
With Audible, you can listen to thousands of audiobooks through the Echo’s speakers. You will need an Audible account, but you can easily do this on Amazon as Audible is owned by Amazon. Audible is a paid service, but you can try it free for 30 days (at the time of writing).
Radio alarms using Alexa
The voice command for setting a radio alarm using Alexa is: “Alexa, wake me up to [radio station] at [time]”.
You can set an alarm using the Alexa app as shown in the video below:
Unfortunately, since the 30th of September 2019, Alexa users haven’t been able to use BBC stations as an alarm. This is because the BBC withdrew its support for TuneIn, the service used by Alexa for radio alarms.
One nice thing if you use an Alexa device as a bedside radio is that you can set a sleep timer to turn it off after a certain period of time. This is great if you like to drift off to sleep with the radio on. One way to set a sleep timer is to say: “Alexa, turn music off in [x] minutes”.
DAB radio vs. Amazon Echo
The Amazon Echo offers a good value alternative to a DAB radio. Some of its advantages include the following:
- Much larger choice of stations and things to listen to
- Extra features such as on-demand weather, news and sports updates, reminders etc.
- Better radio reception if you live in an area with poor DAB reception
However, some downsides include the following:
- Not as easy to use if you’re used to traditional radios
- Requires a reliable wireless internet connection
- Privacy concerns (Alexa is always listening)
Alexa & Amazon Echo FAQs
Does Alexa work with Spotify?
Yes, though you need a Spotify Premium account. You need to link your Spotify and Amazon accounts together first, which you can do using the Alexa app.
Does Alexa need Wi-Fi?
Yes, Alexa needs to be connected to the internet, and we’re not aware of any Alexa devices that allow you to connect with a wired (ethernet) connection.
Does Alexa work with Apple Music?
Yes, provided you subscribe to Apple Music. You need to link your accounts together first (see the instructions here).
Does the Echo Dot play music?
Yes, while it may look too small to contain a speaker, the Echo Dot does play music. It can play radio stations and stream songs from services such as Spotify.
Does Alexa play DAB radio?
Technically, Alexa plays radio via the internet rather than DAB. However, it can play stations that are available on DAB since these stations are also available online.
Can Alexa play old radio shows?
Yes, you can listen to catch-up radio using Alexa. The Radioplayer skill allows you to request past episodes of radio programmes. For example, you can say: “Alexa, ask Radioplayer to play last Tuesday’s Woman’s Hour”.
While listening to a radio programme, you can say “back” or “next” to hear the previous or next episode.
Is radio free on Alexa?
Yes, you can listen to regular radio stations for free on Alexa. The only costs will be your internet connection and the Alexa device itself.
Some Alexa-compatible online streaming services such as Spotify have paid premium plans, but these are optional. You can listen to the same stations that are available on AM, FM and DAB for free using Alexa.
What is the Amazon Echo?
The Amazon Echo is one of the hottest tech products in the UK right now.
The Echo is a voice-controlled smart speaker that uses Amazon’s virtual personal assistant service Alexa.
Alexa has thousands of ‘skills’, which allow it to perform different functions such as telling you the latest news and weather, controlling the lights in your home and playing radio stations.
While the Echo is classed as a ‘smart speaker’, don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a fancy speaker. It’s really much more than that. The Echo uses voice-recognition technology and artificial intelligence to be a multi-purpose personal assistant/home entertainment device.
Instead of having buttons or a remote control, the Echo is controlled by speaking commands starting with “Alexa”. This means it has a built-in microphone which is listening out for your voice at all times—quite creepy.
If you don’t mind the idea of this, the Echo is a very powerful device that could not only replace your regular radio but change the way you live.
Here are a few things you can do with it:
- Play music from Spotify, Amazon Music, TuneIn and other online music services just by saying things like “Alexa, play Radio 4 on TuneIn.”
- Ask it questions such as “Alexa, will it rain today?” and “Alexa, what’s in the news?”
- Get it to save a list or add something to your schedule and then tell you what’s on it by using commands like “Alexa, what’s on my calendar for tomorrow?”
- Give it new commands even when it’s playing music or you’re on the other side of the room.
- Find out sports scores
- Get it to read out the definition of words or Wikipedia entries
- Purchase things from Amazon
- Control things like lighting and the central heating if you have a smart home
It’s an impressive list, isn’t it?
Amazon Echo sound quality
The Echo’s speaker is crisp and clear, but it lacks both bass and treble, preferring to stick to mid-range frequencies. The speaker can be turned up quite loud without distorting, but overall when it comes to sound quality it’s an average wireless speaker at best.