The Amazon Echo was one of the hottest tech releases in 2016, and a 2nd generation model will be released on October 31st 2017. The Echo uses Amazon’s voice-control system Alexa, which allows you to operate it with your voice rather than a remote control.
Can Alexa play radio?
Yes, you can use Alexa to play radio stations on an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. The Echo 2nd Generation, Echo Plus and Echo Show, which will all be released later in 2017, will also be able to play radio stations.
The Echo has enough features to replace an FM/DAB or internet radio. It also has the advantage of being hands-free, so it’s useful in the kitchen and bathroom where you might not be able to adjust the radio with your hands.
Rather than having a single radio mode, there are a range of ‘skills’ that you can use to listen to the radio. Instead of listening to the radio on FM or DAB, you stream it from the internet. Apple Music and Google Play Music aren’t currently supported, but several other services are:
Radioplay gives you a choice of over 450 UK radio stations. 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 aimed at making it easier to access radio on a range of devices.
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.
TuneIn lets you listen to almost any radio station in the world, as well as popular UK stations. Browse the TuneIn catalogue to see the world of radio this ‘skill’ opens up.
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).
What is the Amazon Echo?
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?
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.