Using your smart speakers as a home theater sound system

You can create home theater setups with Amazon or Apple equipment. Image: Amazon

TVs aren’t known for having the best built-in sound, but buying a set of speakers to amplify your audio can be a pain (not to mention expensive). But you can use the smart speakers you already have to upgrade your home audio, making your movies, shows and music even more immersive.

Some smart speakers can now produce quite a bit of noise, especially Amazon’s Echo range. The standard $100 4th Generation Echo offers decent audio; there is also the $200 Echo Studio with its superior sound quality, and even the $130 Echo Sub to bring out the bass.

Unfortunately, you can’t use your Nest smart speakers or a Chromecast to complete your home theater yet; The future was officially promised more than a year ago, but it hasn’t appeared. However, if you’re all in with Amazon or Apple gear, you’re in luck. Here’s how to get started.

Apple HomePod

You can use your HomePod and HomePod mini speakers as an audio setup for your television, as long as an Apple TV 4K box is connected to it. This works with one or two speakers, which must be assigned to the same room as your Apple TV 4K in the Home app on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, and it covers all sounds, including navigation clicks. You cannot use third-party speakers for this, even if they are compatible with the AirPlay 2 wireless standard.

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If you’re using two HomePod speakers, they must be set up as a stereo pair before connecting them to your Apple TV 4K. Open the Home app in iOS or iPadOS and tap and hold a HomePod device. Tap the settings gear icon and then choose Create Stereo Pair to choose your second speaker and complete the pairing process.

Your HomePod speakers should be detected automatically. Screenshot: tvOS

To make sure your Apple TV 4K and its speakers are in the same room in the Home app, long press the device in question again to access its settings, then Room. If you need to create a new room for your home theater setup, it’s the + (plus) icon in the top right corner of the main Home tab, then Add Room.

The next time you boot up your Apple TV 4K box, you should be able to select the Use as Apple TV Speakers option that appears on the screen. If you don’t see the message, you can get to the same option by opening the Settings app on the Apple TV 4K device. Choose Video and Audio, then Audio Output, then choose the HomePod or HomePod pair you want to use. It is also possible to go through the Home app by tapping and holding the Apple TV 4K icon and then choosing the gear icon for settings and Default audio output.

Amazon Echo

For this to work with Amazon devices, you’ll need one or more Echo speakers, as well as a Fire TV-enabled device connected to your television. All affected devices must be linked to the same Amazon account, which should already be the case if you have everything configured via the Alexa app on your phone.

Open the Devices tab, then tap + (the plus icon) and Combine Speakers. Select Home Theater and you should be able to select your Fire TV device from the list that appears. Once that’s done, you can choose one or two Echo devices to use as a single speaker or stereo pair, and you can optionally add an Echo Sub to the setup as well. If you use two main speakers, you can designate left and right models.

Echo configuration is managed through the Alexa app. Screenshot: Alexa

The next step is to name your home theater setup for easy access later, and assign it to a room or group in your house. You then need to turn your attention to your TV, where you need to complete the installation with the Fire stick or box. The first message you should see will give you the option to preview the audio settings you just made to make sure everything is working.

You can access the new setup and change it if needed from the bottom of the Devices tab in the Alexa app. Note that some Echo speakers come with auxiliary outputs so you may be able to hook up a bigger and better sounding speaker while still taking advantage of the home theater setup set up via the Alexa app.

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