Alexa reigns supreme in the bathroom

Posted: October 23, 2017 in Alexa, Audio, Connectivity, General, Home Devices, Home Network, Speakers

Amazon’s Echo devices launched in 2013 and have been a huge success story.

It’s no exaggeration to say that they have taken the world by storm. Like the Nintendo Wii, they seems to have transcended typical demographics and found their way into not only the 18-30 years geek’s bedroom, but into your mother’s kitchen, your grandad’s living room and your father-in-law’s study.

Voice operation has been around for a while, but mainly for dictation products like Dragon’s Naturally Speaking. Apple brought it to the mainstream with Siri, standard on all iPhones from the 4S upwards and Google now use voice input in nearly all of their major products including their excellent Google Now assistant.

I’ve said it before (and I stand by this statement after 2 years): Amazon nailed it with the Echo. First time. It can hear you across the room, even while playing music, but more importantly, the error rate for understanding is substantially lower than rival products,

The single worst thing about owning an Echo is that you realise just how bad Siri and Google Now at accurately deciphering your commands. And I guess it has to be. You can fall back to another method of input on a phone. With the Echo, you can’t. It’s voice operated or erm, not operated.

Which brings me to the point of this post. It’s nice to have hands-free operation of a device in the living room or the bedroom. But it’s actually useful in the kitchen. Why? Because it’s where we prepare food and wash dishes. I realised while washing up last month that the real benefit to hands-free is when you actually can’t use your hands. They may be wet or dirty – contaminated after handling raw meat for example.

So I got to thinking. Where would Alexa truly be a revelation? Where is the wettest place in the home? The bathroom!

I had always taken my iPhone with me to play music while having a shower or bath but stopped doing so when my wife dropped hers in the bath.

Side note – that accident cost us £200 to replace, even out of warranty and water damaged. £200 is a snip- to buy another was £699 at the time. Apple Support truly is industry leading.

Anyway, I decided that Alexa in the bathroom is the holy grail. I tried various different methods to achieve it and finally settled a cheap and very effective solution.

I’ll put up photos of my failures at the bottom of this post. For now, I’ll let the photos do the talking.

What you need in addition to an Echo Dot:

Grand total <£80.

Now this is important. I have power in my loft. You may not, but after speaking to an electrician, you can run some small devices off the loft light circuit. UK lighting circuits are 5A whereas the mains is 13A. As he said, “you’re not running a 3-bar electric heater from it, you’ll be fine”

Now, you are buying three speakers. Two to use for audio and one to sacrifice to create a caddy for your Echo Dot. This one will never work as a speaker.

The ground loop noise isolator will stop any buzzing or hissing when the system in idle. It will be always on, remember. The 3.5mm adaptor plugs into this and connects the amp to the Echo Dot.

The Amp is well, an amplifier. Small and powerful.

Sacrifice Speaker with Echo Dot:

Step 1.) Remove the grille and the paper cone in the middle. Just pull the cone and it pops off.

img_0010-1

Step 2.) Make a small incision right in the centre of the speaker paper and pass through the 3.5mm jack and the Micro-USB cable. Pull them through and plug them into your Echo Dot. Pull the cables back through from beneath and place your Echo Dot dead centre of the speaker. Push it down to pin the cables beneath t, being careful not to stress the cable connectors.

Step 3.) Put the grille back on, it will snugly push the Echo Dot down, securing the cables with it.

Connect everything together BEFORE installing in your ceiling to make sure everything works. Trust me on this – theres nothing more infuriating than having to take everything back out after installing in the ceiling to find that you didn’t push the 3.5mm jack all the way in.

The light in the Echo Dot looks very cool in the the new speaker caddy:

Step 4.) Install the amp in the loft. Cut three holes in the ceiling for the speakers and caddy as per the box instructions and connect it all together.

Step Back and Enjoy. Play, Pause, turn the volume up / down, everything. All voice operated. It’s perfect.

 

 

For those wondering whether the Echo Dot Wi-Fi signal strength is affected by the fact it’s essentially entombed in a Faraday Cage, the answer is two fold – on 5G yes, a bit. But on a 2G network, surprisingly – no, it doesn’t appear to be. I had mine configured on my 5G network before I installed it and on a couple of occasions after the ceiling install it lost connectivity. So I changed it to my 2G network and it’s been rock solid ever since.

 

As an aside, the method of changing Wi-Fi involves pressing a button on the Echo Dot for 5 seconds to put it into Setup Mode. I used an iPhone SIM card ejector tool to press the button through a hole on the grille. No need ever take the speaker apart!

 

 

 

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