How to Use Your Smart Speakers As a Home Theatre Sound System

How to Use Your Smart Speakers As a Home Theatre Sound System
You can create home theatre setups with Amazon or Apple gear. (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 own to upgrade your home audio, adding an extra level of immersion to your movies, shows, and music.

Some smart speakers are actually capable of pumping out a decent level of sound now, particularly Amazon’s Echo lineup. The standard $US100 ($138) 4th-gen Echo offers decent audio; there’s also the $US200 ($277) Echo Studio with its superior sound quality, and even the $US130 ($180) Echo Sub to bring out the bass.

Unfortunately, you can’t yet use your Nest smart speakers or a Chromecast to round out your home theatre; the feature was officially promised more than a year ago, but it hasn’t made an appearance. If you’re all in with Amazon or Apple gear, though, 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 there’s an Apple TV 4K box plugged into 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’ll cover all sounds, including navigation clicks. You can’t use third-party speakers for this, even if they’re compatible with the AirPlay 2 wireless standard.

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

Your HomePod speakers should be automatically detected. (Screenshot: tvOS)

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

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

Amazon Echo

To get this working with Amazon devices, you need one or more Echo speakers, as well as a device running Fire TV plugged into your television set. All the devices involved need to be linked to the same Amazon account, which should already be the case if you’ve configured everything through the Alexa app on your phone.

Open the Devices tab, then tap + (the plus icon) and Combine speakers. Select Home Theatre, then you should be able to select your Fire TV device from the list that appears. With that 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 configuration as well. If you’re using two main speakers, you can designate left and right models.

Echo setup is managed through the Alexa app. (Screenshot: Alexa)

The next step is to give your home theatre setup a name to make it easy to access it at a later stage, and assign it to a room or group in your house. You’ll then need to turn your attention to your TV, where the Fire stick or box should enable you to finish the setup. The first message you should see will give you the option to preview the audio setup you’ve just created to make sure everything is working.

You can access the new setup and modify it if necessary from the bottom of the Devices tab in the Alexa app. Bear in mind that some Echo speakers come with aux outputs, so you can potentially hook up a bigger and better-sounding speaker while still taking advantage of the home theatre configuration set up through the Alexa app.