Smart Speakers are wonderful because you will probably have better access to the audio you want, but not always. Since my life seems under control, I am completely uninterested in 99.9% of the abilities or “skills” of all smart speakers including Alexa’s except for one . . . radio.
I have both the Alexa and Google Home but I have been using the Alexa so far. With the frequent changes to their phone app interface it now looks impossible to search for your favorite station so you will initially have to request your station by voice. It can be very frustrating to get your favorite radio station on Alexa because it won’t understand you. Using the call letters of the station along with the frequency seems to work best (Alexa get KFI 640 AM). There is an app that you can download to your phone, so you don’t need to talk to Alexa (as much) to get your favorite station. There are little lines in the upper left-hand corner of the app that are supposed to suggest a “menu”. Press that and then go to “Activities” which will show your recent stations. Tap the station you want and up it comes. This process is easy once you fail in numerous ways. Once you become familiar you will have your phone as the remote control you always wanted for a radio. Alexa will often pump you to find out more about Alexa instead of letting you use it the way you want. I think they want my data? A husband and wife can both download the Alexa app but this will allow Amazon to combine your data as partners. My wife prefers talking to it, so we keep Amazon guessing. It is interesting to see who they think we are by the odd ads they come up with things to buy. I do try and help them by occasionally searching for random weird items.
I initially tried plugging Alexa into my CCRadio 2E because the audio is perfect for my “news and information” preference. Unfortunately, Alexa’s switching power adapter destroyed the AM reception on my CC Radio. I prefer over the air radio because internet radio advertising is repetitive and degrading when you realize it is based on what you Googled that day. Plugging Alexa into another circuit about 25’ away solved the noise problem and puts Alexa out of listening range. Using an FM transmitter from Alexa to my CC Radio solved the transmission problem and gave me the “CC” audio clarity I enjoy. I also have an expanded radio dial that has infinite possibilities available to every radio in my house. There are a two potential obstacles to be aware of before you try an FM Transmitter.
- Some locations have a full dial of strong FM stations. You can check https://radio-locator.com/cgi-bin/vacant for a vacant station slot or tune and search the dial for dead air.
- The FM Transmitter-2 is low power so it only goes a maximum distance of about 45 feet line of sight with no obstructions. In my location I was getting less. You can search “FM transmitter 2 mod”for user solutions if you’re not getting the range you need. I can listen to Alexa using any radio in the house or separate wood shop with the FM Transmitter.
Bluetooth is a good way to go too because smart speakers have the capability built-in. You might want to wait until we come out with our new Bluetooth CC Radio about September of 2019. The new radio will be good match to any smart speaker because of the superior audio and long distant reception of regular radio. You can also receive weather with the emergency alert plus the 2-meter ham band for monitoring local communications. My next article will be about what to do when/if the web goes down. Stay tuned! Bob