Smart speakers have become so ubiquitous lately that you most likely have more than one set up at home. Maybe a Google Nest in one room and an Amazon Alexa in another, or more than one of each.
Whether you're using smart speakers from Google, Amazon, or Apple, you can send audio to several speakers at once, configure them as stereo pairs, or even get your music to follow you from room to room.
Google Home/Google Nest
Google not long ago rebranded its Home speakers as Nest speakers, so you might have one or more of each—but they'll still work together no matter what the label says. Speaker management is handled through the Google Home app for Android or iOS.
Open up the app and you'll see all your Nest speakers listed, together with any other connected smart home devices like Chromecasts and Nest cameras. To put two Nest speakers together as a stereo pair, they need to be in the same room: Tap any speaker, then the cog icon, then Room to set this.
With that done, tap on the first speaker, then the cog icon, then Speaker pair. You then simply choose your second speaker, tell the app which one should act as the left and which as the right, and give the pair a name to identify it in the app.
This pair then appears as a single speaker in the Home app: You can cast audio to the speakers as a stereo pair from an app on your device, or play music through them both together via voice commands.
You can go further with a speaker group, which can include more devices and even Chromecasts. Again, tap a speaker and then the cog icon, then choose Groups and Create device group. Name your group ("kitchen" or "bedroom" for example), and you'll be able to add other speakers to it through the same screen.
As with stereo pairs, you can pick out groups of speakers whenever you're casting audio or playing audio with a voice command. You can also say "Hey Google, move the music to the bedroom," (or any other room)—so you can take your tunes along with you as you switch between rooms.
It's also possible to use voice commands to start music in a certain room or a certain place (you can use labels like "downstairs" or "home cinema" if you don't want to use rooms). To sum it up, every stereo pair and speaker group can be accessed and controlled in the same way as a single speaker.
You can combine Amazon Echo speakers in much the same way as Google Nest speakers, putting them in stereo pairs or moving music from room to room as needed. All the controls and setup options you need are in the Alexa app for Android or iOS.
When you get into the app you can tap on Devices to see the speakers you've got set up. To create a stereo pair of Echo speakers, they need to be in the same room first of all: From Devices, either tap an existing room then Edit, or tap the + icon in the top right-hand corner. Both options will let you set up a room and choose the speakers in it.
Once your speakers are in the same room, choose one of them from the Devices and Echo & Alexa screen (or by choosing the room then the speaker from Devices). Select Stereo Pair / Subwoofer to pick another Echo to pair the speaker with, and a subwoofer if you have one available.
Groups are a little bit different: They can include more than two speakers, and they help you move audio from one room to another. You'll usually want to name groups after rooms, but you can also have multiple groups of speakers inside the same room, or use other labels (like "upstairs" and "downstairs").
To create a new group, go to Devices, tap the + icon (top right) and then Combine speakers. You'll see you can create a stereo pair from here too, and link Echo speakers to a Fire TV, but on this occasion we'll choose Multi-room music.
Pick the speakers you want to use in the group, then tap Next and give your group a name. This is how the speakers are going to appear inside the Alexa app, and how you'll refer to them using voice commands—if you're going to set up a customized name, make sure it's one that's easy to speak out.
You can then refer to a group when you're telling Alexa to play some music, or when picking an audio output in the Alexa app or a compatible app like Spotify. You'll find groups of Echo speakers work more or less like single Echo speakers when it comes to selected devices and issuing commands to them.
The Apple HomePod and HomePod Mini work in a slightly different way to the Amazon and Google speakers. They'll only work properly with other Apple devices, for example—you can't control HomePods from an Android phone. Windows can send audio to a HomePod via AirPlay, but your options are limited.
To set up two HomePods as a stereo pair, you need to open the Home app on your iPhone, iPad or Mac computer and put them in the same room: If you didn't choose the right room in setup, tap and hold the speaker icon, then choose Settings to change the room. You can only pair two speakers of the same type, so two HomePods or two HomePod Minis.
Once your speakers are in the same room, you can pair them. Press and hold on a HomePod in the Home app, then choose Settings, then choose Create Stereo Pair. You can then select the second speaker and choose which is the left and which is the right.
When it comes to more advanced multiroom audio on your HomePod, it works more or less out of the box. Whenever you go to pick an audio output in AirPlay, all your HomePods will show up: You can simply tick and untick individual speakers to create new groups and move music around the home on the fly.
You can also use Siri to send audio to specific speakers and specific rooms if you need to—it uses the speaker names and the room names that you've already configured in the Home app (so it helps if the rooms have names that are easy to say).
As far as AirPlay and Siri are concerned, any stereo pairs that you've already created from your HomePods are treated as a single speaker. You can send music, podcasts or anything else to them just as if they were a single speaker. If you want to use them separately again, you'll need to unpair them again from the speaker settings.
Use the AirPlay control panel on your iPhone, iPad, or Mac to keep track of what's being played where. It's even possible to have different apps sending different audio feeds to different rooms at the same time, if needed—so you can have a podcast playing upstairs and an Apple Music playlist playing downstairs.