Amazon Echo Dot bluetooth speaker in a living room setting
Photo: Amazon

For all their clever capabilities, most smart speakers are enlisted for very straightforward duty: playing music. There’s just one problem with this setup—most smart speakers don’t sound all that great.  

There’s an easy solution. Even the smallest and most inexpensive smart speakers can be paired with much better-sounding wireless speakers for a great sounding AI-powered portable music setup. The best candidates for adding smarts to a conventional speaker are the Amazon Echo Dot and the Google Nest Mini, which both list for just $50 and are frequently discounted.

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“The Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini are relatively low cost, entry-level smart speakers,” says Elias Arias, who heads Consumer Reports’ testing programs for smart speakers and wireless speakers. “Connect one of these to a better sounding nonsmart speaker and you can gain the functionality and convenience that a digital voice assistant offers in a smart speaker.”

The end result is a smart speaker that’s connected to the internet—and other smart devices like smart lightbulbs—by WiFi but uses Bluetooth pairing to send music and podcasts to a separate, great-sounding speaker

Here’s how to pick speakers to pair and how to pair them. 

Which Speakers to Pair?

If you already own a smart speaker and a wireless speaker with good sound, there’s no need to go shopping. Older Amazon and Google smart speakers work just fine, and most wireless speakers with Bluetooth capability make a fine pairing partner.

If you have a wireless speaker you like but wish it were smarter, buying an Echo Dot or Google Nest Mini is a no-brainer. They’re small and cheap, and they will control a Bluetooth speaker just as well as the more expensive smart models from Amazon and Google. 

If you’re looking for the very best sound quality from a wireless speaker, check our wireless speaker ratings. The top-ranked models, like the $350 Edifier S1000MKII, sound much better than our top smart speakers and pair easily with a small smart speaker. 

Pair Your Amazon Echo Dot

Begin with a Dot (or another Alexa-powered device) that’s already set up, then make sure that the other speaker is on and that the volume is turned up. Disconnect any other Bluetooth devices from the Dot because it can only connect to one device at a time. Do the same for the other speaker because it will have a tendency to search for devices, like your phone, that it has been paired with previously.

  1. Turn on pairing mode on your Bluetooth speaker. If you don’t know how to do this, refer to the user guide for your Bluetooth speaker—but pressing the pairing button for a few seconds works for many models.
  2. Open the Alexa app on your smartphone.
  3. Go to the menu at the bottom of the screen and select Devices on the right. 
  4. Select the Echo Dot or other Alexa-powered device you are using.
  5. Select Bluetooth Devices.
  6. Select Pair a New Device.

Your Dot should now enter pairing mode. When the device discovers your Bluetooth speaker, the speaker will appear in the list of available devices in the Alexa app.

After this initial setup, the Dot should automatically pair with the speaker in the future. However, if that doesn’t happen at some point, just say, “Connect” and your Dot will connect to the last device that was paired with. And when the connection is made, you’ll be able to use Alexa voice commands to control your wireless speaker.

This pairing method works with other Alexa-powered devices, not just the Dot. If you want to pair an Echo device with a screen, such as the second-generation Amazon Echo Show, you can do it right from that device’s own touch screen.

If the pairing process doesn’t work, try unpairing the devices, turning them off and on, and starting the process again.

Pair Your Google Home Mini

Pairing a Google Home Mini with a Bluetooth speaker directly is a relatively new function. Until last spring, you had to pair your devices through a separate Chromecast streaming audio player, which was less convenient. To get started, make sure that both devices are turned on and unpaired and that the volume on the speaker is turned up, so you can hear when it has been paired successfully. 

  1. Turn on your Bluetooth speaker and make sure it’s in pairing mode. This is typically done by pressing the pairing button on your speaker, but otherwise you should be able to find the directions on the manufacturer’s website or in the user guide.
  2. Open the Google Home app on your smartphone, and in the middle of the screen tap the name of the smart speaker you want to pair. 
  3. In the top right corner of the screen for that speaker, tap on the icon for Devices, which looks like a gear. 
  4. Scroll down to Default Speaker, then tap Pair Bluetooth speaker. Now the Home will start scanning for devices within range. 
  5. Tap the speaker you want to pair.
  6. Tap Done. 

Once you pair and connect your speaker to a Google smart speaker, it should auto-connect in the future, unless the speaker gets disconnected or turned off. 

The speaker can now be controlled by voice commands through the Google Nest Mini. Note that the device can play through only one connected speaker at a time. And remember, this doesn’t work only with the Mini; you can use other Google Home products as well.

If the process doesn’t work, try unpairing the devices, turning them off and on, and starting the process again.