The Secret, Undocumented Audio Equalizer in Amazon Echo (and other Alexa devices)

 

11/15/17 UPDATE: This post was written when Echo was the only available Alexa device, but I just re-tested this on my Echo Show and it’s there. When the Echo first came out, one of the complaints I heard most frequently about it from music lovers was the lack of any equalizer support, so you could adjust the bass, treble and midrange when listening to music through your Echo’s speaker.

 

 

Fortunately, enterprising reader Adam Brower has done some poking around in the Echo’s firmware source code and shared his findings with me:


“The current Echo firmware allows adjustment of at least three EQ bands: bass, midrange, and treble.”

“Alexa responds to “Alexa, turn [up/down] the [bass/midrange/treble]” or “Alexa, [increase/decrease] the [bass/midrange/treble]”. Also, “woofer” and “tweeter” can be substituted for “bass” and “treble” in either form. In the first form, the article “the” seems to be required by Alexa only when adjusting the midrange! The Echo will then display the current setting of the given EQ band by lighting in white the appropriate percentage of the circle.”

“There does not appear to be a “return to normal EQ” command, but it would make sense, as would “set [bass/midrange/treble] to N.” ”


I checked it out myself and sure enough, it works! In my own tests I’ve found Alexa has difficulty parsing the request, “Decrease the midrange,” but does fine with, “Turn down the midrange.”

I have no idea why this feature is undocumented, but the fact that it is undocumented may be a sign that it’s still in development. If so, it may change or even disappear at any time in the future.

**UPDATE – 10/7/15**
One user reported that when he turned up the bass it seemed like all that did was turn the volume up. Since EQ commands aren’t sent to the Alexa app (at least, not as of this writing), I had to resort to a more hands-on testing approach.

I started with a song I know very well that has a strong bassline (Mondo ’77 by Looper), with the volume set very low. I placed my hand lightly on the side of the Echo cylinder so I’d be able to feel any vibration, and there was none. Then I issued the command, “Alexa, turn up the bass,” and both the bass and volume did go up, and I could feel vibration in my hand. However, after I used the remote to turn the volume back down to where it was at the start of the experiment, the Echo cylinder was still vibrating. Since I’d turned the volume back down to where it was before, when it wasn’t vibrating at all, I concluded this was a sign that the bass had been increased when I issued the command.

 

Again, this is an undocumented feature that’s probably still in development but for now, let’s crank up the bass and enjoy!

 

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