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Google Home and Amazon Echo devices have excellent microphone arrays. If you never seem to hear you, the problem may not be with the speaker or your voice. This may be where you put the device. Better placement can improve its performance.

Why speaker placement matters

Smart speakers like the Google Home and Amazon Echo are actually pretty dumb devices locally. They make up a speaker, a few microphones, and enough of a computer to listen to the waking word. All other intelligence comes from the cloud.

But, even cloud-based cloud systems, this intelligence doesn’t do much if the speaker can’t hear you.

Smart speakers have multiple built-in microphones to listen to everything around you. But if you place the speaker in the wrong place, these microphones may not perform optimally. But it normal; it’s easy to fix. Just move your smart speaker. It’s just a matter of knowing where to move it.

The center of the room is the best

A gray Amazonian echo is roughly in the center of the room.

Knowing where to place a smart speaker starts with understanding its microphones. Thanks to the amazing people at iFixit, we know exactly how Amazon Echo and Google Home are set up. Each is equipped with several microphones — seven for Echo and two for Google Home, located on a circular board. The internal speakers also have the same circular format.

This means that if you place a smart speaker against a wall, you risk blocking some of its microphones from hearing your voice. Even worse, he can hear the echo of your voice hitting the wall and bouncing towards his microphones. Similarly, any sound your smart speaker makes goes in all directions, which means it will hit close walls and bounce off, giving your music a muddy sound.

Due to this placement of the microphone and speaker, the best place for your smart speaker should be as close to the center of the room as possible, preferably with few obstructions. Achieving this can be quite difficult, for example, if you put your Echo or Google Home on a coffee table, as the power cord can confuse someone.

Consider mounting the Echo Dot or Nest Hub Mini (formerly Google Home Mini) to the ceiling. You can find mounts for both devices, and once they’re in place, you can plug the power cord into a nearby outlet.

With a ceiling mount, not only will you be able to choose a spot very close to the room, but you will likely have few obstacles such as furniture in the way. Depending on which ceiling mount you use, the speaker may also be more discreet.

If you can’t place the speaker exactly in the center of the room, try to get as close to it as possible. Consider where people will congregate too. In the living room, you can place an Amazon Echo or Google Home on a pedestal next to a sofa where people sit.

Wall mounts are the second best option

The Red Nest Mini hung right on the wall.

Placing a smart speaker in the center of a room or on the ceiling is not always possible. You may need to consider alternatives. On a counter or other furniture near people, this is a good option, but you might also consider wall mounts for whatever gets in the way of your smart speaker.

You can use the same ceiling mounts for Echo and Google Home for wall mounts. You need to cut a hole in the wall, attach the smart speaker to the mount, and then insert both into the wall. You’ll get a nice look and the added benefit that this position points the entire array and speakers out into the open air rather than pointing a piece of equipment against a wall.

Other mounts work by plugging directly into the wall and creating a stand for the smart speaker. It’s a good idea if they orient the speaker on its side; if it is directed upwards, you may block the microphones and speakers.

If you have a new Nest Mini, you don’t even need mounting hardware! It features a mounting hole built into the unit; You can hang it on the wall just like the photo.

If you can’t place your smart speaker in the center of the room or attach it to the wall, then you might have to place your Echo or Google Home somewhere less than ideal. Your smart speaker will still work, but it may not sound as accurate or as clear. But there are a few places you want to avoid altogether.

Where You Shouldn’t Place Your Smart Speaker

Echo flush with wall corner, surrounded by kettle and cutting boards.
This Echo is too close to the wall.

Sometimes the ideal locations don’t suit your home layout, so you’ll have to try your best. But there are a few places you should avoid in general. For example, don’t place your smart speaker near or near stereo speakers. It may be tempting since they are convenient flat surfaces often located next to the fork, but this placement creates a problem.

You wouldn’t want to stand in the middle of a loud concert and try to talk. It will be difficult for you to pick up all the words and answer loudly enough to be heard. Your smart speaker will have the same problem, so don’t place it directly in front of other speakers.

Also avoid windows. Placing your smart speaker near a window causes problems even if you keep it closed. Echo and Google Home devices are sensitive enough to hear a person even through glass.

Depending on how much you care about security, you may want to consider moving your smart speaker to a location where it won’t be visible through a window. As some security researchers have shown, a voice assistant on almost any device (smart speakers, tablets, and even phones) can be tricked into accepting commands by emitting lasers at them.

With the right signals, the microphones will perceive the light as sound, and the voice assistant will interpret the laser as voice commands. Line of sight is essential for the attack to work, so keeping your smart speaker away from a window helps.

If the only suitable place to store your smart speaker is next to a wall and you cannot mount it vertically, try to keep the speaker as far away from the wall as possible. Amazon says you should aim at least eight inches from the wall. This extra space should help the mics hear you better and the speakers sound better. Of course, make sure it’s not in the far corner of the room: your smart speaker will have a harder time hearing you if it’s too far away.

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