An "Echo Dot" device, left, and an "Echo" device stand on display during the U.K. launch event for the Amazon.com Inc. Echo voice-controlled home assistant speaker in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016.
Bloomberg Bloomberg via Getty Images
By John Patrick Pullen and TIME
January 18, 2017

One of the near-universally praised aspects of the Amazon Echo smart speaker is how well it hears and understands users’ voice commands. This is partially due to the array of microphones on top of the device, as well as the backend software that interprets the sounds and gives them meaning. But sometimes Alexa hits an audio snag. Here’s how to clear the lines of communication.

Read more: Want a Smart Home? Here’s How to Get Started

First, ensure there’s nothing blocking your Echo from hearing your voice, in every direction. When you say your Amazon Echo’s wake word (“Alexa,” “Echo,” or “Amazon”), you will see a blue light race around the brim of the speaker. Where it stops is the direction in which Alexa is listening. If you experience repeated problems when Alexa is listening in a particular direction, check to make sure there’s nothing nearby obstructing or distorting the sound coming into that microphone. If that doesn’t help, physically turn the speaker so it’s less likely to use that particular microphone.

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There’s also a way to teach your Alexa-compatible devices to understand you better. Open the Amazon Alexa app on your smartphone or tablet, tap on the menu button, and then tap on “Settings.” Under the heading “Alexa Devices,” there’s an option called “Voice Training.” Tapping on this will walk you through a tutorial of 25 phrases to read aloud, which will help your Alexa-compatible devices to better understand your particular voice.

But before embarking on this vocal odyssey, be sure to select the correct Alexa-compatible device from the dropdown menu at the top-left (under “Voice Training”). The training session will let you groom every device you have, whether it’s an Amazon Echo speaker, an Echo Dot, or a third-party product.

One last tip: you need to be in the same room, talking to that particular speaker, for the adjustments to take effect.

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