How to Control Your TV or Stereo with the Amazon Echo and Logitech Harmony Hub

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If using a remote to turn on your TV is too old school for you, here’s how to use the Amazon Echo to turn on your television using your voice.

Unfortunately, you generally can’t do this with just an Echo and a TV—you need some sort of smart hub hooked up to your TV that the Echo can communicate with. We recommend the Logitech Harmony Hub.

Once upon a time, you had to use the mildly clunky IFTTT to link these two together. But Logitech eventually added native support for the Amazon Echo, making it easier than before to hook up the two devices and control your home theater with custom voice commands. And, as of January 2017, it can do more than just turn your TV on and off.

The Echo’s Harmony integration isn’t all-powerful, but it’s capabilities are continuously growing. It can control “activities” that you have set up on your Harmony Hub, which means it can turn any number of devices on and off. Alexa can also adjust the volume, play or pause whatever you’re watching, set a sleep timer, and even switch to specific channels (either when viewing live TV or using Roku). If you’re already using a Harmony Hub, you likely already have it all set up, but if not, we have a thorough guide that takes you through the process.

Once that’s done, you’ll need to install the Harmony Alexa skill, which you can do within the Alexa app. We have a guide that shows you how to install Alexa skills (as well as some useful ones you should try out), but the gist of it is this: open the Alexa app, tap on the sidebar menu button in the top-left corner of the screen, select “Skills”, search for a skill, and then tap on “Enable Skill” to install it.

Keep in mind that there are two Harmony Alexa skills to choose from. You’ll need to install the newer one with the red logo. You can install the older skill with the blue logo, which will simply just allow you to forgo the “tell Harmony” bit in voice commands. So instead of saying “Alexa, tell Harmony to turn on the TV”, you can simply just say “Alexa, turn on the TV”—though you’ll only be able to do this for a few commands, like turning activities on and off.

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When you go to enable the Harmony skill, you’ll need to log into your Logitech account, and after you do so, you may need to update your Harmony Hub before you can use it with Alexa. If that’s the case, open up the Harmony app on your phone and tap on the menu button in the top-left corner.

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From there, select “Harmony Setup”.

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Tap on “Sync”.

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Tap on “Sync Now”.

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Hit “Yes” when the pop-up appears.

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Once your Harmony Hub has updated, you’ll need to go back into the Alexa app and install the Harmony skill again, as well as log into your Logitech account (it’s likely a weird bug that causes this).

After you log in, you’ll choose which activities you want Alexa to recognize. You can also tap on “Add Friendly Name” to provide Alexa with a better phrase to use. So instead of saying “Alexa, turn on Watch TV”, you can use “TV” as a friendly name for that activity. This allows you to say “Alexa, turn on the TV” to invoke that activity. As you can see in the screenshot below , “TV” and “Television” are friendly names that were set automatically, but you can add more.

If you have activities you don’t want to control with Alexa (say, smarthome devices that Alexa already controls separately), you can uncheck them from this list completely.

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Tap on the arrow when you’re done with this step.

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The next screen is where you’ll set up your favorite channels so that you can switch to them using Alexa. If you don’t have favorite channels set up on your Harmony account, then you’ll see a screen like this below:

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To fix this, you can set up favorite channels within the Harmony app by navigating to Menu > Harmony Setup > Add/Edit Devices & Activities > Favorites.

After you’ve done that, you can go back into the Alexa app to finish setting up your favorite channels and then tap on the arrow in the top-right corner. From there, tap on “Link Account” at the bottom.

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You’ll then get a confirmation that Alexa was successfully linked with Harmony. From here, you can close out of the app and begin using your Echo or other Alexa-supported device to control your home entertainment system.

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Unfortunately, you can’t do everything with Alexa, but its integration is getting better. All that you could do in the past was simply turn on and off your entertainment center using Alexa, but now you can control the volume, play/pause content (including Netflix within Roku), and switch to specific channels, all using your voice.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.