Google’s smart speakers use Voice Match to recognise different voices. This means, if you have a family music subscription, everyone can ask for different music in different rooms at the same time.
So far so good, but unfortunately some third-party Google-friendly speakers, like the Sonos One, can’t recognise voices. When anyone asks them for anything, they assume they’re talking to the default user; which is whoever first set up the speakers. If that’s you, things can get ugly.
If you’re listening to James Brown in the lounge room, the godfather of soul is cut short when your partner asks a Sonos speaker in the bathroom to play J-Lo. This doesn’t make for a happy home.
The lounge room speaker kills James Brown because it assumes you — the default user — asked for J-Lo in the other room. Ask for James Brown again and J-Lo falls silent, triggering a musical battle of wills.
This can happen even when talking to smart speakers with Voice Match. If the speaker fails to recognise your partner’s voice, perhaps because they’re shouting over the noise of the shower, the speaker assumes they’re you and kills your music.
Turn to the supernatural
The workaround is to invent a phantom family member, in my home we’ve dubbed him Bogus Billy. This friendly ghost needs his own Google account and streaming music account, assuming you haven’t reached your family limit of six.
It gets tricky and it’s easier if you’ve got a separate smartphone or tablet on hand for Billy. He needs to reset one Google speaker, add it to his new home and use a bad accent to create a Voice Match.
Now Billy is the default user, you can factory reset each speaker before adding it to this new home. With some streaming music services, you might need to create a new family subscription and make Billy the primary account holder.
Finally, invite everyone in your family to the new home and re-enable Voice Match on every speaker, for every user including ghostly Billy.
Keeping the peace
Yes it’s all a hassle but now, when your smart speakers can’t recognise a voice, they’ll assume they’re talking to Bogus Billy. They’ll play music from his account, rather than cutting off your music.
The trade-off is that speakers without Voice Match can no longer answer personally queries, such as checking your calendar appointments, because they assume every voice is Billy. To make life easier, everyone in the house can share their playlists with Billy.
It gets more complicated with Sonos smart speakers, as when you ask for music they use the streaming account linked to your Sonos account, not the streaming account linked to Billy’s Google account. It takes some messing around to get everything running smoothly.
After all this you might still occasionally find yourself in a musical tug of war, but conjuring up a ghostly member of the family certainly helps keep the peace.
Adam Turner is an award-winning Australian technology journalist and co-host of weekly podcast Vertical Hold: Behind The Tech News.