The Amazon Echo Dot with Alexa does many fun and useful voice-controlled things, including playing Jeopardy! and Seinfeld trivia, or giving you the local weather. You can place one anywhere you have an AC outlet, and you can have them in different rooms.
But instead of using it as a standalone device, I plugged one into our theater room sound system (with a 3.5mm plug to RCA stereo cable).
Our receiver must be on and set to the proper input to hear Alexa speak or play. I leave it on most of the time so I can call out any Pandora station or Tunein radio station (“Alexa, play Jazz 89.5 on Tunein”), or put on an environmental sound (“Alexa, play thunderstorm/rain/ocean sounds”).
(Most local stations are available via Tunein, including my favorites, KWGS 89.5 HD1-Public Radio/HD2-Jazz.)
You can also tell Alexa to set a sleep timer to turn off your sounds in an hour, or whatever time period you want.
I like this so much, it is now my primary way to listen to radio in our theater room. The data usage is negligible even on our second-from-the-bottom tier of Cox internet service (“Essential”: 1024 GB/month data usage, 15 Mbps max download speed).
I don’t need the receiver to be on to voice-control our home automation, though I prefer to hear her feedback, in case there is a miscommunication.
These features alone have made the Echo Dot well worth the price for me.
One hitch: if we are listening to non-Alexa music or TV sound at a decent volume, we would have to yell to get a command through to Alexa, due to her proximity to the speakers. (When Alexa herself is the sound source, she quiets it down once she hears the word “Alexa” spoken.)
To avoid yelling, mute the receiver (though you wouldn’t hear Alexa’s response), or temporarily switch the receiver to Alexa’s input.
Since I use a Logitech Harmony remote, I built soft buttons into every “Activity” so I can easily switch to Alexa’s sound briefly, then switch back to the sound input we are currently using (e.g., “InputTv” for Activity “Roku”).