Dot's Amazing! Origin Acoustics’ Valet System Hides Amazon Alexa in Your Ceiling

If you’ve ever wondered whether or not there were an easy way to integrate voice control into a distributed audio system (and who hasn’t, after all?) Origin Acoustics announced at CEDIA 2017 today that the answer is definitely, “Yes!”—if you install one (or more) of the company’s new Valet amplifiers. According to Origin Acoustics, the Valet amplifier is designed to seamlessly integrate with an Amazon Echo Dot to create a simple, interactive four- or six-zone audio system. (More zones can be created by daisy-chaining additional Valet amps.)

Multiple features make the Valet system a potential paradigm-changer in the distributed audio world. Each stereo zone includes an RJ45 connection that sends power to the Amazon Echo Dot while also returning the audio signal from the Dot to the amplifier via a proprietary balun over standard CAT5 cable. The audio return path allows the system to play music from the audio output of the Dot and play Alexa’s voice responses through the room’s (or zone’s) loudspeakers. Considering that even the lowest-performing in-wall and in-ceiling speaker is likely to sound significantly better than the tiny transducer built inside the inexpensive Echo Dot, the sound quality of audio sources streamed via the Dot (Amazon Music, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, and TuneIn, for example) will enjoy significant improvement in sound quality. External sources can also be played through the system thanks to the Valet’s patent-pending muting circuit that mutes the source when Alexa’s “wake word” is spoken and then un-mutes the audio once the requested action is completed.

Another key aspect of the Valet system is the use of Origin Acoustics’ existing tool-less installation bracket to mount the Dot in the room’s ceiling behind a grille that perfectly matches the size and shape of the grilles on the other Origin Acoustics in-ceiling speakers in the room. The Dot snaps into a special baffle that twists and locks into position into four-, six-, eight-, or 10-inch mounting brackets. Once locked in place, the assembly can be concealed with an appropriately sized round or square perforated-metal grille. The simple, tool-less process is reversed if the Dot ever requires repair or replacement.

Each Valet zone includes a 12-volt trigger to provide activation of third-party devices when commands are spoken to Alexa. In addition, Joe Whitaker (Founder/President, The Thoughtful Home; CEDIA Board Member), co-developer of the Valet amp system with Jeremy Burkhardt (Origin Acoustics founder and CEO), said that the Valet amps will integrate with virtually any of the major home automation/distributed audio systems currently available.

The four-zone (50-watts x 8) and six-zone (50-watts x 12) Valet amp models will retail for $1,500 and $2,000 respectively. Tool-less bracket, Echo Dot-specific baffle insert, and grille combinations will retail for $80/each. Systems are expected to begin shipping to integrators by the end of 2017. Amazon Echo Dots are currently available for $49.95/each directly from Amazon.