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Spotify Connect: what is it? Which devices support it?

Spotify Connect: What is it? How can you get it?
(Image credit: Spotify)

With over 406 million active users worldwide (including 180 million subscribers, across 184 markets), Spotify is the world's largest and most popular music streaming service. But thanks to Spotify Connect – arguably the streaming world's most important feature – you're no longer restricted to listening to its catalogue solely through your phone or desktop.

The feature allows you to play the catalogue over wi-fi to any compatible audio product (more on that later) in your home – and with just two presses of a button! Since its 2013 release, Spotify Connect quickly became so simple and convenient to use that in 2020, streaming service rival Tidal followed suit, launching its own Tidal Connect feature. Sincerest form of flattery, and all that...

Spotify Connect is a godsend for house parties – so long as you trust your friends with the controls – but essentially, it's for anyone who wants to easily access and enjoy Spotify's 82-million-song-catalogue and curated playlists on smart speakers, hi-fi and AV kit, without the hassle of Bluetooth pairing.

So how does it work? How do you set it up? And what are the perks of Spotify Connect?

What is Spotify Connect?

As we touched upon above, Spotify Connect is a way of playing Spotify through your wireless speaker, soundbar, AV receiver, voice-controlled smart speaker, or any other compatible device, over wi-fi. It means you can play your favourite tunes anywhere in the house and crucially, without the need for any convoluted Bluetooth pairing between devices every time you want to listen to music. Just note that it's a Spotify Premium feature, so you won't be able to benefit from it if you're a user of Spotify's free, ad-supported tier.

Best of all, Spotify Connect doesn't use your smartphone (or tablet or desktop) app to stream music. It plays music directly from its servers to the device, leaving your smartphone free for making calls and all other uses. You only have to use your phone to identify the speaker in the first place and then control music playback.

To ensure the best quality possible, Spotify Connect always streams in 320kbps, which is the highest bitrate Spotify currently offers – although Spotify Connect will be used for Spotify HiFi, whenever that hotly-anticipated update arrives...

How does Spotify Connect work? What products support it?

Just like Apple AirPlay 2, Spotify Connect works over wi-fi. It seeks out compatible devices that are connected to the same wi-fi network and links them together to wirelessly to stream music.

To use Spotify Connect, you'll first need a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer with the Spotify app downloaded on to it. To use Spotify Connect with most devices you'll also need a Spotify Premium subscription, although some (the PlayStation 5, for example) are happy to work with Spotify Free. Other perks of paying for the Spotify Premium subscription (£9.99, $9.99, AU$11.95 a month) include no ads and being able to pick songs on the mobile app rather than just shuffle.

And then you just need the right product. Chances are you might already have a speaker or amp that supports Spotify Connect: there are heaps of Spotify Connect-enabled products, including smart speakers, music streamers and other hi-fi streaming components, wireless speakers, smart TVs, wearables and car audio systems. You can find the full list of compatible kit here (opens in new tab).

Spotify Connect really has become a must-have feature in the AV and particularly audio world, and these days you won't see many streaming-enabled products without it. In fact, it's become so ubiquitous it's usually the first feature you'll see on a streaming-capable product's feature list. Own the What Hi-Fi? 2021 Award-winning Audio Pro C10 MkII wireless speaker, Naim Mu-so Qb 2nd Generation, or KEF LSX all-in-one system? They've all got Spotify Connect baked in for starters – and they're far from alone. 

Spotify Connect works on one device at a time, unless you're using a multi-room system such as Sonos, where you can select a group (two rooms or more, set up via Sonos's app) to stream music to.

How to set up Spotify Connect

Spotify Connect is simple to use. Download the latest version of the Spotify app (opens in new tab) to your control device – a smartphone, tablet or computer, say – and make sure both it and your chosen product(s) are connected to the same wi-fi network.

On your smartphone, launch Spotify, log into your subscription account, and select a song to start playing. Click the 'Now Playing' bar, then the device logo at the bottom left-hand corner of the screen. This will show which of your connected products can play from Spotify. Select a device (the text will go from white to green) and music will start playing on that device. Magic!

If you're using Spotify Connect to listen to a song on another smartphone or tablet, make sure both devices are logged in to the same Spotify account and simply follow the steps above.

On the desktop app, click the 'Connect to a device' button in the bottom-right corner. This brings up the devices menu. Select the one you'd like to use, and it'll do the rest.

Spotify claims using Connect lets you switch between multiple products "without skipping a beat". In reality, there's always a tiny bit of delay when you swap products, but it's much quicker than having to pair to Bluetooth every time.

Once you're all set, your smartphone or computer becomes the remote control: select a song or playlist, pause, skip or shuffle through Spotify's vast catalogue.

Another big advantage of using Spotify Connect (especially on a product that supports it natively), is when you fire up the app or switch between products, it will always adjust the volume automatically for the chosen audio product. Pretty neat.

How do you use your smartphone while using Spotify Connect?

You can use it normally without worrying that whatever you're doing – sending a text, playing a game, watching a YouTube clip – will interrupt the music.

All songs are streamed directly from Spotify's cloud servers to your Spotify Connect product; your phone acts purely as a controller.

First of all, this means playing Spotify won't sap your smartphone's battery – a fine reason to invest in a Premium account. Since you're only using your smartphone or tablet to control playback, it goes a long way in prolonging the battery life.

Secondly, it means phoning to wish your mum happy birthday doesn't have to mean pausing your carefully curated playlist.

You can also switch between devices seamlessly. Were you listening to Spotify through your headphones on your way home? Once you've walked through the door, simply select your Spotify Connect-compatible stereo system in the app and the song will carry on playing through your speakers without having to pause or restart it. If it's non-stop music you want, you've got it.

Does Spotify Connect work with voice control?

If you use a smart speaker, such as the Amazon Echo, Sonos One, Amazon Echo Show 10 (3rd Gen), Google Nest Hub (2nd Gen) or Google Nest Audio, you can use voice commands to play music from Spotify on them.

Add your Spotify account to the list of music streaming services (this can be done in the Alexa or Google Home apps) and make sure you select Spotify as your default music player so you don't have to specify which service to use at every turn. Then simply say "Alexa, play the new Taylor Swift album" or "OK Google, play the John Wick soundtrack" and your smart speaker will oblige.

We can't see the HomePod Mini or Apple's original (and officially discontinued) HomePod smart speaker with Siri voice control supporting Spotify Connect anytime soon, although you can play Spotify through those Apple speakers via AirPlay. 

But you don't actually need to rely on other brands and services to get voice controlled Spotify music – when you have the Spotify app open, at least. Last April, Spotify quietly began rolling out of its in-app voice assistant with the "Hey Spotify" wake-word, which you simply toggle on under "voice interactions" within your settings page. Unlike when using Alexa, Google Assistant or Siri to vocally control your music, Spotify’s voice assistant will only work when you already have Spotify open right now, but it's a start. 

Now, if only the biggest streaming service in the world would finally make good on its promise and launch that long-awaited HiFi tier. We've been very patient... 

MORE: 

These are the best free music apps: get free music on Android and iPhone

See our pick of the best Alexa speakers 2021

Read Why I don't think Spotify HiFi is coming any time soon (and why it doesn't matter)

Also, consider that the problem with hi-res audio is how you might be listening to it

Joe has been writing about tech for 17 years, first on staff at T3 magazine, then in a freelance capacity for Stuff, The Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Men's Health, GQ, The Mirror, Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and many more (including What Hi-Fi?). His specialities include all things mobile, headphones and speakers that he can't justifying spending money on.