Having a smart voice assistant like the Amazon Echo is great due to all the smart home features it offers, but sometimes it seems to ‘wake up’ by itself and play a random noise or sound. Sometimes this sounds like a genuine notification (even though there’s no reason for the notification), whilst other times the noise is weird – like it’s clearly a mistake. Why does this happen?
There are lots of reasons why an Echo can randomly play a noise, from it mistakenly thinking that someone has said “Alexa”, to a device problem. You can trace through many of the possible causes yourself however, as we explore below.
From my own experience of owning an Echo and speaking to others (along with scouring the internet), some of the weird noises that Alexa randomly seems to make includes:
- A “creepy laugh”, which some people have said is “evil” sounding – not what you want to hear at three in the morning!
- Static or feedback type noises, just like old radios and TVs would make back in the day.
- A “beep”/”boop” sound now and then.
- Alexa “whistling”!
- A “ringing” sound (like a phone call is being received, even though no call is setup).
- A chiming sound.
- A train sound, described by /u/mitalis on Reddit as a “magic effect backwards”! There’s even a YouTube video capturing this odd noise – which is still unexplained to this day.
Phew, that’s quite a long list of random – and sometimes creepy – sounds! Let’s take a look at some of the most common reasons for them playing – and crucially, how to stop them!
When your Alexa is making weird/unexpected noises, there are a few things to check.
A September 2019 Alexa update in America allows you to ask “Alexa, what just happened?” or “Alexa, why did you say that?“, and Alexa will hopefully reply telling you why it made that unexpected noise. This update was rolled out to the UK in March 2020, although support in other countries varies.
This is definitely the first thing to try, however, because it might give you the exact reason why it did something. In my experience, it’ll work for the most common ‘random noise’ reasons – but not for some of the weirder causes. So if you try this method and it doesn’t work, keep reading!
A common cause of weird noises is due to a paired Bluetooth device which you forgotten about. Maybe you paired your smartphone years ago, and it has auto-paired in the background. To quickly test this theory (or rule it out), simply say “Alexa, disconnect”. It’ll either disconnect from a paired device and tell you this, or it’ll say “Hmm, there’s no Bluetooth device to disconnect – but you can disconnect or unpair a device using your Alexa app“. Either way, this is useful information to know and may resolve your issue.
Next up, there are two really useful parts of the Amazon Alexa app that you should check. The first is a full list of every single recorded thing you have said to Alexa… or that it thinks you said to her. Creepiness aside, this is great for diagnosing weird noises – perhaps Alexa just misheard you (or your TV). Heck, maybe your dog’s yawn sounds like “Alexa” and sets her off!
To do this, launch the app and click the menu in the top left. Select “Settings”, then “Alexa Privacy”, before finally clicking “Review Voice History”. You will see something like this:
In this case, Alexa has misheard a song request (thinking that we asked for the massive hit song “Rose between a thongs“!). Whilst this wouldn’t cause a weird noise in itself, your own voice history could well shed some light on the random noises.
You might also see something odd in your voice recordings, like the below:
Alexa saying “Audio was not intended for this device” is actually a key bit of information. It’s saying that Alexa heard its name – or thinks that it did – but that it decided it didn’t need to carry out an action or reply. For example, saying “We’ll need to clean Alexa soon as she’s dusty” will cause Alexa to hear “soon as she’s dusty” – which clearly isn’t valid, so it’ll ignore this.
“Audio was not intended for this device” might suggest that Alexa is getting confused – possibly due to lots of background noise. This could be the cause of the weird noises, if Alexa is frequently mishearing commands and playing incorrect sounds in response.
Next up, whilst you still have the Amazon Alexa app to hand, click the menu in the top left and then click on “Activity” to be presented with the following useful screen:
What’s useful here is that you will see all activity that Alexa registered on your Echo devices, which could include alarms, playing paired Bluetooth music/audio, setting a timer and a whole lot more. If you see something unexpected here, this could be the cause of the random noises you’ve been hearing.
To dig into things a little more, click “More ⌄” on a result and it will tell you what Alexa thought it heard to cause that action/response to play. In the above example, Alexa set a timer after it successfully heard us say “Alexa, set a twenty minute timer“.
But it might also have misheard you, playing a weird and unexpected sound – and this screen is really helpful for determining these cases.
Sometimes people get fed up with Alexa’s ‘long winded’ pre-answer information when you make a request. In this case, you can make Alexa more like a Google Home device and enable “Brief Mode”. This will cut out some of the pre-chatter, and beep/play sounds more to confirm that it heard you. These beeps, chimes and noises are handy, but they might seem like weird or random noises – especially if you weren’t the one who enabled this option!
Equally, you might not want Alexa being really loud when replying to you – especially at night with a small child sleeping in the next room. In this case you can enable “Whisper Mode”, which will whisper back to you Alexa thinks you’re whispering to her. Of course, if it mishears your request as a “whisper”, the reply will sound weird – and a little random. It might be the culprit to your random sound issues.
You can enable brief or whisper mode on the same screen: by clicking the menu in the top left, going to “Settings” and then scrolling down to the “General” section. Select “Alexa Voice Responses”, and there will be two options: one for Brief Mode and another for Whisper Mode:
If either are enabled, try disabling them and testing your Echo device for a few days. If the random Echo noises go away, this could be the issue.
The five things explored above contribute to the majority of the random noises that Amazon Echo owners hear, but if you’re still hearing random noises then check out the list below for extra things to check:
- Check if you have any Skills installed. These are third-party add-ons that you can enable on Alexa. Most are harmless and are only activated when you say specific wakeup commands, but a stray skill could be the culprit. Say “Alexa, what skills do I have enabled?” to hear what skills you have, and then say “Alexa, disable [skill name] ” to uninstall/disable a skill.
- When you hear an unexpected noise, check the color of the light ring. Cnet’s guide walks you through what each mean, but a pulsing yellow light (meaning you have a notification) and violet or orange colors tend to mean possible Wi-Fi/network issues – both of which will cause a sound to play.
- If you’re hearing a popping/crackling type noise – i.e. one that sounds dangerous (even if it’s not!) and not natural – then this could be a genuine defect in your Echo device (such as a loose power/speaker cable internally). Or, it might be an issue with the socket outlet or the power cable.
Check that the wall socket works fine with other electrical devices, then check that the Echo power cable is fully plugged in. Then try restarting the device (by unplugging and plugging in the device) and see if the issue continues. If it does, consider contacting Amazon customer services.
- There’s always the chance that this random sound was caused by a genuine software bug with Amazon’s computer code. In 2018, Echo’s worldwide started playing a “creepy laughter” sound – which was caused by Alexa mistakenly thinking it heard the command “Alexa, laugh“.
Amazon fixed this particular issue, but there’s always the chance that a new ‘random noise’ gets introduced. In this case, do some Google of your weird sound and if lots of other people have heard it recently, hopefully it’s a temporary (albeit annoying!) glitch.
- Speakers of any kind can pick up on external interference, with radio signals being the most common. This is most common in speakers with a long run of audio cable (more cable = more chance of interference being picked up), but even a slightly loose connection in the internal speaker(s) of your Echo device could potentially result in radio interference being picked up.
A Redditor heard whistling, and then someone clearing their throat, from their Echo. Whilst creepy, this seems like a prime example of radio interference. Just like #3, this might also be a device defect which you should contact customer services about.
- If you’re still not having any luck, doing a factory reset of your Echo might be a good idea. Each Echo device is different, but Amazon has detailed help pages for resetting each echo they sell so it’s worth starting there.
It’s worth noting that a system reset will help with any local Echo settings, but anything controlled by the app – including ‘Brief Mode’ (covered earlier) – will not be reset.
- Finally, if nothing else works,
get a hammer and hit your Echo repeatedlycontact Amazon customer support. Explain the steps you have taken, and ask whether you have a faulty device that needs replacing. Amazon support can be a little cumbersome at times (as they sometimes have checklists they need to go through), but they are very good at replacing their own products.
- If even that step doesn’t work, Amazon’s Echos are frequently on sale and whilst the 4th Gen Echo Dot is only recently released (and thus at a higher price most of the time), the 3rd Gen Echo Dot is very cheap to buy as a replacement for your existing Echo device.