Want to change Alexa’s voice? While the soft tones of Amazon’s popular smart assistant have won over many, there are plenty of good reasons for wanting it to sound a little different.
Maybe you’d rather hear a different language, or accent – or maybe you’re a bit tired of tech companies using female voices for their subservient AI products.
Alexa isn’t the most flexible in this area, but there are a few things you can do to amend the way Alexa’s voice is deployed in your home – say, on the Amazon Echo smart speaker, whatever newfangled shower head you have installed in your bathroom, or on your smartphone.
Here’s how to set Alexa’s language, access the special Samuel L. Jackson voice, or starting thinking about competing voice assistants like Google Assistant or Siri.
How to set Alexa’s language (and accent)
Here’s the most important setting for Alexa’s voice: the language it speaks in.
Most Echo devices will use Alexa in English, though Amazon is expanding the assistant’s repertoire to include a host of other languages. By heading to your Alexa app and into Settings > Device Settings, and selecting an Echo device, you’ll find a Language option (underneath General).
This feature is only available on first-party Amazon devices like the Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Plus – so third-party Alexa-powered smart speakers like the Pure DiscovR are stuck in their default language.
If you’re speaking to Alexa in English, it can also be set to US English, UK English, Canadian English, Australian / New Zealand English, and Indian English.
Brief Mode and Whisper Mode
There are, thankfully, a few other edits you can make to Alexa’s voice beyond the language.
In the Alexa smartphone app, you can head to Settings > Voice Responses and toggle either the Brief Mode or Whisper Mode.
Brief Mode provides shorter responses from Alexa – if you’re not the chatty type – and will replace simple affirmative answers with a brief beep instead.
Whisper Mode provides answers in a quiet, hushed tone. Perfect for ambient settings or when you don’t want to wake the kids. (You can, of course, also turn the volume down by hand, and Alexa also responds to the "quieter" command.)
How to change Alexa's voice speed
Just want Alexa to speak a little slower – or not take as long answering your queries? Say “Alexa, speak faster / slower” and your wish shall be granted.
How to set Alexa’s voice as Samuel L. Jackson
You may have built up some excitement over the option to set Alexa’s voice as Samuel L. Jackson, from such cult films as Pulp Fiction and Snakes on a Plane.
However, Jackson can’t be used for everything. It works by asking Alexa to ask Samuel L. Jackson a question, and then hearing his response. It’s an official feature that Jackson lent his voice for, and costs $0.99. Just ask Alexa to “introduce me to Samuel L. Jackson”, and away you go.
It’s currently only available in the US, though we expect Amazon to expand its Celebrity Voice program into other countries in the future.
Amazon’s product page states that, “Although he can do a lot, Sam won’t be able to help with Shopping, lists, reminders or Skills”, but you should get some entertainment value out of hearing Jackson’s voice in other contexts – and you can even choose whether to allow explicit language or not.
Is that it?
Sadly, yes. Alexa offers very little customization. It may be the most popular voice assistant, but that doesn’t mean the competition doesn’t have some advantages.
Google Assistant, for one, allows you to switch the gender of its voice – though labelled as ‘orange’ and ‘red’ rather than ‘man’ and ‘woman’.
Siri, too, has plenty of accent options for its voice, meaning you can pick an American, Australian, British, Indian, Irish, or South African accent when using the assistant in English. You can pick between two genders too.
Google Assistant is available in all Android OS devices (any smartphone not made by Apple, really) as well as Google Home smart speakers and select smart TVs. Siri comes built-in with Apple iPhones, AirPods, Macbooks, and the like – though is considerably less advanced than the other two assistants.
Samsung’s Bixby voice assistant is generally seen as the runt of the litter, but it does have various speaking styles to choose from too.
- What is Bixby? Our guide to Samsung's smart assistant