The Chromecast Audio makes it supremely simple to get audio to your speakers and is an inexpensive upgrade
Speakers: N/A, RMS power output: N/A, Dock connector: None, Networking: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Dimensions: 519x519x135mm, Weight: 30.7g, Streaming formats: Chromecast
When the original Chromecast launched, it revolutionised how you could inexpensively get content to your television from a multitude of sources. Netflix was no longer relegated to your computer screen or tablet, but could be enjoyed in all its glory on the big screen. Chromecast Audio takes that same principle and applies it, as you might expect, to music. Essentially, it takes your existing non-wireless speakers and upgrades them to internet-connected smart speakers, all for just £30.
The circular little device has concentric circles which delightfully resemble a vinyl record, complete with how the light catches the grooved ridges. It draws power over USB, and while a mains adaptor is included in the box, you can also plug the micro USB to USB cable straight into a powered USB port if your speaker has one. You’ll also need to use the short, bright yellow 3.5mm audio cable to get audio into your speakers.
Usefully, Chromecast Audio also outputs a digital optical signal through its 3.5mm auxiliary port, and you can also use a 3.5mm to RCA cable if your sound system doesn’t have a 3.5mm input, although neither optical or RCA cables are included. This means that the Chromecast can connect to nearly any audio device you can think of, whether it’s an amplifier, midi system or a pair of active speakers.
Chromecast Audio Setup
Once you’ve plugged everything in, the setup process is pleasingly simple and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has set up a Chromecast in the past. You can either use the Chromecast app on an Android or iOS device, or use desktop software. The app searches for any broadcasting Chromecasts nearby, and once discovered you can transfer over your wireless network details. Chromecast Audio will then check for any updates and install them automatically.
Getting content to the Chromecast Audio doesn’t differ drastically to the original Chromecast, either. Certain apps will have native Chromecast support, meaning you can simply hit the Cast icon in the app and select the Chromecast Audio on your network. Some of the apps that already support Chromecast Audio include Google Play Music, Pocket Casts, Rdio and Spotify. The Chromecast app itself has also received an update, making it much easier to discover Chromecast-compatible apps you can install. Much like the original Chromecast, expect the number of apps that support casting audio to steadily increase over time.
Spotify in particular is a recent addition and an important coup. Previously, Spotify was pushing its own Spotify Connect protocol for getting music to speakers, which meant the speaker itself needed to have Spotify Connect support. Now, with Chromecast Audio, you can inexpensively turn any existing speaker into a Spotify Connect compatible speaker. Chromecast Audio devices will appear just like any other Spotify Connect speaker or device for you to select from within the app.
Once you open a compatible app, it will detect your Chromecast Audio on your network and offer the option to channel the audio to your speakers. A pleasant chime sound will indicate the speaker is connected. Just like mirroring your entire screen using a Chromecast, you can also choose to output your device’s audio to a Chromecast Audio. This means you can get the audio from any app to a speaker wirelessly. You can also output the audio from any Chrome browser tab on your desktop via the Chromecast extension, too.
The latency was also good enough that watching video with the audio output to a speaker wasn’t an issue. The wireless range on the Chromecast Audio was also very impressive, meaning it could be placed a good two floors away from the router before it began to lose connection. This is helped by its adaptive triple antenna array, with 802.11ac wireless and support for both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
When you use Chromecast Audio with a compatible app, the device itself connects directly to the service, with your smartphone or tablet merely acting as a controller. This means that audio quality is never an issue as you’re not piping audio wirelessly from your controlling device. Sound quality will then of course be dependent on what you connect the Chromecast Audio to. Fortunately, there wasn’t a noticeable degradation in sound quality when outputting a device’s audio, either.
An important update is coming later in the year from Google, which will introduce multiroom speaker support. This will have Chromecast Audio competing with speakers from the likes of Sonos, Samsung and LG that all offer multiroom compatible speakers. These allow you to have music synchronised around your home, with the same music playing in every room or each speaker being controlled independently.
The latter is already possible with Chromecast Audio, but following the update you will be able to group speakers together and control them as one. So you could have Google Play Music playing simultaneously in the kitchen and the living room, which is great if you’re having a party. Upgrading each speaker to multiroom for £30 is a compelling offer.
As it stands, Chromecast Audio is incredibly simple to use and its low price almost makes it a no-brainer if you want to upgrade an existing speaker. Compared to a dedicated Spotify Connect speaker, such as the Philips Spotify Connect SW750M, Chromecast Audio is a far simpler and more flexible alternative. Chromecast Audio will only get better once the multiroom upgrade is released, instantly providing a competitor to dedicated multiroom streaming speakers. It’s a Best Buy. Buy the Chromecast Audio now from Currys
|RMS power output
|3.5mm, optical S/PDIF
|Memory card support
|Android, iOS, Chrome Extension
|AAC, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WAV
|Internet streaming services
|Google Play Music, Spotify, TuneIn, Rdio
|Price including VAT
|One year RTB