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Chromecast Audio is a fairly new offering in the Chromecast device lineup. It lets you stream audio without wires. In fact, it can turn your old speakers, radios, and boom boxes into Wifi enabled speakers.

Design

The Chromecast Audio is a small black circular device about 2 inches around and approximately ½ inch thick. The fact that it is an audio only device is indicated by the black grooved top that looks similar to a vinyl record with the Google symbol in the middle. The sides and bottom of the device are sturdy gray plastic. There is also a very small indicator light on the side.

chromecast-audio-in-hand

In the box you get a brilliant yellow 3.5 mm to 3.5 mm stereo cable that is 126 mm long. This is the same size as the standard headphone cable. Also included is a power cable that plugs into the Micro USB port on the side of the Chromecast Audio device. The device must be plugged in to work.

chromcast-audio-with-cables

Setup

Setting up the Chromecast Audio is easy. Three simple steps are listed on the inside of the box. Just plug one end of the stereo cable into the Chromecast and the other end into Aux In port on your device. Then download the Chromecast App to your Android or Apple cell phone or tablet and follow the simple instructions. With the release of the Google Home device, the Chromecast app has now been renamed “Google Home.”

When you open the audio app that you normally use to listen to music, you simply look for the little “cast” icon which looks like a TV with a Wifi signal on it. Tap that icon and the music will start playing through your audio device.

The Chromecast Audio device works on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz network bands. This ability was missing in the original Chromecast device.

Quality & Compatibility

The Chromecast Audio does an excellent job of streaming audio. If you have been listening to music on your cell phone or tablet and you stream it to a better audio device, you will notice a huge difference in quality. You can use it with any “dumb” stereo, sound bar, powered speaker, or AV receiver that has an “Aux In” port. I hooked it up to an old Bose radio. The Chromecast Audio gave it a new life. This option offers better audio performance than you get with most Bluetooth speakers.

Chromecast Audio has support for ACC, MP3, Ogg Vorbi, WAV (LPCM) and FLAC. It also supports up to 24-bit/96-kHz decoding. The Chromecast Home app also has a high dynamic range setting for each device.

Music Choices

You can easily cast music from many major music services like Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Google Play Music, DS Audio NPR One, Rocket Player, TuneIn, Plex and Rhapsody. Google has a full list of compatible services that you can check out. You will quickly find that two major services, Apple Music and Amazon Music, are not supported on the iPhone or iPad apps. However you can easily cast both Apple Music and Amazon music from the Chrome browser on Windows and Mac computers. The ability to “Cast” is now built into the Chrome browser so you don’t even have to download anything. Just start the music in the Chrome browser and click on the Cast choice in Chrome list of customizations. You can also use the Chromecast app on an Android device to stream music that is not explicitly supported.

With Google Home

Google Home and Chromecast Audio are a match made in heaven. Just use the Google Home app to group Home and any Chromecast Audio devices that you may have and you can verbally start your music just by asking Google Home. For instance I created a group called “Home” with the Google Home device and my Bose radio with the Chromecast Audio dongle. Then I said “Hey Google Play happy music on Home.” She quickly complied playing the music on both the Google Home and the Bose radio.

There is only one caveat. Currently you can only group Google Home and Chromecast Audio devices. You cannot add a Chromecast device to that group. That is unfortunate because many of us have sound bars and/or speaker systems attached to our TVs. Hint to Google: I would love to be able to play that coordinate the music played through the Chromecast TV device with my Google Home and Chromecast Audio devices. That would truly give me a whole house audio solution. Hopefully Google is working on adding that capability.

Versus Chromecast

The Chromecast Audio device sells for $35. The basic Chromecast device that streams audio and video is available for the same price. There is one drawback when using it for listening. The Chromecast works only through an HDMI port so have to run it through your television or other HDMI-capable device. The Chromecast Audio works with a wide range of audio systems, especially older systems that don’t have HDMI ports.

Summary

The Google Chromecast Audio is an inexpensive way to make use of some of your older audio equipment. It can also provide stereo through several rooms in your home. If you have a Google Home device you can use it to add voice control to all of your Chromecast Audio music.

Sandy Berger, respected computer authority, journalist, media guest, speaker, and author, has more than three decades of experience as a computer and technology expert. Her eight books include: How to Have a Meaningful Relationship with Your Computer, Your Official Grown-up’s Guide to AOL and the Internet, Cyber Savers –Tips & Tricks for Today’s Drowning Computer Users, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Better Living through Technology, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to the Internet, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Gadgets & Gizmos, Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Health & Wellness, and Sandy Berger’s Great Age Guide to Online Travel. Sandy’s newspaper column, magazine articles, feature stories, product reviews, and computer tips can be found at her website, Compu-KISS.