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Google Chromecast Audio set to disrupt audio streaming space

  • Huge company, tiny product. Google have today announced an audio version of their popular Chromecast streaming device. Chromecast Audio connects to your wifi network and streams audio from the cloud – Deezer and Spotify are on board from the get go – and local network storage via Google’s own app. Per its video-dealing forerunner, remote control of the Google Chromecast Audio comes via smartphone and tablet but also Mac or PC.

    The ‘Tap to party’ function means “Your friends and family can join in the fun, too. Anyone in the home can cast music to your speakers using their own phones — no additional setup or pairing required.”

    Promotional moving pictures:

    Connect one end to a (USB) power source, the other to your existing hifi system and you’re up and streaming with audio. The 3.5mm output is a hybrid socket like those seen on some Macs, PCs and DAPs; it’ll fire analogue audio into an auxiliary port or stream digital audio into a DAC over toslink. The latter feature means this pebble-like dongle steps in to the fill the void created by Apple’s erasing the optical output from its Apple TV device.

    Best of all, we get all of this for US$35. Read that again: thirty five bucks.

    There’s more than enough on offer here for Average Joe to drop Spotify connectivity into his existing setup for the cost of a single vinyl LP.

    For audiophiles, it’s in the digital connectivity space that Google threaten to disrupt. Picture the Chromecast Audio with a Wyred4Sound or Empricial Audio S/PDIF reclocker and you’re good to go with high-quality Redbook streaming for less than a grand.

    My Tidal contact says that their Hifi service will hit Chromecast Audio ‘sometime before CES’ (in January 2016). Also reportedly to this dongle before the end of the year is multi-room streaming functionality.

    Sonos will no doubt be the first to feel the sales forecast pain. The Chromecast Audio will sell for one tenth the price of their Connect unit. The forthcoming AURALiC Aries Mini and the Bluesound Node are perhaps too niche to be affected, especially for those wanting hi-res compatibility.

    One could see it as a threatens to AudioQuest’s forthcoming Beetle DAC that calls on (asynchronous) Bluetooth – and not Wifi – to handle streaming. Alternatively, one device might complement the other. The Beetle DAC comes loaded with an optical input and its internal D/A conversion smarts, designed by Gordon Rankin, are likely to superior-sounding to Google’s.

    If Roon come to the party, allowing a Chromecast Audio to play the role of Endpoint, it’ll be game over for many ‘philes.

    Whatever the outcome in the audiophile space, the Chromecast Audio’s LOW price means its ENORMOUS potential is sure to be realised for millions of non-audiophile men and women walking the earth.

    Further information: Google Chromecast Audio


    John Darko

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. I ordered one today despite no Tidal support at the moment. I currently use BubbleDS and BubbleUPNP to cast to Tidal to Openhome and UPNP renderers though, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to stream that way. I read that Chromecast Audio will be seen as any other Chromecast on the network. Fingers crossed.

    2. Some questions come to mind… 1 Will it be more stable than Airplay which I found insufferably unstable? How does the quality of the output actually sound without the reclocking? What is the software controller app like? On another topic altogether, do you know how the Sonos Connect-amp compares with say the NAD digital amps in terms of sound Q? Regards, Paul

    3. I am perfectly happy with 16/44.1
      I also love the form factor. Now hoping for apps. The other TV dongle was slow at being accepted by developers.

    4. Raspberry pi is the best hi res streamer around for similar money.
      loaded with rune audio (not roon) it can even play dsd files.
      you can access some streaming services, play audio from your nas, or play from a hard drive or usb stick with one of the four usb ports.
      it will also allow you to play internet radio stations.
      output can be done via usb or with an optional board (hi fi berry digi+) via optical or coax.

    5. I’d really like to know how the DAC inside the Chromecast Audio compares to other low-cost streamers like the Apple AirPort Express and the Arcam miniBlink.

      I’m surprised that Google can get away with not listing the DAC chipset in the specifications, when it’s such a huge factor in playback quality, unless they want audiophiles to assume it’s crap.

      I’m also skeptical about iOS/Mac compatibility. How easy is it to toggle streaming on and off using an iPhone or a Macbook?

      • I have a Gramofon, too, and I use it on a pair of Audioengine A2 speakers that I connect to my TV. It’s okay for that. When I tried it on my main system, the limitations of the DAC were quite apparent–enough so that I never wanted to do it again.

        I bought the Chromecast Audio to plug into the DAC on my main system, and it’s being delivered this Friday. For me, it’s ALL about the S/PDIF because I don’t have the coin for anything like Auralic right now. If it will handle 24/96, then it’s ready for the inevitable evolution of streaming services. (I wonder if Google is planning such a move.) My fingers are crossed. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if it sounded better than a USB connection from my computer?

        • Bradleyp!
          HOW did it work out?? Really really curions to see how the chromcast audio performs as digital streamer only..


    6. I expect Sonos to go out of business, and good riddance. Their prices have always been extortionate. Now at last I may have a reasonably priced replacement for my myriad aging squeezeboxes

    7. I do not quite understand why nobody says anything about a long ago released and much better product: D-Link Music Anywhere.
      It even adds “Wi-Fi repeater”, which the Chromecast lacks.
      My house is full up of them. Around 50€ in Europe.
      So happy I cannot tell you.

    8. I received my Chromecast Audio Wednesday. I find the audio quality subpar. Used it on different speaker setups with the requisite 3.5mm input. The fidelity is inferior to the native playback of the devices. I played both Pandora and Flac through Plex. I’m either doing something wrong (I don’t think so) or for the $35 price Google deems the audio quality commensurate with Bluetooth level fidelity or lack thereof good enough for its customers. There are posts on the Google Chromecast forum with complaints concerning the poor audio quality.

    9. The Sound from GCA is terrible. Go instead full in for Apple AirPlay Express! It is mutch better!!

      • Or run the optical output of the GCA, and soon to be erased from the Apple TV, into a DAC.

        • I second what John says. The optical out works a charm and Google is apparently planning to make this output 24/96 capable in a future update. This little shit is quite the stirrer!
          And it does a disappearing act in my room. Not many audio thingies can do that. If i understand it correctly, the device pulls music directly from an a/c router rather than streaming from your phone which is awesome because my phone is a real remote and gets out of the way.

    10. Hi John,

      I’m setting up a modest HIFI system for a friend, Peachtree nova 125se, mmg speakers, and the source is the chromecast audio. However, I’m running the chromecast audio now through my gungnir and naturally the buy better gear light pops on. I was wondering if you have a chromecast audio unit paired with the remedy relcocker running through a gungnir would the buy better gear light would disengage?


      • Tony – Nice speaker/amp combo you got there. I don’t yet have a Chromecast Audio as Google hasn’t yet started selling them in Australia. I’ll likely pick one up whilst in the USA for CES in Jan. However, the W4S Remedy will almost certainly sort your issues as well as improve the CCA’s sound. BTW, how does the CCA sound firing directly into the Nova 125SE’s optical input?

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