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.”
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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