Hands on with Chromecast Audio

This $35 device will breathe new life into your old speakers

chromecast audio 1

Google recently released Chromecast Audio, a variant of its Chromecast for audio. The device turns your ‘dumb’ speakers into ‘smart’ speakers by taking them online.

Do you need one?

I love music and if I could, I would install speakers everywhere -- office, living room, bedroom, kitchen, and back patio. The bigger challenge is bringing music to these speakers. Sometimes you want to install them in way that keeps them out of sight. But hiding speakers creates the connectivity problem: How are you going to plug your iPhone or Android devices to those speakers? And even if you do connect them, the wire restricts usage of the mobile device.

I resorted to buying Bluetooth enabled speakers, but one of the biggest problems with BT speakers is pairing and unpairing. In most cases you can pair only with one device and then it’s quite unintuitive to switch between devices.

A neater option is to get inexpensive receivers that support wireless technologies like AirPlay. And that’s what Chromecast Audio does.

chromecast audio 3

Chromecast Audio sitting on my desk.

Setting up the device is extremely easy; just plug in the power cable and connect it with speakers through the 3.5mm port. Once connected you can easily stream music from services that support Chromecast Audio.

Unlike Bluetooth speakers you can enable guest mode and then anyone within the wireless network can play music through Chromecast Audio without hassle.

The drawback

The biggest problem with Chromecast Audio is that it's exclusively cloud based. Google’s own apps like Music won’t play songs that are stored on your device’s hard drive.

If you are on devices like iPhone or iPad then you can’t ‘stream’ content from Apple Music or Apple Movies app. I was not able to ‘stream’ any music from Amazon Music, Apple Music or other such sources.

One workaround on Android devices, for unsupported services, is that you use the ‘Cast’ button from settings and ‘stream’ any audio coming out of your devices. However that won’t work with iOS and probably some Android devices as well.

The Verdict

If you live inside Google’s bubble and all of your content is on cloud, then Chromecast Audio is the best thing to do. It’s not a great solution if you have a heterogenous environment at home.

I bought one because it’s cheap. So my suggestion is if you do want wireless playback capability, then get one. At $35 it doesn’t hurt to have one sitting around.

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