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Chromecast Audio

Google released a new version of their Chromecast hardware today dedicated to audio.

From the website:
Quote
Chromecast Audio is a small device that plugs into your speaker for streaming music over Wi-Fi. Once set up, simply use your iPhone®, iPad®, Android phone or tablet, Mac® or Windows® laptop or Chromebook to cast your favourite tunes to the best speakers in the house.
Speaker inputs supported: RCA, 3.5 mm, Optical

Supports an optional Guest mode that lets nearby guests cast without joining your WiFi network.
Multiroom casting (like Sonos) is expected in a future update.
Casting music from a Windows PC is apparently possible using third party software like AirParrot.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #1
While the Chromecast Audio is indeed new, it's release is not entirely surprising. Google Cast for Audio devices such as the LG H3 or the Sony SRS-X77 have popped up here and there over the last few months.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #2
I ordered the (regular) chromecast 2 today after hearing it will support Spotify. My squeezebox touch requires a premium membership and the PS3 interface is pretty off-putting. According to this article, even the older chromecast will eventually support casting Spotify after a firmware update:
http://venturebeat.com/2015/09/29/how-to-s...new-chromecast/


Chromecast Audio

Reply #3
Our original Chromecast was replaced by an Apple TV, though the Roku 3 is still the most highly regarded.
After seeing this topic I discovered the JoyDrone and in light of chromecast audio, now wonder what will become of this $19 add-on. Surely $19 is cheaper than another $35 if I ever decided to put together another speaker system that didn't have streaming capability already built-in; otherwise, the chromecast will remain in the junk electronics drawer.
Regardless of my situation, $35 is an attractive solution for adding wireless to an audio system.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Chromecast Audio

Reply #4
The Chromecast Audio sounds (haha) like exactly what I need. I don't use a TV, everything is already on my PC and its 27" monitor, so I have no need for the full-blown Chromecast.

But the Audio is perfect as an addon to my stereo, so I can play music from my NAS without having to fire up the PC. And in my bedroom, I've been using a kinda crappy Internet radio with DLNA capabilities along with an old compact power amp and some spare speakers. Replacing that radio with a Chromecast is definitely going to happen, because it absolutely sucks UI-wise and chokes on some FLAC files for no reason at all.

Chromecast Audio + BubbleUPNP on my phone will be a much better solution.

E: Just checked out the Joydrone that greynol mentioned. Since I already have a Chromecast that I bought for messing around with, maybe I'll just use that combination. However, it requires initial setup using a TV, I assume the 'proper' Chromecast Audio has a streamlined process for that, without using a TV.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #5
Regardless of my situation, $35 is an attractive solution for adding wireless to an audio system.

The Chromecast Audio looks nice and the WAF is probably decent. Nevertheless, with Google, it's a chance that you're not only paying with your dollars but there's an additional non-monetary compensation involved (you're giving them your personal data).

I don't wanna give away my data. I also want maximum flexibility. So, for now, I'm sticking to Raspberry Pi's. The WAF is lower, sure. But for $35 (or, in my case, €), I can get an A+, a Wifi dongle, and a cheap case from one of the CN stores. And PSUs are free--I have plenty from old phones and such. Then I put mpd or squeezelite on the Pi and it works great for audio over HDMI. (Analog audio with the Pi is another story for which I would add a DAC so the solution gets more expensive.)

For me, the most tempting part about Google Cast for Audio are the all-in-one wireless speakers. There, I don't have a neat open hardware alternative. Of course, nice about Google Cast devices such as the new LG Music Flow or Denon Heos speakers is that you stream audio over WiFi. Thus, the solution doesn't involve A2DP Bluetooth with the less-than-stellar SBC codec.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #6
I have no problem with Google knowing what music I listen to, perhaps that will even bring a tiny bit of attention to some of the more obscure artists

Sure, I understand why you're hesitant to fork over too much personal info, but I've made my peace with how much (or how little) the Internet at large knows about me.

I have tried a bunch of different solutions for streaming audio into an old-fashioned stereo with no built-in streaming. Internet radios, dedicated DLNA adapters, Bluetooth and so on. All of them suck in their own particular way. But the Chromecast that I bought (and which is currently plugged into a TV at work to test some apps) just works without a hitch, it's just a much more elegant solution.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #7
Chromecast Audio + BubbleUPNP on my phone will be a much better solution.
Any news on format support, gapless, ReplayGain, etc?

Is BubbleUPnP always sitting in the audio pipeline, or can/does it just pass URLs to Chromecast?

Cheers,
David.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #8
Chromecast Audio + BubbleUPNP on my phone will be a much better solution.
Any news on format support, gapless, ReplayGain, etc?

Is BubbleUPnP always sitting in the audio pipeline, or can/does it just pass URLs to Chromecast?

Cheers,
David.


I'll update you as soon as I get mine and give it a test drive

I figure it also depends on your audio source. I don't think my DLNA server supports gapless playback. And I don't think BubbleUPNP supports replaygain yet.

But the way Chromecast works, it should take over completely once you start playback, so you don't need your phone in the chain, except for controlling.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #9
Google Play Music definitely supports gapless playback, even on the old Chromecast. So that should be fine. Still no replaygain, though

E: I had a look at the specs, it supports MP3, Ogg Vorbis, HE/LC-AAC and FLAC. You can both cast from specific apps as before and mirror all audio from your device.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #10
Replaygain support and gapless are two features that I really really need. I know that the original Chromecast and Google Music combo recently gained gapless support. Not sure about Replaygain though. And no idea how any of this will work with local (as opposed to cloud) streaming.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #11
I've had an old Chromecast for a while and it is good for streaming video to a larger screen if a little lunky to use.

Never use it for audio on it's own though. Bluetooth dongles are so much more convienient. Smaller, cheaper, easier to use and you don;t need to be on a working network.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #12
Bluetooth is still using lossy aptX compression for streaming, unless you're using aptX Lossless (which I'm not sure if you can get dongles for yet) and requires the phone to be on and transmitting while listening.

Chromecast lets you start playback and the turn off the phone while the music keeps playing, so it's a much smaller drain of battery life.

Bluetooth was never really made for high-quality audio streaming. It's nice for mobile usage and phone headsets etc. and can stream MP3 just fine, but it's very much not ideal for lossless streaming to a home stereo.

Also, the Chromecast Audio is $35, hardly a fortune.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #13
I've had an old Chromecast for a while and it is good for streaming video to a larger screen if a little lunky to use.

Never use it for audio on it's own though. Bluetooth dongles are so much more convienient. Smaller, cheaper, easier to use and you don;t need to be on a working network.


Problem with bluetooth is that you have to be near the device and powered or you lose audio.  The nice thing about the Chromecast is that the initiating device just starts playback, and then is no longer needed*.  You can turn it off to save battery, walk outside to take out the trash, etc and it keeps working. 

* You can also use it like bluetooth where you can directly from the device, but this is not as commonly used.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #14
The nice thing about the Chromecast is that the initiating device just starts playback, and then is no longer needed.

This can be done using DLNA (and it has been done using DLNA quite some time before the Chromecast was released). It's not a unique feature the Chromecast brings to the table.

I have no problem with Google knowing what music I listen to, perhaps that will even bring a tiny bit of attention to some of the more obscure artists

I doubt that only data about the content being streamed is collected. Data about when and where you stream may be just as valuable as the 'what'.

And Google's terms allow it to share the collected data across services so these are things Google knows in addition to your web searches, the contents of your email, your Google Health data, etc. (assuming you use all underlying Google products).

Also, it's not just that Google knows (and can use the data to annoy you with ads and the like), there are further issues (e.g., there's a risk data gets leaked and your government, employer, or ex-GF finds out what, when, and where you stream). Btw, I'm not trying to troll. I honestly believe this product is not just about the audio technology. We also need to think if we want to live in the type of world laid out by Dave Eggers in which everything we do becomes public information. And if we don't want something to become public information, we shouldn't be doing it.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #15
The nice thing about the Chromecast is that the initiating device just starts playback, and then is no longer needed.

This can be done using DLNA (and it has been done using DLNA quite some time before the Chromecast was released). It's not a unique feature the Chromecast brings to the table.


Absolutely, and in theory DLNA is an awesome local streaming protocol.

However, in practice it is severely flawed. There are very few affordable standalone renderers available and the two I've tried (Terratec Air Beats HD and Clint H3) are unstable and choke on FLAC files, even on a 54mbit/s wifi (the highest rate they support). There are some FLAC files they simply will not play. Playback on my phone is fine, but as soon as I try to push them to the other renderer, playback just stops.

It seems that to get good DLNA playback, you have to buy either a full-blown receiver with the streaming built in, or get one of those all-in-one Internet radios. But I've had one of those, and it sucked too, with the same issues as the dedicated renderers. Or maybe it works great on the AV streamers in contrast to the audio-only streamers. But I have no use for those, I just want to stream music.

The Chromecast Audio costs £35 (cheaper than all of the above options) and will be running an instance of BubbleUPNP, which I know can handle all of my music. It really shouldn't be that hard to stream music from a NAS to a stereo without having to spend a fortune. I'm hoping the Chromecast Audio can make the happen, because the other solutions I've tried so far have failed to make it work easily and reliably.

The old Chromecast certainly works great for video (I use it a lot at work, for testing some of our apps with casting integration and even to cast the occasional web page or presentation. So far, we've seen no issues that weren't simply bugs in our applications, it's as reliable as an actual video cable).

Quote
I doubt that only data about the content being streamed is collected. Data about when and where you stream may be just as valuable as the 'what'.

And Google's terms allow it to share the collected data across services so these are things Google knows in addition to your web searches, the contents of your email, your Google Health data, etc. (assuming you use all underlying Google products).

Also, it's not just that Google knows (and can use the data to annoy you with ads and the like), there are further issues (e.g., there's a risk data gets leaked and your government, employer, or ex-GF finds out what, when, and where you stream). Btw, I'm not trying to troll. I honestly believe this product is not just about the audio technology. We also need to think if we want to live in the type of world laid out by Dave Eggers in which everything we do becomes public information. And if we don't want something to become public information, we shouldn't be doing it.


I fully understand where you're coming from, and I fully support your right to choose alternative products, to opt-out and avoid tracking by various companies etc.

Personally, I've made my peace with it. I use Google's etc. opt-out functions, disable targeted ads, and I run the uBlock Origin and Privacy Badger plugins (in Chrome, maybe that's kinda ironic). I also opt-out of all anonymous usage statistics etc.

What's left after that, I consider a price I pay for the convenience their apps etc. bring me, after all I am just a nobody, and if someone thinks my information is worth anything, they're completely deluding themselves. But I also fully support your right to take the opposite choice.

Of course no Google product is just about the primary function it offers. Google is an ad company first and foremost. It just happens that many of the ad-related algorithms are also useful for other purposes, such as spam filtering in Gmail etc.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #16
Oh no, Google knows I was listening to Enter Sandman before I went to bed....oh dear God nooooo, what will that mean for me? Oh wait, nothing. Please stop being so paranoid and keep this thread about the device not about your thoughts about Google.

The device looks really cool, if I didn't already have piCorePlayered RPis around the house it'd be great

Chromecast Audio

Reply #17
I am actually really interested in this little baby, so I can use it as speakerphone in my house.  I currently use a Bluetooth speaker, and have a lot of problems understanding people with Indian and Russian accents on conference calls (I'm American).  Soon as I turn off the speaker and go to headphones, things are much clearer.  I'm curious to see if I can understand people better using wifi, which doesn't have lossy compression as part of the protocol.

What would really be nice is if you could have multiple chromecast audios and they all can stay in sync.  So, if you have one in the living room and dining room and one set of speakers don't sound like they're a little off from the other pair.  Cheap whole house audio would be pretty nice.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #18
I am actually really interested in this little baby, so I can use it as speakerphone in my house.

I don't think it works this way.
Is 24-bit/192kHz good enough for your lo-fi vinyl, or do you need 32/384?

Chromecast Audio

Reply #19
Yeah I'm not sure it could even effectively cut out the speaker->mic feedback loop, so you would get a lot of echoing and feedback, it would be unusable.

And that's before you get into the issue of delay etc. Chromecast Audio is not designed as a low-latency real time audio system, because sound quality matters more than a second or two of delay when you're just listening to music, but not for telephony.

A dedicated Bluetooth speakerphone is still the best option, but you'll have to hunt around for one with better sound quality. Most basic Bluetooth headsets etc. use the base-level Bluetooth audio compression, which has terrible sound quality. You need to find a speakerphone that supports the later and better audio protocols.

 

Chromecast Audio

Reply #20
Yeah I'm not sure it could even effectively cut out the speaker->mic feedback loop, so you would get a lot of echoing and feedback, it would be unusable.

And that's before you get into the issue of delay etc. Chromecast Audio is not designed as a low-latency real time audio system, because sound quality matters more than a second or two of delay when you're just listening to music, but not for telephony.

A dedicated Bluetooth speakerphone is still the best option, but you'll have to hunt around for one with better sound quality. Most basic Bluetooth headsets etc. use the base-level Bluetooth audio compression, which has terrible sound quality. You need to find a speakerphone that supports the later and better audio protocols.


A bought a Voyager Edge bluetooth headset that support "HD Voice (Wideband Audio)" and that doesn't cut it for me.

I don't want to hijack this thread with my issues, so to bring it back around...

I love idea of buying some good low end powered speakers such as the Micca P42X, and plugging this in, and you have a room full of music for less than $150.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #21
I received the new Chromecast 2 yesterday and got it set up. Once I updated the Spotify app on my Android tablet, I was able to cast to it. Worked beautifully, and I had a great workout with Janet Jackson's Control, lol...

With the PBS app, we watched an episode of Rick Steve's Europe with dinner. The picture was really clear and nice, but I'm not sure if the older one streamed HDTV as nicely. Supposedly the new Chromecast has a better antenna.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #22
I don't know if this is specific to the Chromecast Audio, but if you're using a stereo that's even halfway decent, go into the settings in the Chromecast app and turn on "High Dynamic Range". The setting is bit confusingly named, because what that actually does is turn off dynamic range compression, which I assume is there for the average low quality portable speaker that a lot of people are probably going to use these with.

If you're using the optical output, it turns off the compression automatically. I sort of fear this will lead to a bunch of reviews saying "the Chromecast Audio DAC is shit, it sounds much better when I use the TOSLINK connection to my $fancy-pants-expensive-DAC!"

I couldn't find the option on my first-generation Chromecast, probably because the video Chromecasts only have digital output.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #23
I don't know if this is specific to the Chromecast Audio, but if you're using a stereo that's even halfway decent, go into the settings in the Chromecast app and turn on "High Dynamic Range".
Googling around, it seems like this only relates to Chromecast Audio, but I will check my settings tonight and see if the regular Chromecast has something similar.

Chromecast Audio

Reply #24
I don't know if this is specific to the Chromecast Audio, but if you're using a stereo that's even halfway decent, go into the settings in the Chromecast app and turn on "High Dynamic Range". The setting is bit confusingly named, because what that actually does is turn off dynamic range compression, which I assume is there for the average low quality portable speaker that a lot of people are probably going to use these with.

If you're using the optical output, it turns off the compression automatically. I sort of fear this will lead to a bunch of reviews saying "the Chromecast Audio DAC is shit, it sounds much better when I use the TOSLINK connection to my $fancy-pants-expensive-DAC!"

I couldn't find the option on my first-generation Chromecast, probably because the video Chromecasts only have digital output.


Don't the record labels do this for us already?  :-)

I'm going to order one on Friday and set it up next week.  For $35,it will be nice to have wireless speakers in the bedroom.

 
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