Chromecast Audio: features and setup
Turn your dumb HiFi setup into a smarter network enabled system using Chromecast Audio, no offence to those who spent heavily on their audio setup and that still love to play their music through.
If you’re into music and the experience of listening to music there is a good chance you spent a good amount on your system before the Swedes came along and invented Spotify.
Its easy enough to plug your tablet or PC into your offline HiFi but that’s not necessarily the most convenient way to do it. You could spend big to add yet another big box to your cluttered living room in order to access the wide range of online streaming services.
But that is exactly the point, you don’t have to spend big when all you need is £30 for Chromecast audio and a cable to connect it with.
You can tuck it away behind your stereo and wire it up to a spare RCA or optical cables and AC power. Then all you need to do is connect it to your closest mobile device to point the Chromecast Audio at a wireless network and you’re done, boom!
As long as you are not a Windows Phone freak, Android and iOS devices are pretty well served by the Chromecast application which gives you direct access to the device but WinPhone is typically excluded due to its smaller numbers.
The app is also pretty smart in that it gives you direct links to other cast enabled applications to download to your device. It also knows the version you are connected to so it will only serve you recommendations based on whichever you are using.
With iOS this is vital because you’re only going to get tunes out of Chromecast Audio via specifically enabled applications, such as Spotify or TuneIn Radio. Once there you will hit the cast button and out comes the music from your internal speakers.
For Android enthusiast there are also Cast-enabled apps, but Google reward your faith with its ecosystem by delivering a complete mirroring service, much like it does for the standard, video based Chromacast.
Chromecast Audio: performance
Because of the way Casting works i.e. by taking the stream directly from the network connection and not streamed from your phone you get a higher aural experience.
Chromecast Audio is fitted with 5GHz wireless support as well as the standard 2.4 GHz version so it can more than handle the necessary bitrate over the less crowded 5GHz band. A 5GHz router will be required to make that happen and also make sure there aren’t too many walls between the router and Chromecast Audio.
There is a High Dynamic Range setting in the Chromecast audio settings that is designed for connecting to higher-end HiFi gear. It allows for the highest quality sound output and it makes a huge difference.
When turning it on with a decent stereo system the sound improves drastically from the sound of the compressed files. There is far more clarity in the vocal and instrumental levels of the music which are more pronounced.
Chromecast Audio: Verdict
Fans of the Chromecast Audio will tell you how its managed to pick out a niche and offer convenient, good value and great sounding way to do it all.
With an increase in networked audio players which have filled out the high-cost area of the market but you want streaming services on your expensive off-grid HiFi and that means you have to pay, and people have.
That’s fine for the audiophile who can happily drop a grand on a set of peripheral speakers without blinking. For the rest of us, with stereos we love the sound of but without the deep pockets to continually upgrade them, the Chromecast Audio is like manna from heaven