Google Chromecast Audio Review – After One Year’s Usage
With Google moving onto it’s third iteration for their original Chromecast to 4k streaming, there’s one Chromecast that still does a fantastic job and still hugely popular – the Chromecast Audio.
Some say this is the poor man or woman’s version of the Sonos, but I beg to differ. I’ve had two Chromecast Audios running for the last year now and will give you the full run down on why these little devices are great for streaming music to your speakers and pretty damn awesome for multi-room sync, and what to keep in mind after one year’s worth of usage.
Difference between Chromecast Audio and Regular Chromecast?
The Chromecast Audio does Audio only and lets you stream in multiroom – so for whole home or single room audio. A regular Chromecast does picture and audio – so more for videos. One is suited for an array of speakers throughout your home, while the other is for your screens (TV’s across the home).
The Chromecast Audio’s design is tiny – you can hide this in your clenched palm pretty easily. The main body is made up of two pieces of plastic. The top being a black glossy finish with a the Chromecast logo done with a slight embossed texture. The bottom is a matte mid to dark grey with the model number, general cert symbols, some text saying ‘Made in China’ as well as ‘Designed by Google’.
There’s a single button on the side that sits flush with the bottom for syncing and a tiny round cut-out for an led that is always on in a white color when connected to power. The led isn’t particularly bright so it isn’t annoying. Most of the time the Chromecast Audio is plugged in and hidden behind a speaker so it’s no big deal.
There’s a power jack that has a usb slot, with a matte grey (that matches the bottom plastic cover of the main puck body) usb to mini usb cable. The mini usb side connecting into the main puck shape body.
Then there is a single 3.5mm jack coming out of the main body ‘puck’. The Chromecast audio comes with one 3.5mm male to male cable in a highlighter yellow color, but is only about 10 cm long. If you need a 3.5mm to 2RCA for an older set-up, then you’ll have to buy that separately.
There is no noticeable noise or buzzing on a turned on speaker when the device is plugged in and on, or if the device is in standby with no music playing.
The Chromecast Audio gets surprisingly warm to the touch after playing music non-stop for a few hours. It’s nothing to be worried about, and the length of the 3.5mm cord is enough that the jack sits on the table next to a small speaker or hangs in the air, so only touches the speaker slightly if you have a larger speaker or receiver.
Set-up and Apps
Set-up is a breeze through mobile. You can download the Chromecast app called Google Cast from the App Store or through the Google Play store. Once installed you push a button on the Chromecast and enter in a code on the same network and it remembers the device forever. You do this individually for each Chromecast Audio, then you can go through and create groups. So I have separate speakers throughout the home, then have them all connected as one as a separate option, so I can play on each individually or as a group for whole home audio listening.
A lot of the major supported music apps work great. I’ve found Spotify to work like a dream. Google Play has had some random issues where I’d go to push pause and the music wouldn’t pause.
Also with the Napster app there are similar issues to the Google Play app, but generally more often. To be honest I didn’t think there would be ANY issues, but that’s just how it is at the moment. Chromecast Audio from non-supported apps also works pretty good. I haven’t tested with an iPhone though, so can’t comment on that end.
I used to run bluetooth throughout our household for audio. Obviously this has limitations. Bluetooth running from a phone can be annoying when a phone call comes in, the audio goes to the connected speaker, which is not the case with Chromecast Audio. Also while we’re talking about bluetooth – there’s no option to do multi-room across different speakers (unless you somehow hook up your different speakers together).
Back to actual bluetooth audio quality. This is where things get into a grey area. You see, bluetooth may had compression to your audio depending on your playback device. If you have an mp3 file and your receiver or speaker supports the same format then no compression is added, so audio quality is compromised.
However a lot of the times this isn’t the case, so your output audio quality may suffer – it really is too hard to tell here with the multitude of file formats, speakers and receivers out there. You’re going to have to do some testing or research based on your current set-up.
There are no worries with a lot of the above when it comes to the Chromecast Audio. The great thing here is that if you are streaming a service like Spotify, the stream goes direct to the Chromecast Audio device (bypassing your phone or streaming device effectively).
This means you get exactly the quality of stream you pay for and you get the added benefits of multi or single room setups that you can control from your phone or tablet. Then depending on your speaker set-up, audio quality will vary.
I highly recommend the Chromecast Audio as a great way to enable multiroom audio streaming with compatibility on Android and iOS. You’re able to choose whatever speaker set-up you want. This gives you a lot more bang for your buck and control over a system like Sonos, which by the way is also a great system.
If you have existing speakers you love and want to keep, then the Chromecast Audio is a great ecosystem, with a ton of possibility to add speakers and more Chromecast Audios to link things up between rooms. However if you have the money, splashing out on an ecosystem like Sonos is another great alternative for multiroom audio. With Google Home making a big splash this year and really just getting started, Chromecast Audio would be a great match for streaming to different parts of your home.