Chromecast Audio, Google signed last audio accessory, is a compendium of all that the mark has learned in integrated streaming in a simple, affordable and ultra-compact. Sonos, the leading wireless home audio systems, had to worry about. For Chromecast Audio is part of a new generation of wireless adapters that replace very expensive devices such as Sonos Connect to 400 euros. For only 39 euros, Chromecast Audio can be connected to powered speakers or an audio amp to play all the music from a mobile device as well as streaming services like Deezer, Spotify or Qobuz.
One might think that Chromecast Audio is a redundant compared to the new product Chromecast 2015. Except that it is intended rather to video and HDMI connectivity uses, which means having to turn on the TV to listen to music. Chromecast Audio is far more specialized and works with a wide range of devices without HDMI port. Basically, if you have an auxiliary input on your sound system, you can use it to Chromecast Audio.
And all similar accessories to less than 100 euros we tested, that of Google is undoubtedly the easiest to install. A number of applications are not yet available, but this should soon change. The sonic performance are significantly better than with Bluetooth devices, either on entry level audio systems or even more specialized facilities if one uses the optical output. In short, we can say that Chromecast Audio is the new streaming player to beat.
A small roller
Chromecast Audio Design the evokes a cross between a 7-inch mini CD and ice hockey puck. One of its faces is covered grooves as vinyl discs while the other is totally smooth. With its 5 cm in diameter and 1.3 cm thick, it is really very small. There are two ports, one is a mini-jack 3.5 mm / optical hybrid socket for which an analog 3.5mm audio cable comes. To use an optical connection, it will invest in a Toslink adapter mini jack or a dedicated cable. Similarly, if you have audio system with red and white RCA outputs, you need to buy an adapter that usually costs a few euros.
The second available port a micro-USB devoted to food and Chromecast comes with a 1.75 m cable and AC adapter. But it can also be fed directly through a USB port. It has a small button to reset the unit. However, no button for association with the devices because the Chromecast is automatically detected via its dedicated application, available on Android and iOS. The configuration is to give a name to the camera and then record the IDs of your Wi-Fi network. Chromecast Audio is compatible with 802.11ac in 2.4 and 5 GHz.
The application is common to Chromecast and Chromecast Audio, but it seems to have been thought for the first. It has a search bar, but it is currently only movies and TV programs.
Thus, Chromecast Audio of users will use this application to configure the device, find compatible applications or use the Audio Stream feature which is only available on Android. At the launch of the new range of Chromecast, Google promised compatibility with multiroom systems. This function is activated via an update should happen by the end of the year. This will bring together, under one name in the Chromecast application, several speakers and create as many groups as you want.
Google has learned a lesson from past experience, including Nexus Q case of failure , and understood that it was necessary above all keep it simple. Result, Chromecast Audio does not attempt to power the speakers or to restrict the use to only Google ecosystem. Instead, Google is working with third party developers so that they can add technology “Cast” to their applications. Through these partnerships, you can use Chromecast Audio to listen to music from a service such as Spotify.
The operation could not be simpler. Just open the application with which one usually listens to his music then press the small icon “cast” that looks like a TV with the Wi-Fi signal in the lower left corner. This opens a menu that displays the list of connected devices available including Chromecast Audio. Just select it and you will hear a series of beeps before the music comes. Google also promised that he will soon be possible to broadcast the same music to multiple Chromecast same time.
The compatible applications
With an Android smartphone we tested unhindered service Popular Streaming: Spotify, Rdio, Pandora, Google Play Music, DS audio, NPR One, Rocket Player and TuneIn. Google says Deezer, Rhapsody and Plex are also supported, but we have not tested them. However, there are still two major absentees in this list: Apple and Amazon Music Music. In the case of Apple, Google said that it is currently impossible to broadcast audio from iTunes or an iOS device. Music for Amazon, there are two alternatives: access from the Chrome browser on Windows or Mac by installing the extension Google Chromecast (tested without problem with Tidal, SoundCloud and YouTube) or via the application on Android Chromecast pressing the button that will broadcast the currently playing audio source to any application. This works well but it is unfortunately not available on iOS. Bilan, iPhone and iPad users who want to use non-compatible applications Chromecast would be better off turning to audio broadcasting solutions Bluetooth or AirPlay.
If reading from a streaming cloud service is the main reason to buy a Chromecast Audio, it is of course play music stored locally on a phone or NAS. Bubble applications include UPnP, Toaster Cast and Doubletwist. But we had problems with UPnP Bubble that was not working. The most reliable drives were those of Pandora, Spotify and Toaster Cast. On this type of application, Chromecast ACC supports audio formats MP3, Ogg Vorbis, WAV and FLAC.
Google ensures that its product decodes 24-bit / 96 kHz, but for the time being, output is limited to 48 kHz. Note that the application contains a Chromecast HDR mode disabled by default. We advise you to use if you want to avoid additional dynamic compression.
Nobody before Google was able to offer this type of Wi housing -fi as sophisticated at a competitive price. The most obvious rivals for the Chromecast in price are Bluetooth dongles, such as Belkin products that cost forty euros. The advantage of these adapters is that they can read anything. However, they suffer from defects Bluetooth, namely limited in scope, quality and a compressed audio playback interruptions caused by incoming calls.
If examines the streaming side in Wi-Fi, the most serious competitor is the Gramofon Fon priced around 80 euros. It is compatible Allplay and Spotify, which allows it to rebroadcast the Wi-Fi signal to cover every corner of your home. Its main drawback is that it costs double the Chromecast Audio.
Small board prior to buying a Chromecast Audio. First make sure that any of your audio equipment is not already Bluetooth enabled, Google Cast, WiFi, AirPlay or Spotify Connect in order not to spend money for nothing …
At the listening
We were not expecting much from such a product in terms of sound quality and we were pleasantly surprised. The sound is certainly not at the product level this Gramofon, but still, Chromecast managed to retrieve most of the details of the song “Pale green things” Mountain Goats. The record, however, is slightly less than the living Gramofon, what we also found on “1979” Smashing Pumpkins.
We were curious how Chromecast Audio bear comparison with a Bluetooth dongle upscale as Arcam MiniBlink 150 euros. The MiniBlink has been generous in the bass. Compared to Chromecast, it is not as well restored vocals.
At 39 euros, Chromecast Audio has no rival in terms of features. It is not yet known whether this quoits shake the world of audio as loud as did the first Chromecast for video. His chances of success could become more evident in the weeks and months ahead when it receives new features, including multiroom mode. Meanwhile, there is really little to complain about, especially if you are a user of Android. If you have a hi-fi equipment in the 20th century, Chromecast Audio is the least expensive way to get it into the new millennium.