Google’s Chromecast Audio is an easy and inexpensive way to make any pair of speakers, or your Hi-Fi system, Wi-Fi friendly. Although Google sells its device for $35, you can currently find it at Best Buy or Staples for a mere $25.
The puck-sized device connects to virtually any speaker in your home via a 3.5-millimeter input, allowing you stream music from your Android or iOS mobile device. It supports apps such as Pandora, Rdio, Spotify (premium only, however), and of course, Google Play Music. The device also comes with a 5-inch, 3.5-millimeter audio cable, but if you prefer to plug it into your sound system, you’ll need to pick up a 3.5-millimeter-to-RCA cable or a 3.5-millimeter-to-Toslink optical cable. Once connected to your speakers or sound system, you connect the device to your wireless network via the Chromcecast app.
If you have an additional Hi-Fi system, or an extra pair of speakers in a separate room, the Chromecast Audio also offers multi-room support using the same app. That means you can purchase multiple Chromecast Audio devices and group them, or split them up for a Sonos-like setup without the exuberant price tag. In our review, the puck served up stable streaming without any stuttering. Audio quality was also noticeably better than what you’ll get from similar Bluetooth devices, with more detail and better dynamic range. The Chromecast Audio is currently limited to 24bit/48kHz resolution, and while that’s less than some Wi-Fi streamers, it trumps the costlier Sonos system, which streams at 16bit/44.1kHz.
However, Chromecast Audio isn’t for everyone. For starters, you can’t stream files directly from your iPhone or iPad when sourced from iTunes or Apple Music. Likewise, Amazon Prime Music won’t stream on the Chromecast either. Users already invested in the Android ecosystem, however, can use the Chromecast Audio to mirror whatever is playing on their Android phone or tablet.
The Chromecast Audio is a major player in the wireless market. It’s solid streaming capabilities, simple setup, and multi-room support make this budget streamer an excellent choice if you have audio gear waiting to be set free. It won’t work for iTunes or Apple Music fans, but otherwise, it’s an extremely affordable way to go wireless.