While it may share a name with its TV-tailored cousin, the Chromecast Audio is a wholly different animal. Designed as an easy way to get into the convenient world of Wi-Fi speakers, the new Chromecast audio can connect to virtually any speaker in your home through a 3.5mm input, allowing you to stream music from “all the popular music apps” from your Android or iOS mobile device, as well as Android mirroring to play tracks loaded on your Android phone. Compatible apps include Google Play Music, Pandora, and other casting apps, which also now includes Spotify. However, if you’re an Apple Music fan, you’re out of luck here.In addition to a 3.5mm connection (aka, a headphone jack), Chromecast Audio supports RCA and Optical connections, though the latter two will require separate cables. That means you can connect to any basic Bluetooth speaker that offers a 3.5mm input for better-quality Wi-Fi streaming, but it also means that any random speakers, or amplifiers you’ve got lying around that offer an audio input will now be smartified through the new device. Like the original Chromecast, the Chromecast Audio is designed for super-simple connection to your Wi-Fi network, connecting in minutes by following Google’s step-by-step instructions.
And if you decide to buy more than one Chromecast audio, you’ll basically be able to construct a full-on multiroom audio solution with speakers you already own. Through the main app, users will be able to synchronize each speaker to play throughout the home from your device, or any compatible “castable” streaming services. That could cut down heavily on the price of, say, a Sonos system (which start at around $200 per speaker) by hundreds of dollars if you uses speakers you already own.
However, multiroom streaming is not yet available — the feature is expected to be rolled out in the near future. As such, we’ll have to wait and see just how viable the new device is as a multiroom system. And again, no Apple Music.
Chromecast Audio isn’t revolutionary by any means — we’ve actually seen several products like this before, including the Cobblestone from Muzo, which can also source tracks from any DLNA device on your network. It also remains to be seen just how good the audio components are inside the little component, which will affect the sound quality immensely.
But at $35, the device is an enticingly affordable new option. At the very least, that makes the Chromecast Audio an intriguing new development in the world of Chromecast, and multiroom audio. We’ll be checking it out soon, so stay tuned for our final verdict.