Google Chromecast Audio Review: Here is how to turn your old speaker smart

Google Chromecast Audio basically wants to be the Kindle of audio streaming hardware. It does one thing really well - streaming music.

Written by Karthekayan Iyer | Updated: May 11, 2016 8:01 pm
Google Chromecast Audio is designed to turn any dumb speaker into a really smart one Google Chromecast Audio is designed to turn any dumb speaker into a really smart one

Google introduced Chromecast two years back and has sold nearly 20 million of these since launch. Chromecast was an effort to take over home entertainment devices and its most distinct accomplishment was to add streaming features to any television with a HDMI port.

Now the company has two devices, Chromecast for TV and Chromecast Audio, geared for two different purposes.

Google Chromecast Audio

Chromecast Audio is designed to turn any dumb speaker into a really smart one. Chromecast Audio is one of the easiest ways to stream music to a speaker that doesn’t boast of any modern day connectivity options.

Watch: How to setup Google Chromecast Audio

Setting up Chromecast Audio

Chromecast Audio is dead simple gadget to set up. Most things are taken care of by Google’s app and here is how you go about setting up:

Step 1: Download Chromecast app on any Android or iOS device. As always, Windows fans are out of luck here.

Step 2: Place Google Chromecast Audio in the area you want and power it using the supplied microUSB charging cable.

Step 3: Open the Chromecast app and wait for it to detect the Chromecast Audio and click ‘Set Me Up’.

Step 4: Once Chromecast app sets up the device, it shows Play Test Sound option. An option that verifies whether the speaker is connected to Chromecast Audio. Click on the icon.

Step 5: Next option confirms whether you heard sound through your speakers. In most case it will be yes and if not, Google lets you say ‘I didn’t hear it’.

Step 6: Next step allows you to rename your Chromecast Audio and disable Guest Mode (enabled by default).

Step 7: The most important step is to allow Chromecast Audio to use your WiFi connection. It auto detects your network name. Type in the password and you are good to go.

Step 8: Once connected to the same WiFi as your smartphone, Chromecast app shows you all the Chromecast enabled apps already on your smartphone. At this point, scrolling to Devices Tab shows you ‘Ready to Cast’ indication, meaning the setup has been successfully completed.

Disclaimer: I used Chromecast Audio by connecting to Aux port of my Bluetooth speaker

What Google Chromecast Audio is like in real life

Google Chromecast setup shows how a neat software can simplify even an uphill task like setup. Google Chromecast’s charm, however, lies in its design. It is round, disc-shape – small enough to fit inside your palm. The logo atop might be confused for Beats, but that’s just Google’s way of representing the Chromecast series.

Google Chromecast Audio features just two ports — one micro-USB for powering it ON and another 3.5mm audio jack that plugs into your speaker. Interestingly, that 3.5mm audio jack works with an optical audio port as well, which music lovers will find as great addition.

Google Chromecast Audio features just two ports -- one micro-USB for powering it ON and another 3.5mm audio jack that plugs into your speaker Google Chromecast Audio features just two ports — one micro-USB for powering it ON and another 3.5mm audio jack that plugs into your speaker

Now open any of the Chromecast compatible app and start playing music. You will see a cast icon – which lets you to cast the music to Chromecast Audio. It can’t get any simpler. This process works every time – glitch free. It works with Google Play Music and other popular music streaming services like Wynk Music, Saavn and TuneIn Radio. For podcast fans, Chromecast Audio offers native support for Pocket Casts app.

In real life, Google Chromecast Audio works as advertised. It streamed audio instantaneously and Google claims the dual band WiFi support improves audio streaming. In my own testing, I found the audio streams to be as flawless as it would be over Bluetooth – nothing exceptional.

However, there is something only Chromecast Audio can do and regular Bluetooth speaker can’t. Once you hit the cast button, Google Chromecast Audio streams music directly from the Internet while your smartphone remains independent. You can continue working on your smartphone while Chromecast Audio streams the music. On the other hand, Bluetooth speaker would have played back tones for every other notification that dropped in.

Chromecast supported apps still don’t allow streaming from desktop, but there is support for streaming from Chrome browser with Google Cast extension.

Google is pitching Chromecast Audio on the backbones of its strong audio playback and seamless WiFi support. While the dual band WiFi makes for a smooth streaming, the audio quality didn’t change much. My Bose Soundlink sounded as it would with any other kind of music.

Google Chromecast downsides

The biggest issue with Google Chromecast Audio is its lack of support for prominent music streaming platform. Chromecast Audio doesn’t support Apple Music, which lately has become the go-to streaming service for both Apple and non-Apple users.

At Rs 3,399 it may not seem much, but that price could get you a Bluetooth speaker At Rs 3,399 it may not seem much, but that price could get you a Bluetooth speaker

Other problem has to be the need for continuous power. Google could have worked out a way to keep it powered on in some other way.

Google Chromecast’s price isn’t attractive either. At Rs 3,399 it may not seem much, but that price could get you a Bluetooth speaker and let you playback music from any app that you have installed on your smartphone. It would cosy up well with your desktop and browsers too.

Should you buy

Google Chromecast Audio basically wants to be the Kindle of audio streaming hardware. It does one thing really well – streaming music.

If you own a really good set of speakers from yesteryears, Google Chromecast Audio can give it brains to get online and stream music. But if you don’t really have such an audio setup at home, Google Chromecast 2 would be a far sensible device to buy.

Google Chromecast 2 can not only bring Internet streaming to your TV, it can also stream audio. Google Chromecast 2 is like achieving two things with one means while Chromecast Audio does one thing well at a premium.

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