Chromecast Audio Review

Chromecast Audio is a device from Google that allows you to cast music wirelessly from your phone/tablet/pc to your speakers. It is a solution for those whose speakers do not have a wireless connection. What makes it so versatile is that it supports virtually all types of speakers in the market.

 

Looks

It is round like an ice hockey puck. And that’s it.

Left: Hardware reset button
Right: Micro-USB charging port.
This port supports LINE IN and OPTICAL IN.

 

Setup

1. First check your speakers for an aux port (LINE IN) or a optical audio port (OPTICAL IN).
2. Using either port, connect the Chromecast Audio.

Left to Right: Speaker to Chromecast Audio to Power Supply.

3. Turn on the power supply for the Chromecast Audio.
4. On your smart phone, download the Google Home App. Follow the instructions to discover the Chromecast audio device.
5. After discovering it, there may be a prompt to download the latest firmware (1.27.96538). The update may take a around 15 – 30 minutes.
6. Once the update finishes you’re good to go.

 

Usage and Performance

Using the Chromecast Audio was straight forward and easy. I tested using Spotify since it’s the music service that I subscribe to. You can go here for the complete list of music services supported by Chromecast Audio.

With the Spotify App launched, pick a song and start playing. At the bottom of the screen you will see ‘Devices Available’.

Tap on Devices Available.

Tap on it and it will bring up a list of devices that you can listen Spotify on. Select your Chromecast device.

I’ve named mine Q Acoustics BT3.

With your speakers already on, you should hear a confirmation beep on your speakers that it is now connected. From here on, whichever music you select will come out through the speakers.

The Chromecast Audio device is connected.

The Chromecast Audio responded instantly to the music selection on Spotify on the smartphone. There was no lag when playing, pausing nor when choosing the next track. Adjusting the volume was also on the dot. To switch the sound output back to your phone simply tap the bottom of the screen for the ‘Devices Available’ and select your phone. Apart from your phone and tablet, if you have Spotify installed on your PC(same network as the Chromecast) you could also choose to cast your music from your PC.

One important setting on the Chromecast Audio that you must not overlook is the ‘Full Dynamic Range’ option. Turn this On if you have a capable set of speakers. I will elaborate further later in this review.

Turn on Full dynamic range.

 

Sound quality

Sound quality is a very subjective matter. There are many components that add up to our listening experience; from the type of the speakers and music bitrate to our taste of what good quality sounds like. I consider myself a person that is semi-particular when it comes to sound quality. Not an audiophile, neither someone that is content at using generic speakers, but somewhere in between.

Bitrate
Let’s get the technical item out of the way first; the bitrate. Depending which music service you choose, the bitrate will most likely be at least be 160kbps. For Spotify, 160kbps is what you get if you’re a non-subscribing user. If you’re a subscriber(like me) you can choose up to 320kbps. The numbers simply mean, the higher the bitrate, the better sound quality. The streaming quality that I’ve set in Spotify is ‘Extreme quality’ which is 320kbps. For more info on the Spotify audio settings go here.

Speakers
On to the interesting stuff; the speakers. Speakers play a very important role when it comes to sound. Nowadays your choice can range from soundbars to stereo speakers. And the motto “You get what you pay for” very much applies here. Pay peanuts, and you get peanuts. Pay a ten-course meal and you get a full tummy. That being said, the speakers that I have are called Q Acoustics BT3. They are a set of stereo bookshelf speakers that can be considered middle-tier. You can read the review by AV Forums.

Full Dynamic Range
Remember the ‘Full Dynamic Range’ setting which I mentioned earlier? Well the Chromecast Audio has this setting to support premium and professional audio equipment to deliver the highest quality sound output. Although there isn’t any list of equipment provided by Google, I know the Q Acoustics BT3 falls within that category. Don’t ask how I know, I just know.

All of these information is critical because it will affect the experience you have especially when writing the review for the Chromecast Audio. Now that you know what my factors are when testing the Chromecast Audio, let’s finally read about the sound quality.

The Sound
The only meaningful way I can describe the sound is that it was free. It was free to breathe if you know what I mean. And I can say this because I tested with the ‘Full Dynamic Range’ setting On and Off. When it is Off, it was as if someone put a muffle over your ears. The sound was dull. Turning the setting back On was like taking the muffle off your ears. Whatever music you’re playing suddenly fills the room with such warmth and clarity. While playing Brooke Fraser’s The Thief, you can hear clearly the light harp picking in the background which you wouldn’t normally hear. Changing the tempo to John Mayer’s Good Love Is On The Way(Live at the Nokia Theatre), the guitar riffs catches your ear as if you’re there at the concert.

 

Price and Availability

Chromecast Audio can be purchased online. On Lazada, it’s going for RM165.

 

Final Thoughts

Chromecast Audio. The device you never knew you needed.

The Chromecast Audio is a nifty little device. It fills the need for those who want wireless streaming but do not have capable speakers or system to do so. You may ask “But what about those speakers that have bluetooth aptx?” Well, I’d still recommend you to get a Chromecast Audio. I say this because my speakers has aptx and after using it for quite a bit, I still found the sound lacking(due to the aptx compression). That was until I tried the Chromecast Audio. All in all, the Chromecast Audio is a highly recommended product that provides convenience and ease of use for all music lovers.