Enjoying the amazing world of streaming music via Spotify, but let down by the poor quality of speakers on your mobile device? How about connecting it to your hifi equipment? Sounds expensive or awkward? Not necessarily, not any more.
Until now there were limited options for opening up your hifi to the world of streaming music: Bluetooth, Sonos or Squeezebox system, or plug in a cable. Some were technically unsatisfying such as Bluetooth signal providing low quality sound or breaking up regularly, or far too expensive such as a complete Sonos system. Enter Google to disrupt this market with a tiny £30 wifi device, the ChromeCast Audio.
What does it do?
Connect to your existing hifi equipment via RCA, 3.5mm audio, or optical SPDIF. Then you can play music on your hifi streamed over wifi from supported providers such as Spotify, using the app on your Android or iOS device to control the stream. Because it is using wifi rather than Bluetooth, this can provide a less compressed, better quality of sound. Also, because it is streamed directly from the music source it does not include all the alert noises that your mobile device makes, unlike it would when you connect a cable for example.
How does it work?
Google are strangely unwilling to provide details of the chip used in this device, but the tear-down at iFixit confirms it is a very capable AKM AK4430 192kHz 24-Bit Stereo DAC. This means you can have confidence in the quality of sound produced – not the best hifi sound in the world but much better than you’d ever have expected at this price point and a serious competitor to much more expensive options such as the Sonos system.
Pros: There is just no sensible alternative to get this much sound quality and convenience at this price point. If you have an Android or iOS device and subscribe to Spotify, then this is the gadget you’ve been waiting for.
Cons: Does not work correctly with Spotify on a desktop PC* or a Windows Phone, so you are limited to using an android or iOS device to control this reliably.
*There is a sort of work-around for this in that if you begin streaming from android then the device will appear in the list on the desktop Spotify app – since it can work in some circumstances, it is pretty disappointing that Spotify are so far unwilling to update the various apps to make it work reliably from all devices.