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Google launches new Chromecast music streaming device

Chromecast Audio can plug into any speaker with a headphone jack to wirelessly stream music from your mobile device or PC.

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Google's latest Chromecast device can wirelessly pipe music to any speaker. CNET

Google has cooked up a new variant of its Chromecast device geared toward audio streaming.

Known as Chromecast Audio, the new device lets you stream music from your phone, tablet or PC to a speaker with an audio jack, Google announced on Tuesday at its Nexus launch event. The Chromecast Audio device is round and resembles an old-fashioned music album for anyone old enough to remember the days before CDs and digital music. It costs $35 or £30 and is available starting Tuesday in 17 different countries.

The new device will support a variety of music services, including Pandora, Rdio, Google's own Play Music app and Spotify. These services will stream music from virtually any device, including iPhones, iPads, Android devices and laptops. To stream music regardless of its source, you would have to mirror it from an Android device or the Google Chrome browser.

Now playing: Watch this: Chromecast Audio connects any speaker to your smart device
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Chromecast Audio is an attempt to do for music streaming what the original Chromecast did for video streaming. Released in 2014, Google's Chromecast is a $35 device that plugs into the HDMI port of your TV to stream content from Netflix, YouTube, Pandora, Google Music, Google Movies & TV, HBO Go and other services to your TV using your iOS or Android device as a remote.

The original Chromecast can stream music, but it's limited to streaming it to your TV as it plugs directly into the HDMI port. With Chromecast Audio, you can put your speakers to use as an independent device.

"We can take your existing speakers, and make them smart," Google software engineer Tushar Chandra said at Tuesday's event. "We're streaming the highest quality audio through Wi-Fi."

The Chromecast Audio plugs directly into the .35mm audio jack of your speakers to play any music you chose. You simply power up the speaker, plug the Chromecast Audio into the headphone jack, and fire up some music on your device. Using your local Wi-Fi network, the music gets piped through the speakers.

Chromecast Audio will also support multi-room synchronization, which means you can play the same song in many rooms if they have speakers connected to a Chromecast Audio as well. When you fire up an app like Google Music, it will give you a choice of different speakers in the house with a Chromecast Audio connected, letting you choose which ones to receive your music stream.

The new music-streaming device is part of Google's ongoing strategy for integrating its technology into your home. Some devices, such as the original Chromecast, try to turn your TV into a smart device. Other devices, such as Google's latest Nest thermostat , makes your home smarter by trying to automatically set the temperature based on your life and the change from day to night or from one season to the next. Launched in August, Google's OnHub smart router, which can be controlled by a smartphone app, is aimed toward connecting all of your home devices.