If you thought the future was all about wearing silver jumpsuits and toting ray guns then the future has let you down. Terribly. No, the future, at least as far as consumer electronics companies are concerned, is in multiroom music, and Google is the latest company to climb aboard this very crowded spaceship with its Chromecast Audio product.
The Chromecast Audio is a $35 dongle that uses Wi-Fi to stream apps such as Spotify, Pandora and iHeart Radio. It's available in 17 countries, and international pricing includes £30 in the UK and AU$49 in Australia.
The works with the company's Google Cast protocol and connects to your existing stereo. The device has a hybrid 3.5mm/optical out which enables it to be connected to most devices. While the Chromecast comes bundled with a 3.5mm cable both stereo RCA and optical connections will need a separate cable. The optical output is especially useful for people who want to use an external processor or receiver.
While the device is designed to support multiroom music, Google says this functionality will have to wait for an update later in 2015.
Google announced that the device will also feature a guest mode, which means non-household members can connect to the Chromecast Audio without entering Wi-Fi credentials.
One unknown quantity about the Chromecast Audio at this point is what level of quality of music it supports. While it works much like a soundcard in that it plays whatever audio comes out of the app -- it doesn't need to support file formats as such -- it remains to seen whether the audio output is set at CD-quality (16-bit/44.1kHz) or will support so-called "hi-res" audio up to 24-bit/192kHz.
The Chromecast Audio is up against some serious competition, including the($49) and the ($69) which offer similar functionality, though the Chromecast Audio's main advantage is it offers an optical output and is around half the price.
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