The Chromecast catalog is expanding. Google's new Chromecast Audio does for home speakers what the standard Chromecast does for TV sets: creates a bridge between old tech and modern streaming services.
The new Chromecast Audio device looks nearly identical to the new disc-shaped Chromecast, except instead of HDMI, there's a standard 3.5mm audio port that plugs directly into the back of a speaker or receiver. It also supports RCA or optical audio outputs.
The result is a $35 solution for turning old-school high-fidelity speakers, so-so Bluetooth speakers, or just plain old "dumb" speakers into ones that stream music over Wi-Fi. Users can (finally!) cast music from Spotify, Google's own Play Music app, or Pandora — basically any app that will support casting. As rumored, Chromecast Audio will support multi-room audio streaming, eventually, but not until sometime later this year.
Chromecast Audio won't support multi-room audio right away
Though it sounds like a simple solution, it's actually a bit of a clunky workaround in some cases. For one, you'll need a Chromecast for every device you want to add WiFi music streaming to. And, not every speaker / amplifier has a 3.5mm input, so it might require a different kind of cable or adapter. Also, just like its video counterpart, Chromecast Audio needs to be plugged into a power source as well as a speaker, so you'll end up with some extra wiring in the back.
But it's a start, and it's certainly something that a lot of consumers have been waiting for. For Google, it's an obvious move in its efforts to expand the Chromecast footprint in the living room. But until we try it — and hear it — in real-world scenarios, we won't be able to say just how useful it is.