New Chromecast

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New Chromecast

As some of you may know, Google have introduced a new Chromecast. It comes in two flavours, one with an hdmi output, primarily intended for tv/movie streaming. The other (Chromecast Audio) has both an analogue and an optical digital output. Both can serve as a very covenient way to stream music. The smartphone or tablet is used to make the connection with the source, but after that the Chromecast communicates directly with the source, so you can turn off your phone or tablet. All it needs is wifi (with an adaptor the streaming can also be done through an ethernet connection if the wifi is less than perfect, however). For now there is no multiroom facility, but this has been promised for later in the year. Apparently there is support for Spotify, but also for Qobuz and many other sources.

The Chromecast audio seems to be a very cheap ($35 in the US) and ultra convenient way to add audio streaming to a stereo system. I think it is particularly attractive to those of us who have high end systems without modern connectivities. It supports resolutions above CD red book for anyone who believes in the benefits of those. The digital output should make it completely transparent, but the inbuilt dac is also quite ambitious.

I am in Princeton for the fall, so I am postponing buying one until I am back home at Christmas. I wonder if others have already experimented.

Willem

any experiences?

Has anyone experimented with the Chromecast yet?

Willem

Airport express sound quality test

The Apple Airport Express is in some ways similar to the Chromecast. I just discovered a pretty serious test by Ken Rockwell of the Airport Express: http://www.kenrockwell.com/apple/airport-express-audio-quality-2014.htm

The conclusion is simple: the sound quality is as perfect as can be, and that includes the inbuilt DAC. I can only hope he will soon also test the Chromecast. My hunch is that it will measure similarly well, but seeing is believing.

Willem

No smartphone

No way can I experiment. No smartphone!

Am I way behind, a late adopter, or just old-fashioned?

Just got my Audiomat Dac back in the Hifi - loose condensor connection - so I am in my heaven again.  

tablet

My guess from using Spotify on a laptop right now is that a small tablet is probably the ideal way to operate the Chromecast, as you get a larger screen with more overview. It is also cheaper than most smartphones. I'll report after Christmas.

Willem

tablet

Willem,

I was obviously mislead by Google advertising which focused on use of the smart phone linked to the hifi via Chrome. But I do not have a tablet either! Furthermore, I am quite happy at home with a small notebook to feed internet radio programmes via a Dac to the hifi. Not into Spotify and all those things that seem to keep others happy. 

update

I have now installed a Chromecast Audio to the main system, and it works a treat. It was easy to install and is easy to use. The built in DAC seems pretty good and not obviously inferior to a top quality DAC like the ODAC usb DAC. I will need to explore this more, however. So what it boils down to is that you can have a streamer plus built-in DAC for some 39 euro's, but with the same or better functionality as many audiophile standalone streamers, and all in one tiny gadget that you can hide behind your amplifier. I think this is very good news.

Three things should be paid attention to, however. The first is that the Chromecast Audio should be set to high dynamic range (the default analogue output is some kind of compression). The second is that as with cd players the analogue signal is pretty strong, so if your amplifier has a high input sensitivity (as e.g. many Naim units have) you will need some in-line attenuators to prevent clipping.

Finally, if you prefer to use an optical digital signal into your existing optical DAC, this is also possible: you can use a mini optical connector to the Chromecast to extract a digital signal.

Willem

finally: measurements

Finally, the first measurements of the Chromcast have been published:

http://archimago.blogspot.nl/2016/02/measurements-google-chromecast-audi...

In short, it measures not as well as some far more expensive DAC´s, but better than human hearing can discern.

Willem

and now the digital output

After the analogue output of the Chromecast Audio, the mini Toslink digital output has now been measured as well:

http://archimago.blogspot.nl/2016/02/measurements-google-chromecast-audi...

In sum, it delivers a bit perfect signal. The only downside is a relatively high level of jitter, though unlikely to be audible. This is largely a characteristic of the optical interface, even if there is room for some improvement. To put it in perspective, the Chromecast's performance is notably better than that of some $10000 audiophile components.

Willem

Hi Willem. Do you think that

Hi Willem. Do you think that the new chromecast audio will benefit me. I have the new aracam solo music and have just started using the quboz streaming service. At the moment I'm streaming via my apple mini iPad 4 through Bluetooth. The arcam supports Bluetooth apx, but the apple doesn't. The service I have is MP3 320, which is actually rather good, to my surprise. The only problem is occasional dropouts, which are annoying. Unfortunately I can't have an Ethernet connection in my listening img room. Do you think that the chromecast would, improve signal stability and sound quality?

 

These are different questions

These are different questions. First, will the Chromecast Audio sound better than the ordinary bluetooth from your tablet? The answer is a resounding yes. Second, will its wifi be more stable than the wifi of your Ipad? Hard to say, to be honest. I have had pretty solid reception with the Chromecast, even in remoter parts of my big house with quite a bit of steel and concrete, but wifi reception remains a bit of a black art. The best move here would be to improve the wifi. A modern multiband router can make quite a difference, just as various signal extension/amplification devices.

Finally, you make a remark about the surprisingly good sound quality of 320 kbs lossy compression (which, incidentally, is also the level Spotify uses). The BBC and others have done extensive research, and it appears that very few people, if anyone, can distinguish between 320 kbs and full redbook cd quality. However, there are indeed some who do claim that they can hear the improvement brought by Qobuz full red book resolution. So your impression is not at all surprising, and matches scientific research. Mind you, the same does not apply to lower bitrates. Go down even a little bit, and the differences become audible (with some difficulty I can identify 256 kbs), and progressively more so the lower the bit rate. At the same time it is worth pointing out that even a pretty low bit rate like 64 bps internet radio (i.e. BBC Radio 3 outside the UK) sounds pretty decent and enjoyable, and rather better than FM radio (a really antequated system). I still have a Quad FM3 tuner, but I rarely use it anymore, as I prefer the sound quality of internet radio, even in 64 bit. Even so, we are all waiting for the days of higher bit rate internet radio, of course.

Willem

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