Google has launched a new version of its streaming hardware: Chromecast Audio. The idea here is to offer a way to turn any speaker or audio playing device into a smart connected wireless audio system.
The dedicated hardware is made purely for audio and works supplementary to the TV streaming Chromecast.
So what does this new hardware do and how does it work?
The new Chromecast Audio uses a host of new antennas. These are built to be smart, changing how they connect to Wi-Fi based on the best frequency and which side of the unit has the strongest signal. The result should be seamless, high-quality audio.
Both 2.5GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi bandwidths are now available plus it'll work with the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard for the best possible speeds.
While Chromecast Audio plugs into audio jack ports it has more way of connecting. Both RCA and optical inputs are also supported, making for even more devices to connect as well as future high-quality audio possibilities.
To get the Chromecast Audio up and running it's really simple since the software does most of the work. Google says you simply plug the unit into power, connect to Wi-Fi and the speaker then it's good to go.
Chromecast Audio works with Pandora, iHeart Radio, 7Digital, TuneIn and more. When the app is open it automatically detects the Chromecast Audio and allows streaming via an icon tap. And audio confirmation shows the connection has been made - then streaming can begin.
Streaming run is at "the highest quality", says Google, via the cloud meaning it's over Wi-Fi allowing it to work all over the house. It also won't let ringtones over-run the music.
Android Wear is another way to control the device, allowing for easy song skipping from your wrist.
Since these are shared devices the Chromecast Audio offers guest mode for friends without your Wi-Fi password so they can cast music too.
Audio streaming integration
Spotify is supported immediately. This works across devices, not just Android handsets, meaning iPhones and web browsers too. Spotify can support multiple users so one person can skip a track that another person is playing on the home network.
The system can mirror audio from Android devices or any Chrome tab. That means audiobooks, podcasts, local music and even YouTube can be sent to the speaker. And since the Chromecast player works in the cloud even if your smartphone battery dies the music will play on, you'll just have to control it from elsewhere if you want to change track. This will be reserved for Spotify Premium customers only.
Spotify also allows for smarter jumping between its devices if you wanted to jump off Chromecast a stream to your games console, a smart TV or Bluetooth speaker, for example.
Multi-room synchronisation across speakers will roll out later this year in an update.
Availability and pricing
Chromecast Audio is available today for $35.