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Chromecast Ultra And Chromecast with Google TV as Audio Streamers

TrevorD

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Hi Folks - my first post here so please be kind :). This is a long post, so I will put my conclusion at the start so you don't have to read through it all.

Goal:
I wanted to see if the Chromecast Ultra (CCU) and Chromecast with Google TV (CCwGTV) can be used as audio streamers without having to connect them to an AVR or TV through HDMI. My use case is to see if I can use these as audio streamers in my bedroom and the kitchen and send the audio from the Chromecast to a DAC or to a powered speaker through some type of intermediate device.

Chromecast with Google TV (CCwGTV) as an audio streamer over USB to DAC:
It seems that the CCwGTV is able to output 96khz PCM to a DAC connected to USB hub that is also connected to the CCwGTV.

Although everything seems to work well, the audio volume output by the CCwGTV is very low compared with connecting the DAC to the USB output of a Windows 10 PC. My Topping headphone amplifier can drive my headphones to a very uncomfortably loud level when the DAC is receiving audio from the USB output of my PC. When connected to the CCwGTV, even at full volume with a 9db boost set on the headphone amplifier, the sound is not as loud as I would like it to be. Not good.

Another thing that works against this as an audio streamer solution is that I have not found any specification from Google as to what the CCwGTV officially supports from a digital output, and who knows if the CCwGTV would still be able to output 96khz digital in the future. Google has a reputation for removing undocumented features from their products.

Other than these 2 issues, it works really well as a way to cast Tidal and Qobuz at 96khz Hi Res.

Chromecast Ultra as an audio streamer using an HDMI audio extractor:
This works well to extract audio at 48khz and send to a DAC over TOSLINK or Digital Coax. The Chromecast Ultra is no longer sold, but I assume the 3rd generation Chromecast will work in the same way. I have this running in my bedroom with an HDMI extractor and my Topping L30/E30 combo to my headphones and am very happy with the experience.

For the kitchen I will use the analogue audio coming out of the HDMI audio extractor so I don't need a DAC, this will go straight into a powered speaker.

The price of a Chromecast 3G and HDMI audio extractor together is about $70 AU ($50 US or 30 GBP)


The Testing:

Both of these Chromecast devices have only HDMI output:
  • The CCwGTV has a USB-C connection and can be connected to a powered USB hub, and when doing so can access USB storage devices and USB Audio devices - i.e. a DAC. I could extract the audio using USB to DAC or using an HDMI audio extractor.
  • The CCU has a micro USB connection for power and ethernet connection through the bundled power supply. I could extract the audio using an HDMI audio extractor.
Testing the CCwGTV:

Here are the components:
  • Google Chromecast with Google TV ( CCwGTV ) with original power supply and USB-A to USB-C cable
  • LENTION 3-in-1 USB-C Hub ($27 AU) https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08GR16GC8
  • Topping E30 DAC
  • Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier
  • USB-A to USB-B Cable ( Connects USB-C Hub to Topping DAC)
  • A smart phone with audio app that supports Chromecast. I used a Samsung S7 Edge with Qobuz and Tidal apps
Here are the connections:
  • The CCwGTV power adapter connects to the USB-C port of the Lention USB hub using the GCwGTV USB-A to USB-C cable
  • The Lention Hub Hard wired USB-C cable connects to the CCwGTV USB-C port
  • The Lention Hub USB-A port connects the the Topping DAC USB-B port with USB-A to USB-B cable (Supplied with the DAC)
  • The Topping DAC and Headphone AMP are connected over a pair of RCA Audio cables
  • Headphones are connected over 3.5mm Audio connection to Topping Headphone Amp.
  • The HDMI output connection from the CCwGTV is not connected to anything
The tests:

Chrome-casting from apps on Samsung Galaxy S7 Android Smart-Phone to CCwGTV

Qobuz App:
Pink Floyd Money 96kzh to CCwGTV -- Topping DAC displays 96khz PCM
Roxy Music Avalon CD Quality --- Topping DAC displays 96khz PCM
The Qobuz App on this phone will only displays 96KHZ as the maximum available for any track.

Tidal App:
Pink Floyd Money Master Quality to CCwGTV -- Topping DAC displays 96khz PCM
Roxy Music Avalon HiFI Quality --- Topping DAC displays 96khz PCM

YouTube App:
A variety of random videos – Topping DAC displays 96khz PCM

Testing the CCU
Here are the components:
  • Google Chromecast Ultra ( CCU ) with original power supply
  • Tendak 4K x 2K HDMI to HDMI and Optical TOSLINK SPDIF + 3.5mm Stereo Audio Extractor Converter ($30 AU) https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B017B6WFP8
  • Topping E30 DAC
  • Topping L30 Headphone Amplifier
  • USB-A to USB-B Cable ( Connects USB-C Hub to Topping DAC)
  • A smart phone with audio app that supports Chromecast. I used a Samsung S7 Edge with Qobuz and Tidal apps
Here are the connections:
  • The CCU is powered by the power supply that comes with the CCU over a micro-usb connection
  • The Tendak HDMI Audio extractor HDMI input connects to the HDMI output of the CCU
  • The Tendak HDMI Audio extractor TOSLINK output connects to the TOSLINK input o the Topping DAC
  • The Topping DAC and Headphone AMP are connected over a pair of RCA Audio cables
  • Headphones are connected over 3.5mm Audio connection to Topping Headphone Amp.
The same Apps as Music was used as per the test for the CCwGTV above. In all cases the Topping DAC displayed 48khz PCM as the audio format.
 

holbob

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Have you used the Google home app to make sure the Google tv is at full volume?
 
OP
TrevorD

TrevorD

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Have you used the Google home app to make sure the Google tv is at full volume?
I think it was set to full volume there but I will double check to be sure.
 

jmaz87

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been periodically looking for threads like this for obvious reasons. It's a shame that it resamples everything to 24/96 but I suppose it could be worse.

I had mixed luck using an anker usb hub to add ethernet to my CCwGTV so i wonder if different hubs would behave any differently. also i think dev mode showed various audio options might be worth another peek! what I would give for TV's to pass through digital audio to USB...
 

Esss

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Interesting post. I have had Google Tv for a while now, wasn't aware of USB audio output. So, I took a multi-adaptor (it has USB type C on one side, and on the other it has these sockets - 1-Type C, 1 Type A and 1 HDMI. So, I connect it to the power source, and to the Google TV, then to SMSL SU9. I disconnected HDMI to AVR (It seemed to stop USB audio transmission when connected). Output is indeed 96Khz and quite soft. I normally listen to the volume at between -30 and -25 attenuation, I had to increase the volume to -10dB attenuation. I never turn it up this loud, and it was still too soft. I thought perhaps a better power supply would improve this, it didn't. This is a design issue - perhaps it can be fixed with a software update.

In fact - I recall testing two phones - Motorola Edge 2020 vs Xiaomi Redmi note 10 Pro - connected to the SMSL. The Motorola was substantially louder than the Xiaomi. Everytime I swap I had to adjust volume. Which led me to think the voltage output of devices differ and this affects the DAC gain sent to the receiver.

The most frustrating is that when you search - you never find reviewers or testers who address the audio capability of these devices. It's all about apps and video.
 

jmaz87

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did u try developer mode settings? its common for volume to be reduced for "safety" in android devices since kids with phones are dumb...
i was wondering if u can set audio in settings or force full volume there.

for me the takeaway is that it up samples everything and i doubt it does it well considering it barely handles daily duties perfectly... and that was its intent... huge shame up there with no UAC2 support on xbox... what are these designers thinking!?!
 

dweekie

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This is interesting. I know it's a different device and apps, but when I stream Youtube Music from my Google Pixel phone to my Chromecast Audio to optical output, the volume is very low like you experienced. When I use HiFi-Cast or BubbleUPNP to cast music from a DLNA server, the volume is perfectly fine.

I am wondering if there is resampling going on somewhere to support multi-speaker functions and Google Home functions, but I can't quite figure out what triggers it or why it's app dependent.

I am curious if HiFi cast or BubbleUPNP will work in your scenario, and if Qobuz and Tidal work similarly to Youtube Music.

I don't bother using Youtube Music to stream to my Chromecast Audio anymore. Something is really off that is very annoying to deal with.
 

bannani

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As I used almost ony Amazon Music HD, I used this solution, Google chromecast tv associated to an hdmi audio extractor directly to the optical input of my DAC SMSL and sincerely , it works smoothly.
I wish Amir can test this solution to obtain results and to seen ow it competes with Less affordable streamer on the market..
I am so happy with this versatile solution.
 

jmaz87

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info regarding usb audio support for ccwgtv is basically non-existent... from what I've gathered google cast in general doesn't support gapless playback and they all re-sample.

i think someone said 24/96 for ccwgtv vs the 24/48 most android devices and TV's default to. Not a deal breaker for a budget streamer I agree but better options like Volumio on RPI exist and when u account for the need for USB hub to work its really not compelling unless you plan to use it with other media sources and plug in a TV.

I have a RP4 via usb and rp3 with allo digione spdif hat both work great and support all the major streaming services with volumio. so I just have one of those next to TV for a better music source. you can decide whether to re-sample, volume control etc. so its definitely more audio focused.
 

holbob

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As I used almost ony Amazon Music HD, I used this solution, Google chromecast tv associated to an hdmi audio extractor directly to the optical input of my DAC SMSL and sincerely , it works smoothly.
I wish Amir can test this solution to obtain results and to seen ow it competes with Less affordable streamer on the market..
I am so happy with this versatile solution.
Apparently Amazon Music does not work in HD on the Google tv (I have one). Nor does it play in HD on the Chromecast audio. But does play in HD on the Chromecast 2 and Chromecast 3.
 

MINOR WHITE

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I was wondering this as well @TrevorD
I have been using a Chromecast Audio for a number of years, and it's been great: 24/96K to a Rega DAC~r.
However I also use a Chromecast dongle, (first generation) for my home theater/stream videos/youtube, etc.
I actually discover a lot of music thru a lot of Youtube channels, and frankly I love being able to watch performances like NPR Tiny Desk.
That old first gen video Chromecast dongle was 'ok', but it was limiting when streaming higher quality movies, etc.
So I upgraded to the Chromecast Ultra 4K dongle.
I also questioned Google to see what it's own casting software was sending to the dongles.
I can confirm that it will do 25bit, 96khz.
Below is Googles response to me about this:
"You can certainly cast 192 KHz 24 bit audio content, but Chromecast with Google TV would deliver maximum 96 KHz 24 bit and only through USB interface.

YouTube is not a high resolution audio streaming service, because it will transcode the source material to a lossy format. As long as we are dealing with a lossy compression format we can't talk about high resolution audio.


On the other hand, if you are using a streaming service like Tidal, which can deliver lossless audio content up to 192 KHz 24 bit, the maximum sample rate delivered by the Chromecast Audio or Chromecast with Google TV, or Google Ultra will be 96 KHz 24 bit."
 

bannani

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Hi, what does it mean, through USB interface??
Does thé chromecast Google tv has USB output for audio?
Thanks
 

jmaz87

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Another curious thing with CCWGTV I've noticed recently is volume of native apps vs. same content cast from browser tab.

Example: If I'm watching Twitch via the installed app and TV's optical out the volume is lower than the exact same content streamed from a laptop via chrome tab.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out the casted source is being compressed or re-sampled in a way that affects dynamics.

Others reported earlier that USB hub output is also much lower than HDMI.

I had poor luck with my anker hub but didn't bother confirming if was power related etc. will try again soon
 

bannani

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That s why I use the old version , thé chrome cast TV with an hdmi audio extractor, and it works flawlessly
 

jmaz87

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Great news! I got my usb-c hub back from GF and hooked it up to CCWGTV today and confirmed the low volume. I suspected this was a chromecast digital volume setting since the folks using these for music didn't mention using a TV and a lot of people (including me) use the included remote to control the TV's volume (not the native CC volume) so I switched remote buttons in settings to chromecast volume and boom u get a notification on screen when u try to raise the volume warning about loud scary stuff... u hit select then boom u can crank volume to max and your in business! this is now an alternative to the discontinued chromecast audio and now I wish someone could put a light on this to have it measured for jitter etc! "budget" usb music streamer and a 4k media streamer in one! makes me question if i need the RPI3 allo digione in livingroom anymore.
 

nightshift543

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Great news! I got my usb-c hub back from GF and hooked it up to CCWGTV today and confirmed the low volume. I suspected this was a chromecast digital volume setting since the folks using these for music didn't mention using a TV and a lot of people (including me) use the included remote to control the TV's volume (not the native CC volume) so I switched remote buttons in settings to chromecast volume and boom u get a notification on screen when u try to raise the volume warning about loud scary stuff... u hit select then boom u can crank volume to max and your in business! this is now an alternative to the discontinued chromecast audio and now I wish someone could put a light on this to have it measured for jitter etc! "budget" usb music streamer and a 4k media streamer in one! makes me question if i need the RPI3 allo digione in livingroom anymore.
@jmaz87

Hi, I just registered to thank you for writing this comment! First of all, sorry for my bad English, actually it ain't that bad but it's pretty basic, so there's that. Anyway, after I bought a (powered) USB-C hub for my Chromecast with Google TV (I bought it mainly for adding external memory), one day I wondered, "What if I can actually connect my 2.4Ghz headphones to this hub?". So I inserted the dongle [a common USB dongle which comes with pretty much any 2.4Ghz wireless headset] into the hub, and to my surprise it connected instantly with zero latency, I was so happy. But there was a problem (2 problems actually, I'll get to the second one later): first problem was that the volume was extremely low, so at first I thought it's because my hub isn't powerful enough. I started to search for more information about this whole thing, and for 3 days I've been searching continuously for a solution, I tried various things but none of them worked. But today, thanks to you, I was finally able to solve it! It was just like you said, after I switched the remote button to 'Chromecast Volume', I got that notification/warning regarding loud volume, and now I'm finally in business :D! You're literally the first person that I found on the entire internet who came up with a real solution for the low volume issue of an audio device (in my case, the USB dongle of my 2.4ghz wireless headphones) connected to the Chromecast With Google TV through a powered USB-C hub.

But like I said a bit earlier, I have yet another problem which apparently only affects Netflix (for me at least), and it goes like this: older titles with 2.0 audio or 2.1 audio play perfectly, but whenever I try to play a newer title which has 5.1 audio, I get the error "tvq-pb-101 (5.2.5)". At first I had no clue it was because of the 2.4Ghz headphones USB dongle connected to the hub, it took me a few hours to realize that when I pull out the dongle from the hub, the error disappears instantly and all the titles (including the ones having 5.1 audio) start playing again. That's when I realized it's 100% an audio-related issue, so once again I started to search for a solution but so far nothing, all I could find was even more people having the same problem:

https://www.reddit.com/r/netflix/comments/gaexc7
https://www.reddit.com/r/netflix/comments/l90gdf
https://www.reddit.com/r/bravia/comments/q0vxwg
According to some of the comments in those threads, a few people (with different setups than mine) managed to fix it, for example some of them fixed it by disabling 5.1 audio on their Shield TV, while other people fixed it by doing a factory reset on their Amazon Fire Stick. But when it comes to my particular setup [USB dongle of wireless headphones, plugged into a USB-C Hub connected to a Chromecast With Google TV], nothing worked so far. I'm actually curious if you also happen to have the same issue with 5.1 titles on Netflix not playing when you plug some audio device into Chromecast's USB-C hub. But anyway, thanks again for solving one of the 2 big issues I had, you're a lifesaver :D!
 
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