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Review and Measurements of Chromecast Audio Digital Output

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I don't know the answers to your questions but I thought I'd share my experience with the CCA. I'm streaming flac's to it from my Logitech music server (aka squeezebox). The DAC in it is more than decent, certainly falls into your "good enough" category. I don't know about you but I'm leery of having someone as a safekeeper of my music. Google may decide to pull a Microsoft Groove and you might have to move your music elsewhere. Plus, Google converts flac to 320k mp3 on upload.
That's true, though the "might" might happen a long time from now. In the meantime, my google music collection is the free kind without subscription, where I just upload the music I already own and have backed up on a few drives. The google music -> Chromecast streaming integration is convenient. There are some annoyances so far where I've repeatedly uploaded albums to google drive, but when I try to cast them, I get the error that basically says the albums need to be first uploaded to my google drive before they can be cast... And it's also happened where I was able to cast an album before but just trying again today I get the same error. I'm going to contact chromecast support to see if they can shed some light on that.

In regards to 320kbps conversion--that's what chromecast audio streams via WiFi at best anyway, so it doesn't matter that my uploaded collection is converted to 320kbps from FLAC. I generally don't hear a difference between FLAC and good quality conversion to 320kbps anyway--I've tried (using both multiple Audeze headphones and also speakers as well as different players including a discrete DAP). There might be some tiny detail difference, but actually just listening to music, it sounds equally good to me.

Wish I could find some measurements for my Pioneer VSX-532 to see if it's better or worse than using Chromecast DAC.
 
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trl

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This is a review and detailed measurements of Google Chromecast Audio digital output. The Chromecast is a tiny dongle that allows one to "cast" (stream) audio and video to a remote device. The audio version as the name implies, foregoes the video functionality and provides audio streaming. The retail cost is $35.

[...]

Conclusions
There are a few here:

1. The CAST audio functionality of Google Chrome is horrid. There is no excuse for it to be butchering even simple 16-bit signals as it did. While audibly it is not as dire as it looks, I still would avoid it if you can.

2. Roon's implementation of Chromecast streaming is superb. It is bit accurate up to 24 bits and 48 kHz that I tested. Congratulations to Roon for job well done. I assume they received support from Google to implement it as the protocol otherwise is not open to the public.

3. The Chromecast output has more jitter than an audiophile/instrument grade Toslink output. This is evident when used with low quality DACs like Schiit Modi 2 Uber.

4. Using a well-designed Dac like the Topping D50, there is no difference at all between Toslink from Chromecast or higher fidelity sources. All the jitter is filtered out resulting in the performance of the DAC itself being the limit.

#4 is a great news here. It means that if you have a good DAC and use Roon, you can turn your DAC into a streamer/renderer using the Chromecast Audio. For just $35, that is a superb addition. As such, the combination of Roon and Chromecase audio is highly recommended!

EDIT: bit-perfect playback is also supported in Android apps like Hi-Fi Cast. See: https://audiosciencereview.com/foru...omecast-audio-digital-output.4544/post-102185. So you are not just limited to Roon.
-------------

[...]
https://audiophilestyle.com/ca/reviews/roon-vs-jriver-clash-of-the-titans-r764/, ASR was source of inspiration too.
 

Willem

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My hunch is this indicates that there will be a new version very soon, just like the video Chromecast was recently updated.
 

svart-hvitt

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Willem

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The updated video Chromecast is slightly faster and has somewhat better wifi reception. Both would be welcome, but are not game changers. Somewhat lower jitter would also be nice, but as was demonstrated here, a good DAC can easily deal with the jitter on the digital output of the current Chromecast Audio.
 

Soniclife

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My hunch is this indicates that there will be a new version very soon, just like the video Chromecast was recently updated.
They have had the same pricing before, I bought mine a while ago at £15. So in it's own it does not mean anything.
 

Willem

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You are right that on its own is does not necessarily mean much. However, given the age of the CCA, and the recent update to the video one, it is suggestive. We shall see - an update will surely come one day.
 

GGroch

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My hunch is this indicates that there will be a new version very soon, just like the video Chromecast was recently updated.
That was my hope...but sadly, as gvi points out above, CCA is dead. The good news is they are being closed out by Google Direct (no shipping if you go through Google eBay store) and others for $15.

After Logitech discontinued the Squeezebox I had a long search for something comparable and finally landed on CCA. There are a lot more options now, but none that I know of are inexpensive and feature decent quality analog and Toslink outputs.

CCA is a tremendous partner to most Google smart speakers because you can designate the CCA as the default music playback device. So, voice control when you want it and more sophisticated smartphone control when you want that.

I am picking up a few more while I can.
 
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The frustrating thing is that Google is discontinuing the CCA because they see it as a redundant device (with all the smart speakers flooding the market right now with Google Assistant built-in).

For me that isn't the point of the device at all; I could care less about having Google Assistant on my two channel music system; I am using CCA as a digital transport that allows for high-quality wireless streaming to my dedicated stereo system. There isn't a comparable alternative that allows the flexibility to use your choice of excellent Android apps to allow for bit-perfect streaming from your music library to CCA to your DAC.

It's frustrating because Google advertised the CCA for this use case (thus the digital output feature). I guess the market for this use case simply isn't big enough for Google to maintain....sigh...
 

Willem

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This really is a shame, if not to say an outrageous betrayal of the customer base. I have all systems in our home connected to their CCA, mostly using the digital output. I honestly do not know a better way to stream to higher quality audio systems. Would this mean that the protocol is maintained, and the apps, but that updates to the CCA firmware will be discontinued after a while, making it obsolete? Or would the design specification be made for to other manufacturers to produce compatible units? Or is this decision related to the inclusion of audio functionality to the most recent video Chromecast models, i.e. will there be just one model for both audio and video? And if so, will there be anyuthing other than an hdmi output?
 

tlr

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Has anyone used a Raspberry Pi Zero W for this purpose? Either connected to a USB DAC or with a USB to SPDIF converter. Seems like it could be a good open alternative.
 

GGroch

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Staples Online still shows CCA for $15.

Lets hope that this opens the market for comparable alternatives.

One alternative that I use now is the LinkPlay system. With CCA selling for $15-$30 there was little market. But, some of them like the new Dayton Audio WBA31 have Toslink Out and are Airplay/DNLA,Spotify compatible. I am not suggesting you go that route with CCAs available. Just that unlike when Squeezebox left the market, there are some alternatives.
 
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