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Chromecast Audio vs Hi-Fi Streamer

rmatthew

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Feb 19, 2016
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Most of the time I listen to music on Spotify and I currently have my laptop plugged into my Hi-Fi amp. I'm starting to look at streamers as an alternative. The Chromecast Audio get's What Hi*Fi's best streamer under £100 and at £30 is a lot cheaper than the £500 Pioneer N-50A which got best streamer in the next category up and the Cambridge Audio CXN at £700 in the category above.

Given that I only listen to spotify which has a maximum of 320Kbit/s can anyone comment on whether there will be any significant difference in paying £500+ for the Pioneer or Cambridge and also whether the Chromecast will sound better than my laptop which uses the standard headphone socket.

Thanks.
 

Leeps

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Dec 10, 2012
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The answer might depend on the rest of your system. What are your amp and speakers? I presume your hifi amp has a USB input already, does it have optical or coax connections?

It does seem a bit of a waste buying a full-on streamer if you're not really going to use its DLNA capability. Generally speaking the way to maximise the quality of Spotify would be to have a wired ethernet connection where possible. Although when I plug my ipad into my AV receiver directly for streaming Tidal, the quality's very good despite the ipad having to pull Tidal from my wifi wirelessly. But it does have a lot less hiccups doing this than using Airplay.
 

rmatthew

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Feb 19, 2016
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Thanks Leeps for the response. Currently I have a NAD C320BEE amp and Mission 753 Freedom speakers so RCA inputs only. I intend to change the amp to something higher quality (£500 to £1000 range) so I have the option to find one with digital inputs or use RCA. The top priority is to get the maximum quality out of the Missions so I don't mind analogue inputs, also happy to go second hand for the amp.

Connection to the network will need to be wireless as the router is in the room above.
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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The Chromecast audio is wireless only, no network ports.

It is compatible with Spotify connect but you will need an Android device or a iThing for control. Once set up, you device acts as a remote using the regular Spotify app, thats good for various reasons, and when set correctly will output Spotify transparently over Toslink.

For the moment you may need to use the analog connection, sound quality here is not the best but no worse than what you already have. When you get the new amp and dac, the digital connection should give you a reasonable upgrade in performance.

BTW. I consider stand alone streamers from hi-fi companies to be ridiculously over priced. The other option would be a reciever with full network capabilities, the new Yamaha RN602 for example.
 

jonathanRD

Well-known member
Jan 27, 2011
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For £30 I think you should just get the Chromecast Audio and try it. As long as you have a phone or tablet to control it.

I have recently purchased the Chromecast Audio, plus an Android tablet and Spotify Premium. I was very surprised at how good the quality is (I also got a 3.5mm jack to rca phono lead) straight into the back of my Rega amp.

For the money, IMO it's a bit of a no brainer - try it - see what you think!
 

jonathanRD

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Jan 27, 2011
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jonathanRD said:
For £30 I think you should just get the Chromecast Audio and try it. As long as you have a phone or tablet to control it.

I have recently purchased the Chromecast Audio, plus an Android tablet and Spotify Premium. I was very surprised at how good the quality is (I also got a 3.5mm jack to rca phono lead) straight into the back of my Rega amp.

For the money, IMO it's a bit of a no brainer - try it - see what you think!
I should add that I was considering whether to get a Sonos Connect but as I am considering a new amp too, then the permutations are endless so I just got the Chromecast Audio to get me up and running with Spotify in my 'hifi' room.

Also, if you are perpared to spend some 'proper' money on amps/streamers I would be looking to get a wired connection in your listening room to make full use of the streamer and for the most stable connection.
 

rmatthew

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Feb 19, 2016
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Thanks all. Jonathan, that was my thoughts also, if for some reason I don't like the Chromecast it can be a gift for someone. ;-)

Which Rega and speakers do you have? I've been considering the Elex-R ( I think the Bio-R would be a little underpowered for my speakers).
 
K

keeper of the quays

Guest
I heard Chromecast has a optical out? I guess this can't be if it's wireless only? I'm thinking about getting one? I only listen to YouTube hd music..optical from tv to amp...not sure whether Chromecast will be improvement?
 

rmatthew

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Feb 19, 2016
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keeper of the quays said:
I heard Chromecast has a optical out? I guess this can't be if it's wireless only? I'm thinking about getting one? I only listen to YouTube hd music..optical from tv to amp...not sure whether Chromecast will be improvement?
The Chromecast connects to the amp via optical or 3.5mm jack (or RCA with converter). Connection to the Internet is wireless only, i.e. no ethernet port for cable connection.
 

jonathanRD

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Jan 27, 2011
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rmatthew said:
Thanks all. Jonathan, that was my thoughts also, if for some reason I don't like the Chromecast it can be a gift for someone. ;-)

Which Rega and speakers do you have? I've been considering the Elex-R ( I think the Bio-R would be a little underpowered for my speakers).
I have a Rega Apollo CD player feeding a 13yr old Rega Brio amp (38w) and the Rega RS5 speakers. The speakers are out in plenty of space in my room and at lowish levels sounds very good to my ears - I could listen all day. Sometimes I wonder whether I really need to upgrade. I expect a more powerful amp would give me some improvements. The Rega Elex-r is an obvious choice to at least demo, which I will when I eventually get around to it. I'm putting it off at present because I am busy, but I do intend to listen to as many amps as possible and consider quite a few options (including dacs and streaming boards), on the basis of making a purchase to keep a long time rather than just a small step. If you can - try to demo any new amp in your own room with your speakers.
 

rmatthew

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Feb 19, 2016
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Thanks Jonathan. I auditioned the Arcam A19 and Cambridge CXA80 yesterday, both better than my current amp but not fully convinced. I'm pondering the XTZ Class A100 D3, only problem is that it is a bit of a monster in size so need to work out where to put it!! :)
 

rmatthew

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Feb 19, 2016
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So, I popped out to Currys and picked up a Chromecast Audio. Set-up was straight forward, just plugged it in, installed the app on the iPhone and ran through the setup.

After 30 minutes or so of listening to Spotify (I have premium with streaming set to high quality) I conclude that it sounds better than my iPhone but feels a little softer than my laptop. This is a bit dissappointing because I was looking for clarity, however for £30 it sounds pretty good.

I tried both 2.5Ghz and 5 Ghz wi-fi networks and the quality sounded the same. I wonder if the ethernet apapter would make any different? The problem is that my listening room is downstairs and router upstairs. :-/

You need to ensure you have Full Dynamic Range set in the settings, without it sounded like I was listening to my old Walkman cassette player. :)
 

davedotco

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Apr 24, 2013
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rmatthew said:
So, I popped out to Currys and picked up a Chromecast Audio. Set-up was straight forward, just plugged it in, installed the app on the iPhone and ran through the setup.

After 30 minutes or so of listening to Spotify (I have premium with streaming set to high quality) I conclude that it sounds better than my iPhone but feels a little softer than my laptop. This is a bit dissappointing because I was looking for clarity, however for £30 it sounds pretty good.

I tried both 2.5Ghz and 5 Ghz wi-fi networks and the quality sounded the same. I wonder if the ethernet apapter would make any different? The problem is that my listening room is downstairs and router upstairs. :-/

You need to ensure you have Full Dynamic Range set in the settings, without it sounded like I was listening to my old Walkman cassette player. :)
I am a great believer in wired systems though there really should be no difference SQ wise. If you are not getting dropouts then you are doing fine.

By reputation the quality of the analog output is quite modest by hi-fi standards but if you can, as you propose, move to using the digital out into a suitably equiped amplifier you should hear a decent improvement.
 

rmatthew

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Feb 19, 2016
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I ordered an optical cable yesterday so I could compare the optical and analogue outputs. My stereo amp does not have a DAC so I used a low budget ( £200 ) 2.1 AV unit I have connected to my TV.

I am pleased to say there is a noticible difference in clarity between the 2 outputs, the "soft" sound I experienced with the analogue output is not present with optical. So I think the way forward is to get a decent DAC and power Amp combination to drive my Mission 753 Freedoms.
 

stevee1966

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Sep 21, 2007
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Went to Currys today to get a Chromecast Audio and to my surprise they are currently selling at half price - £15 offer on until Monday.

On the downside - i cannot get it to work. It made a noise when i did the setup and performed a 'test sound' so i think the chromecast itself works, however struggling to get anything from my andrioid phone to play through it.
 

Xanderzdad

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Jun 25, 2008
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Thanks for the Currys tip - just ordered one too. I'll be interested to compare the sound quality to Chromecast v1 (which I listen via HDMI).
 

stevee1966

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Sep 21, 2007
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stevee1966 said:
Went to Currys today to get a Chromecast Audio and to my surprise they are currently selling at half price - £15 offer on until Monday.

On the downside - i cannot get it to work. It made a noise when i did the setup and performed a 'test sound' so i think the chromecast itself works, however struggling to get anything from my andrioid phone to play through it.
and it's working now !!!!
 

Jota180

Well-known member
May 14, 2010
21
1
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There's a thread on Head Fi about this and it seems to be able to drive some quite tough headphones to good levels. Talk also about a firmware update recently that now allows multiple Chromecast Audio around the home so you can have your sound around the house for just a few quid.

Check out the iFixit tear down of the Chromecast Audio -

https://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Chromecast+2015+Teardown/50189

Marvell Avastar 88W8887 VHT WLAN, Bluetooth, NFC and FM Receiver

Samsung K4B4G1646D-BY 4 Gb DDR3L SDRAM

Marvell Armada 88DE3006 1500 Mini Plus dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 media processor

Toshiba TC58NVG1S3HBAI6 2 Gb NAND Flash Memory

MRVL 21AA3 521GDT—likely Marvell Semiconductor DC-DC regulator
 
Jan 14, 2016
1
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0
I have used CCA for a couple of months and recently upgraded my system with a NAD D1050 DAC. The effect on the sound is overwhelming - clarity and precision as well as soundstage is so much better and absolutely worth the investment.
 

rmatthew

New member
Feb 19, 2016
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Morten Erbs said:
I have used CCA for a couple of months and recently upgraded my system with a NAD D1050 DAC. The effect on the sound is overwhelming - clarity and precision as well as soundstage is so much better and absolutely worth the investment.
Thanks for the info. What source do you use? Spotify, mp3, flac etc. and what amp and speakers do you have? I will be mainly listening to Spotify premium which is 320kbps
 

rmatthew

New member
Feb 19, 2016
11
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0
stevee1966 said:
Went to Currys today to get a Chromecast Audio and to my surprise they are currently selling at half price - £15 offer on until Monday.

On the downside - i cannot get it to work. It made a noise when i did the setup and performed a 'test sound' so i think the chromecast itself works, however struggling to get anything from my andrioid phone to play through it.
Typical, price drops days after I bought it. *dash1*
 

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