Chromecast audio - can anyone comment on sound quality?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by peddler, Oct 3, 2015.
  1. Peddler
    Hi there.

    I've bit posted for quite some time. I have become a professional lurker. Does anyone have the new Chromecast Audio device yet and, if so, could they comment on the sound quality please.

    I've tried several different 30 pin Bluetooth dongle thibgs on my Sony IPod dock system and have only managed to get one working - unfortunately it doesn't have aptx so the sound quality tends to not be that good. Any comments would be appreciated.
     
  2. yay101
    Sound quality through which? It uses wifi and no extra containers or formats are used for the data so there is no conversion. As long as you use digital out it should sound exactly the same as if you were playing out of a computer to the dac.
     
  3. koadan91
    I spoke with a Google rep on the phone, and he claimed it supported 24 bit / 96khz.
     
  4. kundica
    It definitely supports 24/96.  I've spent the past 2 days streaming local FLAC and Tidal through it to my studio monitors via 3.5 to dual TS 1/4".  As far as I can tell it's quite transparent, and for $35 it think it sounds great.  Just for fun, I sent it a few local files that were 24/192 and it took them without any issues. I suspect it's downsampling, but it's good to know that I can cast it larger files without it bugging out.
     
    For HiFi, you need to go into the Chromecast app, select your CC Audio, and enable "high dynamic range." In order to use Tidal with it, you need to download the newest beta version of BubbleUPNP.
     
    As a side note, I saw the CC Audio pop up in bluetooth when I was pairing my phone with my Moto 360.  A quick search online revealed it has some sort of bluetooth capability, however, I'm not sure what it's for.  I wasn't able to successfully pair but I didn't bother to disconnect it from my local wifi.  I might mess around with it some more later.
     
  5. santacruise
    ifixit opened the chromsecast audio today. The specs:
     
    • Marvell Avastar 88W8887 VHT WLAN, Bluetooth, NFC and FM Receiver
    • Nanya NT5CC128M16IP-DI/EKDDR3L 2Gb SDRAM
    • AKM AK4430 192kHz 24-Bit Stereo DAC
    • Marvell Armada 88DE3006 1500 Mini Plus dual-core ARM Cortex-A7 media processor
    • Toshiba TC58NVG1S3H 2 Gb NAND Flash Memory
     
    abm0 likes this.
  6. Peddler
    Whilst the IPOD Dock-based Sony system I'm using is nothing to write home about, it doesn't sound too bad. I've been using the bluetooth dongle for quite some time but the drop outs are really starting to driving me a little crazy. I don't actually spend much time listening to music through loudspeakers (I tend to get moaned at by the rest of the family because of my taste in music and the volumes I tend to listen at).

    I've ordered a Chromecast Audio and should be getting in on Friday. I'm really looking forward to upsetting the family for quite some time over the weekend. Good times.

    Thanks for the replies folks.
     
  7. markbrauer
    Sounds pretty good, I'd say.
     
    Got my Chomecast Audio yesterday at Best Buy. Also purchased an $8 adapter so my regular optical cable could be used.
     
    For initial setup I plugged my HD 555s directly into the Chromecast. First thing I tried was my phone's Spotify app and I was stunned at how good it sounded. Better than my phone or laptop. And plenty of volume. Might make a decent "desktop" headphone DAC/amp.
     
    I then connected it to the analog input of my Burson DAC/amp and it indeed still sounded pretty good. (At this point I had not read this thread and did not know about the "high dynamic range" option, so that was not set.)  I didn't listen for long because what really intrigued me was the optical digital output. Connected to the Burson's optical input the sound quality was real good. I was able to directly compare to my regular streamer, a Squeezebox Touch connect to the USB input, and it sounded the same. As yay101 said it should.
     
    But this was using 320 kbps Spotify. So I next found an app called LocalCast on the Android Play Store. This app connected to my DLNA server and read my music library. FLAC and WAV files up to 192/24 play fine and again sound the same as the streams through the Squeezebox. This Chromecast really works!
     
    After reading about the "high dynamic range" option (thanks kundica) I enabled it and reconnected to the Burson with an analog cable. It did sound good, actually great on most material, but it choked a bit on real high dynamic range files like Reference Recordings orchestral stuff where the loud tympani sound somewhat muddy. And the loud passages in Lilya Zilberstein's very dynamic Beethoven piano sonatas started to get a little harsh. But overall it sounds pretty good and I think most would find it acceptable, especially considering the price.
     
  8. markbrauer
    Sorry, corrected HD 650 to be HD 555. Will give 650s a try and report.
     
  9. windowing
    High Dynamic Range option is meant to increase loudness, not necessarily enhance sound quality. I also noticed that it muddies up the sound, so I keep it in the OFF setting, and increase volume through the amplifier instead. 
     
    Here's a quick run-down of what HDR audio does. 
    http://designingsound.org/2013/06/finding-your-way-with-high-dynamic-range-audio-in-wwise/ 
     
  10. kundica
    Interesting.  I didn't know how this related to the Chromecast Audio.  I should run a few tests and see how it sounds with it off.
     
    Thanks!
     
  11. markbrauer
    windowing
    The Chromecast Audio instructions make High Dynamic Range sound like something very different from what's described in your link. They say:
     
    High Dynamic Range
    Chromecast Audio supports high dynamic range output. This provides premium and professional audio equipment such as HiFi audio systems, AV receivers, and monitor style speakers with the highest quality sound output.

    When connecting your Chromecast Audio to such sound systems using 3.5mm or RCA analog cable (see here for compatible cables), you can enable Chromecast Audio’s High Dynamic option:
    -From your Android or iOS device, open the Chromecast app .
    -Touch the DEVICES tab.
    -Scroll to find the device card for your Chromecast Audio.
    -In the top right corner of the device card, touch the settings gear .
    -Look for High Dynamic Range, and toggle the setting On.
    Note:  Many common speaker systems such as desktop computer speakers, docking speakers, portable and Bluetooth speakers are not built to support such a high dynamic range, causing the volume level to be very loud and sound to be somewhat distorted. Please avoid turning this setting on in those cases.
    When Chromecast Audio is connected through an optical interface (see here for compatible cables), it will always use High Dynamic Range. Setting the High Dynamic Range to OFF won't have an effect.

     
    Google says the goal is the highest quality sound output, not more loudness.
     
    I have been using the digital output of the Chromecast (meaning the HDR is active) and the resulting sound is indistinguishable from the digital output of my Squeezebox Touch, which I believe performs bit-perfectly. And I'm using some very high dynamic range recordings.
     
    Being curious, I reconnected the Chromecast using analog cable and switched the HDR ON and OFF. There is a very definite difference with the ON being open sounding and dynamic and the OFF being veiled and compressed in comparison. This is true even when compensating with the amp volume control. The ON position sounds nearly as good the digital output.
     
    daellis130 likes this.
  12. windowing
    Sure, to each their own. I personally prefer to have HDR switched off - the sound quality is perfectly fine without it imo. Been running it through my headphones and studio monitors, and it sounds great. 
     
  13. markbrauer
    windowing, a question
     
    To each his own for sure - and certainly system synergy plays a big part too - but...
     
    Overnight I got to thinking and remembered a few years ago I found a website that touted HDR processing for music. They offered sample files of familiar music both with and without their processing applied. I downloaded the files and those with the HDR processing files sounded as you described - muddy. Actually, I'd go further and say the processing seemed to ruin every aspect of the music. This company was touting their system for use at radio stations as a way to achieve a "punchier" sound and decrease bandwidth. Their explanation of HDR processing was pretty much the same as that in your link to designingsound.org.
     
    And besides, I highly doubt the humble Chromecast Audio has the computing power to perform HDR processing as described in the designingsound link. Especially considering that it would have to do it on-the-fly with all the data in hi-res (say 96/24) music files.
     
    *So, my question is, are you actually using the new Chromecast Audio device and enabling and disabling it's "High Dynamic Range" functionality through the setup menu or are your comments based on using some other sort of HDR processing? You did not make that clear.*
     
    To me, the Chromecast's HDR OFF setting sounds like it is applying some relatively simple volume leveling and possibly some equalization, both of which can sound fine when done intelligently (and indeed it does sound fine.) Conversely, with the HDR ON, the dynamic character of the output sounds the same as a known bit-perfect source indicating that no processing is being applied to the music.
     
    Thanks. Just wanted to clear this up so others can better understand Chromecast Audio's capabilities.
     
  14. classicalguy
    Is there a way to tell the cromecast to play music from your network drive. For example, I imagine installing a foobar driver that would play through the cromecast?
     
  15. kundica
    Not exactly, but you can easily cast music from a local drive(managed library) to Chromecast other ways.  In order to do this your library needs to be managed by a UPnP server.  Foobar, Minimserver, Asset UPnP, etc, are all good options and cheap or free.  Next you need a control point on your network that can cast to the Chromecast.  If you're on Android, BubbleUPnP is an excellent control point app.  So basically, BubbleUPnP will see and connect to the Chromecast and also allow you to browse the music library located on your computer.  Find the music you want to listen to and send it to your Chromecast.  You can also build playlists, etc.  In my opinion, this is the best method to achieve the highest audio quality.
     
    Another option that might work from the computer is to use Plex since it allows you to browse your library within a browser tab.  The browser interface can see your Chromecast and will cast to it using the Google Cast extension.  Unfortunately, I think this does some audio conversion and you most likely will not be streaming in your original quality.
     
    I made a short video the other day to show people how to cast Tidal to their CC Audio using BubbleUPnP since Tidal does not yet support it.  The process is pretty much the same for a local server except you connect to your server instead of Tidal with the app. I can share it with you if you want.
     

Share This Page