Chromecast audio - can anyone comment on sound quality?

Discussion in 'Computer Audio' started by peddler, Oct 3, 2015.
  1. sonci

    I don't want to ruin the party, but shouldn't the volume on the source be 100%? If you want every bit of music to go to the amplifier, you should only use amplifier volume, maybe you wont hear any difference either, but in theory this is the audiophile way..
     
  2. markbrauer
    sonci,
     
    Technically speaking, you are correct. Any data that has been modified (in this case the volume info) is not "bit perfect". And we audiophiles do demand bit perfect.
     
    Practically speaking (hearing?), the Chromecast Audio does volume control really well. I have been using mine for over a year and have yet to hear any distortion of the music, using either the optical output or analog output. To my ears, whatever math the CCA performs on those volume bits does no more harm than a quality analog volume control. 
     
    This is especially noticeable when using the CCA directly into headphones (it performs as a decent headphone amp). With my various headphones, the volume control needs to be set anywhere between 20% and 60%, never any higher. The resulting sound quality is the same as the CCA set at 100% optically feeding my Burson DAC/amp using it's analog volume control.
     
    It used to be that all digital volume controls adversely affected the timbre and the dynamics of the music, and don't doubt that some still do. But lately, numerous hi-end devices are implementing digital (and therefore not bit perfect) volume. Even Burson, always noted for their excellent analog controls, have digital volume control on their latest DCA/amps/preamps. It is amazing that the CCA, at $35, is able to implement quality digital control.
     
    That said, when using the optical output I do tend to set the CCA volume at 100% and use my amp's analog knob. But that's mostly because the knob is more convenient, and it allows for finer control. Most control apps for the CCA only implement a 20 step volume control - that's not enough to get it just right. BubbleUPnP somehow implements 50 steps, which is almost enough.
     
    Ultimately, the proof is in the listening. Give it a try. After all, isn't that what being an "audiophile" is all about.
     
  3. SP Wild
    That is good to hear. I did notice notice too much difference, although I didn't Carry out any critical listening.

    It is really handy because a remote volume is the handiest thing and a lot of headamps with pre outs don't have a remote control for volume.

    Currently using schiit Valhalla2 as a preamp to studio monitors with the chromecast in the path going optical into mojo dac. I then can use the phone to control volume. Excellent sound enjoyment.
     
  4. Hikoki
    Hi everyone. I'd like to ask those who have been using CA with an external DAC about the increase in sound quality. I know there are many different Dacs, hence different results in SQ. Yet I'd be interested to know generally if there is any point in getting a DAC. I personally plan on picking up the Schiit Modi 2 uber. I'm also asking since some time ago I accidentally came across a website which wasn't very positive about the optical out implementation in CA.
    Looking forward to hearing from you,
    Ivan
     
  5. almarti
    Hi @Hikoki, I am using CCA for more than 6 months with excellent results. I always use it with external DAC, mostly Schiit Modi Multibit (Mimby) that I strongly recommend you to purchase instead of Modi 2 Uber, and with Chord Mojo, through an optical connection to both of them.
    CCA supplies analog 3.5mm output and optical connection in the same hole; analog output (using CCA internal DAC) is below average and this may be the no good comments you can find, but the optical one is bit perfect so I support your decision of using with external DAC, SQ is impressive. I power the CCA from a power bank to reduce the RFI issues.
     
  6. markbrauer
    I have been using the CCA optical output for well over a year now and find it sounds excellent, and way better than the analog output. But I believe that in my situation, the difference in sound quality is caused by an impedance mismatch with the line-level input of my amp, and not the quality of the CCA's internal DAC. The frequency response ot the analog signal is not balanced and dynamics are screwed up - making the music sound just plain "wrong" - classic symptoms of impedance mismatch.
    Archimago's Blog has good articles on both analog and digital output of the CCA, with measurements. Of the the CCA's analog output Archimago concludes "I would certainly have no qualms about using the analogue output from this remarkably economical device to feed a good stereo system". Of the optical output, he finds that it has somewhat more measured jitter than other Toslink devices he has tested but still concludes "I don't believe anyone is really going to notice the jitter in day-to-day use". In my own experience, comparing the CCA optical output directly to that of my Squeexebox Touch (which measures very good) , I cannot hear a difference.
    Overall, I suspect that if you are lucky enough to have a good electrical match from your CCA to your amp you might hear very little or no difference. If, like me, there are impedance matching problems, an external DAC will be a big improvement.
    http://archimago.blogspot.com/2016/02/measurements-google-chromecast-audio.html
    http://archimago.blogspot.com/2016/02/measurements-google-chromecast-audio_27.html
     
  7. EElegances
    I use CA as a temporary solution. It's crazy how well it works and sounds, especially at the price.
    I've upgraded it two ways to make sure it's doing it's best into my Schiit Yggy.
    1. Lifatec Glass Toslink cable.
    2. iFi SPIDF iPurifier
    The costs are big compared to CA but small enough overall that I just accepted my initial impressions as being good and didn't get caught up in comparing so I just set and forget so I can listen to music.
     
  8. Hikoki
    Hi and thanks a lot for your very quick and useful comments and suggestions. I basically mostly use CCA to feed my DT 800 600ohm through ifi iCan headamp. I guess I might appreciate the addition of an external DAC despite these 57 old ears. I have used the coax digital output on my Fiio X5 to feed the headamp, and compared with the analogue out on CCA using the same music the difference was there, but rather very subtle.
    BTW, Almarti, you say you are using CCA with Bimby or Chord Mojo. Do you find a difference in SQ between these 2 Dacs when fed from CCA ?
    Cheers
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2017
  9. almarti
    Absolutely, internal CCA DAC chip is far away of Schiit Multibit and a little more far away of Mojo FPGA. Additionally, Mojo provides a lot of power to drive big cans. Yours of 600 need a lot of power, even a dedicated wall powered DAC/Amp
    I would be using CCA Analog output only with sensitivity IEMs.
     
  10. Hikoki
    Thanks a lot, almarti. Happy listening in whatever scenario you'll be using with CCA. Cheers. ☺️
     
  11. MBit
    Hi, it seems to me that this is the biggest CCA thread on Head-Fi so maybe someone can help me out even if my question is not on sound quality:
    My smartphone (Huawei P9 lite) doesn't support OTG and its DAC is not worth its name. At home, or anywhere with a wireless network, I can easily connect to my CCA and have good quality music. But on the go, with no network around, that connection is not possible - or is it? Might there be a way to set up a closed network using my phone as router for it to connect to the CCA? Has anybody tried that?
    Thanks for any thoughts!
     
    musicfreak likes this.
  12. rkw
    I can't think of any way to use the CCA as you want. However, it seems possible to enable OTG on a Huawei P9 Lite (and use an external DAC) if you are willing to root the phone: https://androidtutorial.net/2017/03/02/enable-otg-support-huawei-p9-lite/ (additional articles on this topic if you Google).
     
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  13. MBit
    Thanks rkw!
    I actually thought about rooting before but I remember reading somewhere, that the Netflix and/or Spotify apps might check on that before playback. Some licencing or security issue? Anyway, I need them to work properly, so no messing around :)
     
  14. kellte2
    Just learned of the ifi ipurifier for SPDIF. MY WALLET!!! :cold_sweat:

    How much of a difference in SQ are we talking?
     
  15. rkw
    My biggest complaint about Chromecast Audio is that it doesn't support gapless playback. I haven't gotten an iPurifier because I've read that it makes gapless playback even worse. However, otherwise reviews have been positive. I'd be more willing to try the iPurifier if it wasn't 4x the cost of a CCA itself (really more of a testament to the incredible value of CCA), but I'm actually pretty happy with the sound quality from the CCA Toslink.
     

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