Google’s Chromecast Audio is a $35 device that makes dumb speakers smart. Plug it into just about any set of speakers with 3.5mm, RCA, or optical input, use your phone or tablet to find content you want to stream, and hit play to make the sound stream over the internet.
When I reviewed the Chromecast Audio, I found that it delivered on its promise of making it easy to stream internet audio content to any speaker. But at the time there wasn’t much you could do with Chromecast Audio that you couldn’t also do with a Bluetooth speaker (or Bluetooth audio adapter).
Now there is: Google has released a software update that brings support for multi-room audio.
The latest Chromecast Audio software update also adds support for higher-quality 96KHz/24-bit audio playback.
Here’s how multi-room audio works: plug multiple Chromecast Audio devices into multiple speakers and spread them throughout your house. Then select which speakers or groups of speakers you want to use to listen to audio.
You can use this to stream the same music simultaneously to your kitchen and living room if you want to share the music while one person in your household is cooking and another is sitting on the couch. Having a party? Blast the same tunes throughout the whole house.
Chromecast Audio also supports guest connections, allowing you to let friends take over the DJ duties.
Sonos, Bose, and some other audio companies already offer some multi-room audio solutions. But most of those options require you to buy expensive speaker systems, while Chromecast Audio devices can work with any speakers you may already have… or whatever cheap speakers you feel like plugging them into.
Sound quality will obviously vary depending on the speakers you’re using, but outfitting your home with a series of Chromecast Audio devices could be a lot cheaper than buying just two or three Sonos speakers.
Google normally charges $35 for a Chromecast Audio, but the company is currently running a holiday promotion allowing you to pick up 2 for $55. Or you can get a Chromecast Audio and a Chromecast 2 audio/video model for the same $55 price.