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Chromecast Audio : you’re now sending Internet audio wirelessly to any speaker in your house

Google also unleashed last week a second tiny, round, $35 product: Chromecast Audio.
It’s the same idea: you tap the Chromecast icon in apps like Spotify, Pandora, I Heart Radio, or Google Play Music. But instead of sending Internet video wirelessly to your TV, you’re now sending Internet audio wirelessly to any speaker in your house. The little disc plugs into the Audio Input jack of your speaker, whether it’s a miniplug, optical jack, or RCA jacks. (The miniplug cable is included.)

Now, the universe is teeming with Bluetooth speakers that play what your phone is playing. But Chromecast Audio is different—really different.

This time, your phone is not transmitting audio; the audio comes directly from the Internet to your speaker. Therefore, the music is much higher quality (it hasn’t been subjected to the usual Bluetooth compression). Once again, the phone is just the remote control. That means your phone isn’t using data or battery power.

(Which also means that you can use the phone as a phone while the music plays. A Google product manager told me that his little girl was dancing to the music—he wanted to film her with the phone. If he’d been transmitting to a Bluetooth speaker, the music would have stopped the minute he tried to record video.)

But here’s the other world-changer: This system works over WiFi (maximum range: your whole house), not Bluetooth (maximum range: 30 feet). That’s an amazingly liberating change. You feel like you’ve paid $3,000 for someone to install a whole-house audio system.

Speaking of which: If you buy more than one Chromecast Audio, you can set things up so that all speakers play the same thing simultaneously, cleverly time-synced: the iHome in bedroom, the Bose in the kitchen, the Sony in the den.

What you can’t do is create more than one such zone, or to play different things on different speakers. (That Sonos-like feature is coming in 2016, Google says.)

Chromecast Audio turns anything into a useful wireless speaker. Suddenly, you can give new wireless life to that old charging/speaker dock with a now-obsolete, 30-pin iPhone connector. Or you can turn a bedside alarm clock, born without any wireless features, into a wireless speaker you control from your phone. This holiday season, there will be a lot of old, once beloved speakers being dug out from closets.

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