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A Google Chromecast Audio might not have the same luxury price tag as devices like Sonos and Bose, but for many people, it’s the easiest and most cost-efficient way of turning old “dumb” Hi-Fi systems into Wi-Fi-connected smart speakers.
For just $35, you can control the music around your home from your phone, create rooms and “zones” of speakers, and listen to Spotify and other on-demand music streaming services at the tap of a button.
If you’ve just welcomed a new Chromecast Audio into your life, you’ve come to the right place. Because the device itself doesn’t have a screen, it’s not immediately obvious how you’re supposed to get up and running. More annoyingly, some of the gadget’s best features are hidden away in the accompanying smartphone app.
In this guide, we’re going to explain everything you need to know about setting up your Chromecast Audio, then introduce you to some of the device’s capabilities.
A Quick Summary of Steps
If you don’t have time to read this entire guide, you can get started in seconds by following the steps below:
- Connect the Chromecast Audio dongle to your Hi-Fi.
- Set up the dongle using the Google Home app or Google Chrome.
- Install some Chromecast Audio-compatible apps.
- Create your speaker zones.
- Configure Guest Mode.
In the rest of this piece, we’re going to look at each of the above steps in more depth, walking you through each one in detail.
What’s in the Box?
So, you’ve been to the shops and bought your new Chromecast Audio. Now you’re back at home and opening it up for the first time. What can you expect to find in the box?
You should find five things:
- The Chromecast Audio dongle
- A speaker cable with a 3.5-millimeter headphone jack on each end
- A USB power cable with a micro-USB connection and a standard USB connection
- A USB wall socket to add power to your device
- Associated device literature
Note: The Chromecast Audio supports RCA connections and TOSLINK connections, but the associated headphone cables are not included in the box. You will need to buy them separately.
Connecting the Chromecast Audio to Your Hi-Fi System
Connecting your Chromecast Audio to your speaker system is easy.
Firstly, connect one end of the USB power cable into the Chromecast device, then plug the other end into the supplied wall socket. If your Hi-Fi is modern enough to have a USB port, you can also use that.
Next, plug one end of the headphone cable into the port on the Chromecast device, and connect the other end into a vacant headphone jack on your speakers.
Finally, assuming you didn’t use a USB port on your speakers for power, plug the USB wall adapter into an electrical socket.
The Chromecast Audio does not have an on/off power button; as soon as you connect it to a power source, it will fire up. However, before proceeding with the rest of the initial setup, you also need to turn on your Hi-Fi system. The device will play noises as you work through the next steps and you need to be able to detect them.
Make sure you remember to change your Hi-Fi to the correct input channel. Typically, it’ll be labeled AUX.
Setting Up Your Chromecast Audio
You can set up your Chromecast Audio device using a web browser on a Windows, Mac, or Linux machine, or by using an app on either Android or iOS.
We’re going to explain the process on all three platforms.
Setting Up the Chromecast Audio on a Browser
Firstly, you need a copy of the Chrome browser installed on your system. Because the Chromecast Audio is a Google product, it integrates seamlessly with the company’s web browser.
Once Chrome is up and running, head to google.com/chromecast/setup. Google will try to encourage you to install one of the mobile apps, but you can ignore it. Scroll to the bottom of the webpage and click on Set up your Chromecast using this computer.
Chrome will automatically scan for any Chromecast devices that need to be set up. You need to be in fairly close proximity to the Chromecast Audio device for the process to work.
The scan should find your device. It will be called ChromecastAudio[Number]. Click on Set me up.
Google will try to connect the Chromecast dongle to your Wi-Fi network automatically. If unsuccessful, you will need to enter your network’s password manually. Note that your computer will disconnect from the web while the process is ongoing — it is expected behavior.
Now it’s time to check whether the set up was successful. The webpage will prompt you to play a sound on your speakers. Ensure your speakers are turned on, the volume is at an audible level, and your Hi-Fi is set to the correct input channel, then click on the Play Sound link.
If you hear the sound, click Yes. If you don’t, click on No and the site will guide you through some troubleshooting steps.
Finally, you need to give your device a name. Typically, it makes sense to call it the name of the room it is in. Tap on Looks good when you’re ready.
Your device is now ready to use. We’ll explain how to play content later in the article.
Download: Chrome (Windows, Mac, Linux)
Setting Up the Chromecast Audio on Android
To set up a Chromecast Audio using an Android device, you will need to grab a copy of the Google Home app from the Play Store. Your device also needs to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network as the one on which you intend to use your Chromecast.
Finally, you need to enable location services for the Google Home. Go to Settings > Apps > Home > Permissions and slide the toggle next to Location into the On position.
Open the app and tap on Get Started. The app will ask you to confirm your Google Account details. Either tap on your existing account or enter the credentials of a different account. When you’re ready, tap on OK.
Next, the app will ask you to permit location access. It’s necessary for the app to find the Chromecast device during the initial setup phase. You can grant the access from within the app. There’s no need to head back to the Settings menu — just tap on OK.
From this point forward, the process is broadly similar to using a web browser. Google Home will scan for devices, then prompt you to connect it to your Wi-Fi network, play a test sound, and give the device a name.
It’s worth noting that during the Wi-Fi connection stage, the app will ask you for permission to save your Wi-Fi password for use with future devices. If you have bought multiple Chromecasts, or you plan to add more Chromecasts to your setup in the future, you should leave the checkbox next to Use this Wi-Fi network to set up future devices marked. It’ll save you time down the line.
The app will also ask you to enter your address. This is not a necessary step and does not influence your Chromecast Audio’s functionality. Rather, it’s so you can use Google Now to get news, weather, and traffic reports. Click on Skip if you don’t need Google Now services.
At the end of the setup, you need to decide whether you want to sign up for email tips from Google. For the health of your email inbox, you should avoid tapping on Subscribe.
Download: Google Home (Android)
Setting Up the Chromecast Audio on iOS
As with Android devices, setting up a Chromecast Audio on iOS requires you to use the App Store version of the Google Home app.
To begin the setup process, open the app, tap on Get Started, and confirm your Google Account details. If you don’t have a Google Account connected to your device, you will need to enter your credentials.
In the next step, the process differs from Android. You will need to turn on your device’s Bluetooth connection. To do so, open the Settings app, tap on Bluetooth, and slide the toggle into the On position.
Remember, leaving your Bluetooth permanently turned on will cause your battery to drain more quickly, so make sure you turn it off again when you’ve finished setting up the device.
Again, from this point onwards, the process is the same as Windows and Android. The Google Home app will ask you to confirm your Wi-Fi network (or enter a new one), play a sound to test the connectivity, and give the device a name.
Like Android, you’ll also have an option to save the network’s password for future use. Just tap on Use this Wi-Fi network to set up future devices during the Wi-Fi phase of the setup process.
Download: Google Home (iOS)
How to Cast Audio to Your Speakers
Once you have successfully set up your speaker, it’s time to cast some audio and enjoy your favorite music.
You can cast audio from compatible smartphone and tablet apps, as well as from the Chrome browser on your computer.
How to Cast Audio Using a Mobile Device
The method to cast music from apps on your mobile device varies depending which app you’re using.
Most commonly, you’ll see a cast icon somewhere on the screen. It looks like a television with a Wi-Fi signal icon in the corner. This icon is standard across all Google’s apps — such as YouTube — as well as podcast apps like Podcast Addict and radio apps like TuneIn.
If you’re a Spotify user, you need to take a slightly different approach. Expand the currently-playing song so it’s in full-screen mode. At the bottom of the screen, you should see Devices Available. Tap on the link and select you’ll see the name of your Chromecast Audio speaker. Tap on the speaker’s name to begin playback.
How to Cast Audio Using Chrome on a Computer
You can also cast any audio from your computer, provided you’re using the Chrome web browser.
To begin, open Chrome. Click on the More icon in the upper right-hand corner (three vertical dots) to reveal the menu. Next, select Cast.
A new window will pop up in the center of the top part of the screen. It will give you a few options.
Initially, you will see the Cast to menu. Any Chromecast-compatible output devices will be listed. For example, in the image above, you can see my Chromecast Audio dongle as well as my Nvidia Shield, which has Chromecast functionality built in.
However, before clicking on your speaker’s name, you should click on Cast to. Doing so will reveal the Source menu. You can either choose to cast from the specific tab you’re looking at, or from the computer’s desktop. The desktop source is useful if you want to stream locally-saved music or the audio from a video.
Which Apps Work With Chromecast Audio?
These days, there are very few mainstream audio apps that are not Chromecast compatible. Even many smaller third-party apps have the functionality available.
We’ve already covered some of the best audio apps to use with your Chromecast.
You will also find the Google Home app to be useful. It can show you a list of Chromecast-compatible apps that are already on your phone or tablet.
Open the app and click on the Browse tab in the lower right-hand corner. On the next screen, click on Music in the lower left-hand corner. Another new window will open. You will find all the compatible apps in the Your Services section. Tapping on an app’s logo will launch it.
Google Home is also great for finding other compatible apps. Click on the Discover tab and scroll through the suggestions.
Chromecast Audio devices offer two notable extra features for you to take advantage of.
Create Groups of Speakers
If you have more than one Chromecast Audio device in your home, you can create groups of speakers. It allows you to play the same content on multiple Hi-Fi units simultaneously.
For example, if you have an open plan lounge and kitchen area, you can put the speakers in both areas into a group so any music you play is perfectly synced.
To set up a group of speakers, you will need the Google Home app on either Android or iOS — it’s not possible using a web browser. You also need to make sure all the Chromecast Audio devices are connected to the same Wi-Fi network. You cannot sync speakers across different networks.
Fire up the Google Home app and click on the Devices link in the upper right-hand corner. You will see a list of all the Chromecast Audio dongles you have on your system.
To create a group, tap on the three vertical dots in the upper right corner of one of the Chromecasts’ cards and select Create Group.
By default, the group will be called Home Group. If you want to change it, just type the new name in the on-screen box.
On the next screen, you will see all the available speakers that can be added to a group. Be aware that a speaker cannot belong to more than one group at a time. To add a speaker to your new group, mark the checkbox next to its name. Tap Save to create the group.
If the group creation was a success, you’ll see a card for it listed in the devices list. Don’t worry if you can’t see it straight away, it could take up to 20 seconds to appear.
If you need to edit the group (e.g. to add/remove speakers or change its name), tap on the vertical dots in the upper right corner of the group’s device card.
To delete a speaker group entirely, tap on the dots and go to Delete Group > Delete.
Enable Guest Mode
Chromecast Audio dongles offer a guest mode. It allows other people to play music on your Chromecast speaker without connecting to your Wi-Fi network. You’ll find it particularly useful for parties or other large gatherings.
To enable Guest Mode, open the Google Home app and go to Devices > Menu > Guest Mode. Slide the toggle into the On position.
Guests can connect to the speakers on their own devices by opening a compatible app, clicking on the Cast button, and selecting nearby speakers.
If the connection fails, your guest will need to enter a PIN code. You can find the PIN for your device by going to Google Home > Devices > Menu > Guest Mode and looking below the On/Off toggle.
Chromecast Audio devices are reliable pieces of equipment, but things will occasionally go wrong. Here’s a look at some of the most common issues and how to fix them.
No Cast Destination Found
Sometimes, your Chromecast device might not show up in the list of speakers when you want to cast audio from another app.
Firstly, check the basics. Is your mobile device on the same network as your Chromecast? Does the Chromecast have a power source? And was the Chromecast set up correctly?
For a more technical solution, ensure that your Chromecast Audio is using the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi band. If you have a dual-band router, you will see both bands listed during the setup phase.
Finally, check whether other devices can cast successfully. It will help determine whether the issue is with the Chromecast or your mobile device.
The Cast Button Is Missing in Chrome
Although the official way of casting from the Chrome browser is to use the method laid out earlier in this guide, it is also possible to use a Cast icon in the Chrome toolbar.
However, some users have it while others don’t. So, what’s going on? Well, anyone can create their own Chromecast toolbar icon. Here’s how.
Open Chrome and go to More > Cast. The casting window we referenced earlier will pop up. Start casting anything.
Now, click on the More menu for a second time. At the very top of the menu, you will see any icons that don’t normally fit on the main toolbar. You need to find the casting icon.
Note: If you don’t have many extensions or web apps installed, you might already see the Cast icon in the toolbar.
Next, right-click on the icon and select Always show. Once this option is selected, you can stop casting without the icon disappearing. It makes it faster to resuming casting in the future.
Group Speakers Are Out of Sync
Some speakers may experience a slight delay during playback. If you have speakers from several different speaker manufacturers in a single group, the delays might not be identical, thus leading to small but perceptible differences.
To correct playback delays, open the Google Home app and tap on the Devices icon. Find the card of the speaker for which you want to adjust the delay, the tap on the three dots. Select Settings > Group delay correction to begin making adjustments.
Position yourself in a location where you can hear the audio from all the group speakers at the same, time, then move the slider until everything is in sync.
If we’ve not covered your issue, you can reach out to Google directly. Residents in the United States can start a live chat with a Chromecast specialist via the website, request a telephone call, or call 1-844-400-CAST directly. English speakers outside the US can get in touch via social media and in the forums.
Was Your Chromecast Audio Setup Successful?
This guide has explained all the essential information you need to know to get your Chromecast Audio device set up and ready to use.
If you found any parts of this guide confusing, or you’re looking for more information about a particular feature or option, you can reach out in the comments section below.