GOOGLE’s Chromecast Audio was the biggest bargain in tech a few months back, with a £15 price tag online and on the high street. But that has doubled now, and given its limited functionality, there are better bargains out there: two in particular.
Chromecast Audio, a companion device to Google’s video variant, has the sole purpose of playing music from your phone, tablet or other device, through your best hi-fi speakers without the need to invest in expensive new audio equipment.
It works by setting up a bridge between your wi-fi and your speakers, which you control with an app on your mobile device. Any set of powered speakers will do, and passive speakers will also work if you go through your amplifier.
But the new asking price of £30 is steep compared with some of the competition. The Jongo A2 wireless adapter from the radio manufacturer Pure, for instance, was originally £70 but is currently selling on Amazon for just £20.
The principle is the same: a proprietary app does the interfacing between adapter and speakers, and also pulls in its own library of podcasts and other content. Like the Chromecast, you can buy more than one adapter and use each in a different room, so long as they can be reached by the same wi-fi signal.
But the Jongo’s app doesn’t guarantee access to online streaming services like Spotify; and the instructions on how to get all the different components to talk to each other are confusing.
However, Pure has another trick its sleeve: Bluetooth. This alternative method of transmitting audio is lacking in Chromecast, and while on paper it is a less sophisticated option, it offers practical advantages.
For a start, it needs no app; it simply relays anything playing on your device to your amp or speakers. It doesn’t matter what you’re listening to or where it’s from, because Bluetooth doesn’t discriminate. There is no multi-room functionality, but most users won’t notice.
The quality of audio through Bluetooth - a paramount consideration here - is arguably inferior to wi-fi, and you may need to run a premium cable from the adapter to your speakers, and use an equalizer on your phone or tablet to adjust the sound to your liking. Be aware, too, that not all equalizers work with Bluetooth is switched on; mine sounds great through headphones but locks up the phone when I try to listen on external speakers.
But if Bluetooth does work for you - and you can try it out with any portable speakers you may already have - you could save yourself a few extra pounds on an adapter which uses that technology exclusively.
The Aves Mercury Bluetooth music receiver has no wi-fi and costs just £11 on Amazon. You simply plug it into your amp or speakers with one of the included cables, and into the mains. All phones and tablets have Bluetooth built in, so compatibility isn’t an issue - but you will notice connectivity drop-offs if they are more than ten feet apart.
The Aves and Jongo devices - and the Chromecast, for that matter - will work happily with a traditional hi-fi setup, or with your home cinema system. So long as you have a spare mini-jack or RCA-type input, you’re in business. Choose any one, and if you haven’t already decommissioned your old CD player, you soon will.