Only one audio output port, but you can use 3 different types of audio cables for Chromecast Audio.
Chromecast Audio, like Chromecast, is very simple in design and use.
There are only two ports: one micro USB port for power adapter. The other port in the opposite side is for audio cables.
So, there is no reason to insert the audio cables for Chromecast Audio in wrong port.
But you may not know the single 3.5-mm audio port can be used for 3 different types of compatible audio cables for Chromecast Audio:
- 3.5-mm stereo cable for analog output. The yellow audio cable is included in your Chromecast Audio box
- 3.5-mm-stereo-to-RCA cable for analog output. This audio cable is NOT included.
- Mini TOSLINK-to-TOSLINK optical cable for digital output. This optical audio cable is NOT included.
Although you can use 3 different audio cables for Chromecast Audio, you cannot use them simultaneously because there is only one port.
Even if you use audio jack splitter, the audio output format is determined by the audio cable inserted into the output port.
What are the differences of the 3 compatible audio cables for Chromecast Audio?
The 3 types of compatible audio cables fro Chromecast Audio are designed for different usages. You need match it with your speaker or AV receiver.
If your speaker or AV receiver accepts more than one type of the 3 audio cables, you may want to understand the differences so that you can get the best audio quality.
Or if you are planning to buy a new speaker or AV system for your Chromecast Audio, you may want to check the possible inputs for the speaker or AV system.
3.5-mm stereo cable
So, this is the simplest and cheapest solution if you speaker or sound system supports it.
3.5-mm stereo cable is for analog audio output. This means if you plug in a 3.5-mm stereo cable, the DAC (Digital-to-analog converter) in Chromecast Audio will convert digital audio signal into analog audio signal automatically.
If your sound system supports digital input and has a high-end DAC, you may want to use digital TOSLINK optical cable to benefit from the possibly better DAC.
Please note, Chromecast Audio, although cheap, has a decent DAC. The DAC in Chromecast is a AKM AK4430 192kHz 24-bit stereo DAC according to iFixit’s teardown. The sound quality should be comparable to most AV receivers with a price tag about $200-$500.
3.5-mm stereo cable can only carry unbalanced audio signal for stereo audio, and therefore it is susceptible to electromagnetic interference. This is the reason why the cable should be as short as possible.
Technically, 3.5-mm stereo cable uses the TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) connector.
RCA cable and jacks are based on very old standards of Radio Corporation of America. Two separate cables transmit two mono audio signals individually.
The 3.5-mm-stereo-to-RCA cable is actually a mini converter: one end using TRS connector (for Chromecast Audio), and the other end using RCA connector (for your speaker)
So, Chromecast Audio treats 3.5-mm-stereo-to-RCA cable as a normal 3.5-mm stereo cable.
You probably can find such this 3.5-mm-stereo-to-RCA cable for your Chromecast Audio in the garage. If not, you can easily get it at a few bucks from most hardware shops.
Mini TOSLINK to TOSLINK optical cable
Compared to analog audio signals through stereo cables, there is no interference for digital audio. This is the reason why most HiFi systems prefer digital input (or coaxial).
The digital audio signal is processed by your speaker or AV receiver. It is converted to analog output eventually with their own DACs.
So, technically Mini TOSLINK to TOSLINK optical audio cables for Chromecast Audio can only avoid signal interference. There is no guarantee a better audio quality.
But generally speaking, most sound systems or speakers with digital input usually have decent DACs inside. And they usually optimize and fine tune the speaker (and firmware) for that specific DAC chip. This is the reason why the audio quality usually is very good on such systems.
The optical audio cable is NOT included in your Chromecast Audio box. You can get a 6-feet one at about $10 .
What’s the audio quality of Chromecast Audio output? Why audio cables for Chromecast Audio matter?
Chromecast Audio, although with decent output audio quality, is not a high-end HiFi device.
The $35 price tag is the reality.
But Chromecast Audio is seldom the bottleneck for audio quality in your sound system.
The final audio quality to your ear is affected by:
- the speaker;
- the amplifier;
- the DAC;
- signal interference and signal distortion;
- media source quality.
The audio quality is always limited by the worst one. For example, if you have a densely-compressed and distorted audio source file, there is no way to get decent audio quality no matter what audio system you have.
Chromecast Audio may affect audio quality in the following three aspects:
- DAC if you use analog output (i.e., using 3.5-mm stereo cable or 3.5-mm-to-RCA cable). As mentioned in several pages, the DAC in Chromecast Audio is a decent one. It seldom is the bottleneck for a speaker or AV receiver with only analog input.
- signal interference and distortion if using 3.5-mm stereo cable or 3.5-mm-to-RCA audio cables fro Chromecast Audio. Because both of these two cables handle only unbalanced analog audio, it is impossible to shield all interference. But if the cable is short and the connector is in good condition, this again seldom is a problem. Don’t complain the length of the 3.5-mm cable in your Chromecast Audio box. The shorter, the better, for audio quality.
- media source quality. This actually is not controlled by Chromecast Audio. It depends on content providers. The dual band with 802.11 AC WiFi connection in Chromecast Audio is an overkill even for streaming lossless audios.
So, to get best audio quality from Chromecast Audio, you may consider:
- if your speaker or AV receiver supports digital input, try to use TOSLINK optical audio cables for Chromecast Audio.
- if possible, use short audio cables for analog output. The shorter, the better.
- if you have the choice, choose high quality streaming source. If you stream local music files, try to get lossless files, e.g., FLAC.
- within your budget, try to get quality speakers or sound systems. You should try to avoid the cheap Bluetooth speakers (with analog input) sold in many handphone shops. These speakers are designed for “Bluetooth” quality. Of course, there are many decent speakers with Bluetooth connectivity. This is a totally different story.
And most important, trust your ears, not the price tag. Cheap solutions can be good enough for you.
Are you using the correct audio cables for Chromecast Audio? Do you know how to get the best audio quality for Chromecast Audio?
If you have any questions or encounter any problems on the 3 compatible audio cables for Chromecast Audio, and audio quality for Chromecast Audio, please let us know in the comment box below.
The community will try to help you find the answer or solution.
For more Chromecast Audio guides, please visit Chromecast Audio guide page.
If your question is on Chromecast including both 1st generation Chromecast, and new Chromecast (aka Chromecast 2015), please visit Chromecast how-to guides page.