Although Chromecast Audio was discontinued, you can still make your vintage speakers or favourite AVR systems alive by using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers, just like what Chromecast Audio does.
Of course, this may require additional setup and one additional gadget (a few bucks) unless your speaker or AV support HDMI input.
This Chromecast guide explains why you may consider using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers and how to set up the system so that you can continue streaming music to the speakers and AV systems without Chromecast Audio.
Update: the latest Chromecast 2020 (Chromecast with Google TV; Chromecast 4th Gen) merges Chromecast, Chromecast Ultra, and Android TV. There is no successor for Chromecast Audio
Why do you want to use Chromecast (or Chromecast Ultra) as Chromecast Audio? Because Google discontinued Chromecast Audio!
In early 2019, Google silently discontinued Chromecast Audio. Now, it is almost impossible to get a “new” Chromecast Audio even on eBay.
The asking price of a “used” Chromecast Audio is about that of two new Chromecast units!
Chromecast (including Chromecast Ultra) is designed for videos/TVs, and Chromecast Audio for speakers/AVR systems. The comparison of Chromecast and Chromecast Audio was explained in detail in this guide.
Normally, if you have some old but working speakers or AVR systems, you are reluctant to replace them because they usually have become a part of your life. It is hard for you to find a “better” new speakers that match the experiences with the old speakers. Many old speakers without fancy components actually become better over time.
Chromecast Audio gives a new life for these speakers. You can stream music to these speakers from the latest smartphones or tablets. The 3.5mm analogue and digital audio output in Chromecast Audio can easily feed most speakers and AVR systems.
On the contrary, Chromecast (including Chromecast Ultra) only has an HDMI output.
So, if your AV system supports HDMI audio input, then, yes, you can use Chromecast to replace Chromecast Audio without reading further.
All music apps (Spotify, Google Play Music, YouTube Music, VLC Player, …) support both Chromecast and Chromecast Audio. So, you will not run into any app compatibility issues when using Chromecast to replace Chromecast Audio.
But for many Chromecast Audio owners, their speakers or AV systems may not support HDMI input. In fact, probably more than 99.99% speakers and home AVRs in the market do not have an HDMI input.
So, for these users, you need to convert the HDMI audio signal from Chromecast into analogue or digital (SPDIF/optical) output.
Luckily, these converters are usually not expensive.
Why Google Home (Nest Home/Nest Home Mini) is not a solution?
Google promotes Google Home (now Nest Home) and Google Home Mini (and Nest Home Mini 2nd Gen) heavily. And these “smart” speakers support Chromecast as well and you can stream music to these smart speakers just like using the Android Audio.
But Google Home or Google Home Mini is NOT a replacement for Chromecast Audio!
There are no audio connectors on Google Home and Google Home Mini. You cannot directly hook Google Home or Google Home Mini into your speakers or AVR systems. This is different from the lineup of Amazon Echo devices, which all have a 3.5mm line out port.
The only way to hook Google Home (or Google Home Mini) with your speaker or AVR is through Bluetooth. You can also use Google Home as a Bluetooth speaker for your phones.
Of course, most of Chromecast Audio owners do not like Bluetooth. If you have a Bluetooth speaker, or you can endure the audio quality through Bluetooth, you probably never considers Chromecast Audio.
Anyway, Google Home (Nest Home) and Google Home Mini (including Nest Home Mini) cannot replace Chromecast Audio
Who needs to use Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers (as Chromecast Audio does)?
If your old Chromecast Audio is broken, you cannot find a new one. Instead of getting a “used” one, you probably should just get a new Chromecast.
For some readers who haven’t tried Chromecast Audio, if you have some nice old dumb speakers or AVR, you may also consider using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers. It will be far better than most Bluetooth solutions.
Using Chromecast to replace Chromecast Audio needs an HDMI audio extractor/converter (which usually is not expensive) if your speaker or AVR do not have an HDMI input.
The requirements of using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers (as Chromecast Audio does)?
As mentioned, if your speaker or AV supports HDMI input, then you can use Chromecast to stream music immediately without any additional setups or gadgets.
But most dumb speakers do not have HDMI input port. To use Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers, you need to have:
- Functional speakers or AVR.
- A Chromecast (any generations). Actually, there are no differences in streaming music using the original Chromecast or the Chromecast Ultra.
- An HDMI audio extractor/converter.
- Cables to connect your speaker/AV to the HDMI audio extractor.
So, compared to using Chromecast Audio, you need to spend some money on an HDMI audio extractor (read on).
What HDMI audio extractor/converter should I use for Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers?
Because your speaker/AV does not support HDMI input, you need to use a converter to transfer the HDMI audio from the Chromecast to your speaker.
Such a gadget usually is called HDMI audio extractor.
Why the $10 HDMI to VGA adapter is not a solution?
If your speaker or AVR only support an analogue input, you may consider using the HDM to VGA adapter (with audio) that comes with many laptops. Most of such adapters have a 3.5mm stereo audio output jack.
What you need to do is to connect your speaker to this 3.5mm port (and forget about VGA things).
If you do not have such an adapter in your desk, or the one you have does not have a 3.5mm jack, then you get one in most hardware shop for about $10.
But, those HDMI to VGA adapters/converters are not a good solution for two reasons:
- You may need one additional female HDMI to female HDMI connector (it should be very cheap if you can get one from the local hardware shop). Most HDMI to VGA adapter is in the format of male HDMI to female VGA. Chromecast requires an HDMI port (female). So, very likely, you need to use a female HDMI to female HDMI connector to connect (like this one) Chromecast to the HDMI to VGA adapter. Of course, you can use a slightly expensive HDMI switch (like this one).
- Most importantly, the audio quality usually is not good due to the very basic DAC used. It is usually insufficient for music, although it is normally better than using Bluetooth.
Anyway, if you already have such a dongle (and the HDMI connector), you can test the system.
If you intend to use the Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers as a solution, you should get an HDMI audio extractor.
You need to spend $20-$30 on a decent HDMI audio extractor/converter
HDMI audio extractor is not a high-tech product. And audio professionals seldom use it. It is mainly used by geeks. So, it is hard to find “big” brands for the HDMI audio extractor.
In the market, you need to spend about $20-30 on a decent HDMI audio extractor. I test some of these extractors and compiled a list in the last section of this post as recommended HDMI audio extractor.
Here are some principles for buying an HDMI audio extractor:
Rule #1, if your speaker or AVR supports HDMI input, you should NOT use an HDMI audio extractor. Period.
HDMI has the capacity to transmit any tyes of audio signals. It is superior to optical or coaxial cables.
So, if your speaker or AVR supports HDMI input, you should always use it and connect Chromecast to it directly (or through a supported HDMI switch).
Rules #2: Always get one with digital output although you do not need the digital output
Actually, in the market, almost all HDMI audio extractors support digital output, together with analogue outputs.
If you encounter any dongles that do not support digital audio output, you probably should not consider it. The chips used in such adapters usually is not good to produce the analogue output.
Rules #3: You do not need to spend more than $30.
Of course, some HDMI switches also have a built-in audio extractor/splitter/duplicator. You buy these switches only if you need a switch as well.
How to use Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers (as Chromecast Audio does)?
Again, if your speaker or AVR supports HDMI input, you do not need to use an HDMI audio extractor. HDMI input should offer the best audio quality when using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers.
If your speaker or AVR supports both digital and analogue inputs, you should try digital input first. It usually gives a better audio quality than the analogue input does.
So, analogue input should be the last choice or failover choice. The audio quality may be slightly affected by the extractor when you use Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers with an analogue input.
But generally speaking, the audio quality should match or close to using Chromecast Audio.
The setup of using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers depends on your speaker and the HDMI audio extractor. A typical setup is illustrated below.
So, when you set up the system to use Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers, you need to pay attention to:
- Chromecast should connect to the input of the HDMI audio extractor.
- All HDMI audio extractors require external power. So, you need to use the power adapter provided. Some adapters can use USB power.
- If you use the analogue output, you need to set the mode to 2.0 (stereo). 5.1 usually is only for digital output. Some HDMI audio extractors may not support concurrent analogue and digital outputs.
Hopefully, with the help of the HDMI audio extractor, you can now use Chromecast just like a Chromecast Audio.
Do all Chromecast Audio compatible music apps support Chromecast?
Yes, if your app can stream to Chromecast Audio, it MUST be able to stream to Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra.
Any apps that support Chromecast should work on Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra. Chromecast Audio support is just an additional option when app developers register their apps.
This means some apps (e.g., YouTube app and Prime Video app) may not support Chromecast Audio. But they all support Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra.
But if an app supports Chromecast Audio, it must support Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra. No exceptions.
Should I get the Chromecast Ultra to stream music to dumb speakers?
No, it is unnecessary. You can get the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd gen Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers. They usually cost half of a Chromecast Ultra.
But if you also want to use the gadget to stream 4K videos, then you should get a Chromecast Ultra.
The bottom line is that Chromecast Ultra does NOT provide any advantages when you want to use it to stream music.
My recommendation is to get a few Chromecast devices. And each one for each TV/AVR/monitor.
Recommended HDMI Audio extractors for using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers
As mentioned, there are no “big” brands of HDMI Audio extractors. But this does not mean all HDMI Audio extractors are made equal.
Standalone Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers
The following 4 are standalone HDMI Audio extractors that support both digital and analogue outputs.
HDMI switch with HDMI audio extractors
The following 4 HDMI switch with built-in audio extractors can be used when you need an HDMI switch (for multiple input sources) and an HDMI audio extractor for the speakers.
Do you have any questions on using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers (as Chromecast Audio does)?
If you have any questions or encounter any problems when using Chromecast to stream music to dumb speakers (as Chromecast Audio does), please let us know in the comment box below.
The community will try to help you find the solution.
For Chromecast Audio guides, please visit the Chromecast Audio guide page.
If your question is on Chromecast including Chromecast Ultra, 1st generation Chromecast, and 2nd gen Chromecast (aka Chromecast 2015), and the 3rd gen Chromecast (Chromecast 2018), please visit the Chromecast how-to guides page.