Smart speakers may have a lot of different uses thanks to Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, but the four Google-powered speakers are in my apartment primarily for music streaming. Unfortunately for me, casting from Google's own music apps is so inconsistent that I'm often left reaching for my handy bluetooth speaker at least once a day because I don't have time to restart and rejigger my music because of the bugs.
That's a damn shame because when casting to a speaker group works, it's amazing.
YouTube Music is the newer, shinier music app from Google, and casting is six kinds of screwed up on it. You can't access the shuffle or repeat options while casting. Let me say that again: in 2019, the primary music app of a tech giant can't repeat or shuffle while casting to its own smart speaker system. That is insane, and in over a year since YouTube Music's relaunch, this still hasn't been fixed.
That's not the end of YouTube Music's casting issues, however. If you start casting a radio station — like the scarily good Your Mixtape — they will end at the bottom of the queue as it appeared when you started casting: new songs will not be added to the queue to keep the endless mixtape going. When casting longer playlists such as Liked Songs, the playlist often stops short, too, playing as few as 26 songs out of hundred-song mixes. This, too, has been an issue since the relaunch and hasn't been fixed.
There are some YouTube Music casting issues that have been slowly improving: it's been a few months since I've had my queue randomly replaced when connecting to a Google Cast target — so I'm hoping that bug has been resolved — but I have had my queue fail or clear when connecting to a Cast target. It's not happening as often as it used to, but I still have times where YouTube Music just refuses to cast a single song in a playlist and skips to the next song.
That bug pops up far more often on Google Play Music than it does YouTube Music these days — and no, these are not instances of trying to cast a local file — and while Google Play Music is overall more stable for casting than YouTube Music is, it still has more than its share of bugs.
In recent months, when casting to a speaker group, I've had one speaker start distorting during playback while the rest of the speakers keep going strong, only fixed by disconnected and recasting. More frequently, trying to connect to a Google Cast target results in a timeout or a failure. Even more frequently than that, though, if I don't manually disconnect at the end of a casting session — leaving my apartment and heading to the car, for instance — my queue will jump back several songs to the playback point it was at before I began casting.
Google Cast speaker groups are awesome, easy to set up, and one of the cheapest multi-room speaker systems you can start or expand, but when Google's own music apps can't consistently playback through them, what hope can we have with third-party music apps? When they work, they work wonderfully, but when they break — which they do with starting regularity — it throws off my groove, and makes me want to throw something out a window.