Nest Audio is great, but what I really want is a new Chromecast Audio

Chromecast Audio
Chromecast Audio (Image credit: Android Central)

By all accounts, Google has outdone itself with the Nest Audio. It sounds pretty good, you can pair two of them for a true stereo experience, and of course, having Google Assistant built-in means it's more than a speaker. I used to think Google didn't need to make an original Google Home replacement, but I was wrong.

The Nest Audio is great for almost everyone. Almost.

But one thing Nest Audio doesn't do so well is integrating into any existing audio setup. And a lot of people already have some sort of stereo system they already like. It would be great if it could pass through a quality source to another amp and speakers like the Chromecast Audio did — or still does, if you are holding on to one or more.

That's where I'm at. I love listening to music and have several small bookshelf setups scattered around. One in my office, one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and one in the workshop. Some have expensive parts and others are pieced together from cheap amps like the ones made by Lepai (opens in new tab) and some decent but also cheap little speakers (opens in new tab). I can make a "dumb" stereo that sounds better than a Nest Audio for about the price of one Nest Audio. And I used to be able to make it a connected stereo with a $25 Chromecast Audio.

Cheap Lepai amp

Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Jerry Hildenbrand / Android Central)

The Chromecast Audio was cheap, but the parts inside were great. It has a decent 96KHz / 24bit DAC and a combo 3.5 or optical output. That makes it easy to plug into just about anything; a small amp and passive speakers like my tiny setup or powered PC speakers or even headphones. Yes, I have had one dangling off of my headphones just because I can.

A Nest Audio has no output connector of any kind and I think that's a missed opportunity.

I can't do anything of the sort with a Nest speaker, whether it be big or small. And that makes me sad. Even if I could, I don't think I'd want to spend $100 to connect an $80 stereo setup to the cloud, especially three or four times. That's where the Chromecast Audio shined; it was cheap and made things sound great.

I'm not trying to dump on the Nest Audio. As I mentioned above, I think Google did a great job with it. It's also exactly what most people want: a cheap smart speaker that looks good and sounds good. Google was smart to make it and the price is right based on what it can do. I only miss what it can't do.

Nest Audio

Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central (Image credit: Source: Daniel Bader / Android Central)

For now, I have four Chromecast Audios that I'm holding onto for dear life and a mish-mash of Bluetooth stereo adapters to stream music from my phone. A Bluetooth adapter, like this one (opens in new tab), can turn any setup into a streaming system but it's just not the same because it's coming from your phone and not directly connected.

Google isn't afraid to shake everything up and I hope there is something to replace the Chromecast Audio in the near future.

Google is not afraid to kill products and services only to come out with a replacement that it thinks you'll like better. Google Home morphed into Nest Audio. Google Reader was replaced by Google News. Hopefully, that means that Google is working on something that can replace the Chromecast Audio because mine — and yours — aren't going to live forever.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • I too have a few Chromecasts lying around, a few new in box. I have one connected to a receiver that drives my ceiling speakers in my kitchen. I one earmarked for the outdoor speakers by the pool. Definitely a device worth having that was discontinued too soon :)
  • It's like you guys have never heard of eBay. Also, an Alexa Input is perfect and only $10 (no clue on the DAC quality... but I can't tell the difference even on a $4k Sony+JBL system)
  • ebay is not going to guarantee continued support and updates for the Chromecast Audio. Also, Alexa Imput is definitely not a replacement to Chromecast Audio.
  • I use a Chromecast Audio with 3.5mm to optical cable to a Schiit Modi 3 and Klipsch Promedia 2.1 computer speakers. It's pretty nice for the price, and it sounds fine even when using the built-in DAC of the Chromecast.
    I waited too long and didn't buy more when I should have.
  • I've got two in different areas of the house and one stored away. I dread the day any of them gives up the ghost. Unfortunately I don't think google is interested in making a replacement.
  • 3 of my 8 chromecasts have died. be ******* terrified.
  • It's too niche a product for Google, they specialise in limited choice. A good compromise might be adding a 3.5mm out to the Nest mini, but even that is probably too niche. With the cast protocol being fairly open, I'm surprised a third party hasn't built one though.
  • I tried to connect mine through the Google home app a few weeks ago and it would never connect.
  • My CA is working fine with Google Home, fwiw.
  • I don't know why they didn't add the 3.5mm out to the Nest Mini last year. I get that they'd rather sell more expensive Audios, but for people like us they're getting $0 because they don't sell the product we want, when they could at least be getting our $40 for a Nest Mini with audio output.
  • Right? I cannot understand why they will not add a jack to any of their devices. As a result, I bought an Echo Show so I could connect that to my office speaker system and use that to stream music. I have a Google Nest Hub sitting beside it that cannot be used for that function. It makes Google devices look seriously second rate with such a minor oversight. It is mentioned in every review comparing Nest and Echo devices...just add it already! The external Bluetooth speaker connection is terrible to set up, doesn't work unless you are streaming music and doesn't work at all for the hardwired situations I have...which is where Chromecast Audio could have helped if they were still available. Not sure why Google insists on shooting themselves in the foot so often!
  • I don't disagree with your desire, but can imagine that allowing the addition of a speaker with an unknown gain, frequency response and variable position and distance might be a bit of a problem in a device that also contains a microphone. It's amazing to me that they are able to extract voice commands out of their own audio and other ambient sound as well as they do.
  • I was lucky enough to grab a couple for myself and father in law.
    Such a cheaper solution than the Sonos counterpart.
    If I was in the market today I would be going with Amazon Echo dots
  • I have a chrome cast audio connected to my "dumb" yamaha home cinema amp streaming music from my nas drive. When I heard Google were discontinuing them I bought two more ready to connect to other amps. They are still in their boxes at the minute.
  • Just use a regular Chromecast with and HDMI audio out adapter. This solved the problem once they started allowing Chromecasts to sync and stream audio to groups a few years ago.
  • I bought a couple when they were being discontinued once I read that it support bit-perfect output to jitter-reducing DACs:
  • They should ALL have a 3.5mm output. It would be really cool if it would play to the output and itself at the same time.
  • I use a raspberry pi with a Boss Dac card running Volumio plugged into my ancient hifi system. I use it to stream via AirPlay but I think it plays nicely with Google stuff too.
  • I have 5 chromecast audios, it's great that I can listen to the same music wherever I go in my home or yard. I'm not too worried that one of the devices might bite the dust. My concern is that Google will no longer support them and they will be as worthless as my Logitech Revue, the original Google TV.
  • i'm on my patio listening to the powered version of the linked speakers, the PB42X, running off a Chromecast. powered by a 6S lipo (~24V, which, nicely, is also the Nest Audio's voltage haha) and USB battery pack. looking forward to some day test driving versus the Nest Audio but heavens i wish others had access to this kind of great set up, the flexibility to add digital systems to their existing audio. good recommendations./mentions i only recently replaced my Lepai equivalent/predecessor (the Sonic Impact T-Amp gen2 5056) with a better chip amp. this article is so on point. the Chromecast Audio is such a wonderful option to mix good wireless/digital in to the rest of the existing world. it's absence leaves a massive gap, a huge rifti n the world, that makes me very very sad. thanks for the post on them. i hope some day we go back to good.
  • Just setup my 2nd CCA a week ago. Still have 1 more NIB. Use them every day. Will be a sad day for me if they stop working.
  • Omg, I didn't remember that. I did a little search on ebay and they are now rounding the $80 (new) and used $40.
  • You guys talking about 3.5mm jacks don't understand that the big appeal (for me, at least) is the digital output to an amp with a good DAC. Granted, you could use a standard Chromecast these days. But only if your amp supports HDMI audio. And then I don't think you can add it to a speaker group?
  • I really wish Google would bring back Chromecast audio. Like so many others, I've got some great stereos around the house that don't need replacing but don't have Bluetooth etc. If I could add a chromecast audio to each machine that would extending its life and keep it out of landfill. Once th eventually die I'll replace with Google home speakers.
  • They're not going to do it. They want you to buy their smart speakers instead of using the nice stereo system you already have. I have a good-quality 5.1 system that puts out pretty fine tunes, currently powered by my only CA. I'll be looking into using the regular Chromecast since my receiver accepts HDMI audio once my CA dies.
  • " this article is so on point." -rektide
  • I've got a bunch of devices with Chromecast Audio built-in - a Sony Receiver for the home theater, a NAD amp for the drum practice room, Sony speakers for a few itherdifferent rooms, and an outdoor speaker that mainly lives in the garage. After that I've got 3 Chromecast Audio dongles for my office speakers, main stereo rig and some speakers on a piano. I recently got the Nest Audio (which is excellent) and it replaced a Google mini and Sony Chromecast speaker that didn't have any smart capabilities. The ability to pair the Google Mini to another default Chromecast Audio device for better sound was ingenious but for the sake of space and not having to occupy two outlets, the Nest Audio is a massively better solution for smaller spaces like bathrooms. The Nest Audio seems to be a good bit more responsive than the Nest Mini too, particularly when compared to the first generation Nest Mini. It's not the most transparent sounding speaker but I find the Nest Mini to be very musically engaging and it doesn't distort at higher volumes like speakers costing twice as much which unfortunately so often do.
  • Was this article serious? The New Nest Audio isn't a replacement for Chromecast Audio it's the replacement for the Google Home unit.... Bahaha
  • Cool dropped the Chromecast audio just like it's doing with everything else. The idea is to force you to buy more expensive things. They've already made my Google home new useless by demanding that I buy premium YouTube music to play my own songs. I paid hundreds of dollars for Google home devices and hundreds of dollars to buy songs only to now have Google tell me I have to pay for premium YouTube to play my own music on my own devices. They are doing the same thing with Chromecast audio. They want to make you buy more expensive devices. Alexa is looking more and more better by the day
  • Leave it to Google to discontinue the best piece of hardware that they ever made.
    I have CCAs serving as the inputs for built in wall speakers in just about every room of my house. They seemed too good to be true and Google proved that to be true.