A simple Chromecast trick for playing music in every room of your house

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The Google Nest Audio can work with numerous other Google speakers and third-party Chromecast built-in devices to play multiroom audio.


Chris Monroe/HDOT

Streaming music is here to stay, but for a lot of us it’s stuck on our phones or laptops. Google’s Chromecast built-in system enables you to liberate your tunes and play them on devices anywhere in your home (or beyond) and even stream audio that follows you from room to room. You can use apps on your phone or simply speak your desired tune out loud. Just try doing that with Bluetooth.

Devices compatible with Chromecast built-in, such as the Google Nest Audio, the Onkyo TX-NR696 receiver and the JBL Playlist speaker, can work singly or in concert throughout your home. You can create groups of multiple devices and send music, news or whatever to any or all of them at the same time, using the Google Home app on your phone or with your voice via the Google Assistant.

The best thing about Chromecast built-in is that it works with virtually every Google audio and video device, as well as a bunch of third party devices. It’s also free for both Android and iPhone

Similar systems exist, including Apple AirPlay 2 and Spotify Connect. And if you’re really serious about multiroom music then you might want to consider Sonos, but the downside is that the system costs a lot more and requires you to buy Sonos (or Ikea) speakers exclusively. For compatibility across multiple brands of phone and audio system, Chromecast built-in is a great option, especially if you own Google speakers.

Here’s how to set it up.

Read more: The best Wi-Fi speakers for 2021


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Getting started with multiroom audio

First you’ll need to connect your device to the network. Whether you’ve bought a Google Nest or a third-party device like the JBL Playlist, most Chromecast built-in devices can be set up from the Google Home app for iOS or Android. 

Note that some third-party Chromecast products may need to follow the setup instructions as directed by the device first. This could mean using the device’s smartphone app or navigating to the setup routine under the device’s Settings.

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Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/HDOT

New devices should appear on the main page on of the Google Home app once discovered, just click on them and follow the prompts. However if the app doesn’t see them, because they’ve been set up before perhaps, you may need to add them manually. 

To do this, look for the little “plus” icon in the top left-hand corner of Google Home. Pressing that will take you to a menu enabling you to set up a new device or create groups (we’ll get to that shortly). Go to Add and manage -> Set up Device -> New Device and all of the compatible devices that need to be set up should appear here. The setup process walks you through step by step; see How to set up Google Home for more details.

Read more: Best Nest and Google Assistant devices of 2021

How to create Chromecast speaker groups

A group consists of two or more Chromecast built-in components (for example a Google Nest speaker, Vizio soundbar and a Sony receiver) which when combined will operate as if a single speaker. To create one, choose Create Speaker Group from the “plus” menu.

When the setup page appears you can choose from any of the Chromecast devices on your network. After selecting the speakers you want then you can name the group — for example  if they’re in three living areas you could call it “House Party.” As a result the new “House Party” group will now appear on your list as if it was a single device.

Use your group in Chromecast apps

There are dozens of apps that support Chromecast, but here we’re going to concentrate on ones that are audio-focused. Apps include Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music, TuneIn and more — go here for a full list. To stream from a supported app, open it up and find the the Cast button (a screen with three arcs in one corner). On the list that appears you’ll see all the available devices as well as any groups you’ve created, such as “House Party.” Choose a group, play a song using the app and the music will play to all the included speakers and devices simultaneously.

Read more: 9 Google Home tips for music lovers

Using Google Assistant to play music

If you have one or more Google speakers, or even the app on your phone, you can ask Assistant to play music on a specific speaker or group. You can even set up a default speaker to play music from — say if you have a compatible receiver in the same room as a Google speaker.  

To do this, click on the speaker on the main page of the Google Home app — a Google Nest Mini, for example — then tap the Settings icon and then Audio. The third item down is “Default music speaker” and then you can choose the speaker you’d prefer to hear music/podcasts/etc. from. Then when you ask Google in that zone it will play back on the speaker. You can also make a group the default if you like. 

You can also choose your default music service for the devices to use. At the moment it’s a choice of YouTube Music, Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and Deezer. To change the music service from the main page choose Settings -> Music.

Now, you can either play music on the default speaker when you issue a command “Hey, Google, play pirate metal,” or you can ask Google to play on a specific room or group: “Hey Google play Radio Paradise on House Party.”   

Is Chromecast a Sonos killer?

While Chromecast built-in is quite powerful, it doesn’t have the same level of third-party manufacturer support as Apple AirPlay or Spotify Connect. Sonos is in its own realm as far as premium multiroom is concerned, but again it’s proprietary and a lot more expensive. 

With the right components and the right app you can build a killer Chromecast built-in system. There’s plenty of software — from Spotify, YouTube and Tidal — and devices from the likes of Vizio, Sony, Onkyo and even Cambridge Audio. While most people will use Chromecast built-in in conjunction with a voice assistant — for example, “Hey, Google, play dance music in Whole House” — there is only one app I know of that does for Chromecast what Sonos does for multiple services. That service is Roon, and it’s amazing — the best controller for multiple Chromecast devices hands down. But that said, it is primarily aimed at enthusiasts and not really designed for the casual user.

If you just want to stream from your phone to a (smart or otherwise) speaker then Chromecast built-in is an excellent, cost-effective system. If you’re looking to dip your toes in the house party waters for a very modest outlay, Chromecast gives you plenty of scope to grow in the future.

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