Chromecast and external DAC


I’m trying to set up a budget system to stream Tidal and Chromecast Audio caught my attention. I have a Schiit Multibit on the way and was wondering if anyone uses Chromecast Audio as the streaming source and if so, have you tried using an external DAC with it. It apparently has optical and a micro USB ports and I would be interested in using the USB port on the Modi.
Anyone tried such a set up? How’s the sound quality?
Thanks in advance.
Dfc79476 b7e2 448b 8f7b 3aed2a5e9ad4kalali
I use a few of them, both with their analogue output (into an older high end amplifier in the main system) and a modern more modest amplifier with digital optical input in the bedroom. It does not have a usb output, only mini optical and analogue (mini headphone style plug).
Even the analogue output from the modest internal DAC sounds fine in my main system with Quad electrostats, streaming Qobuz 16/44. See here for measurements that do confirm this favourable impression. The optical digital output is also clean insofar as the modest bedroom system allows me to tell. See here for measurements: http://archimago.blogspot.nl/2016/02/measurements-google-chromecast-audio_27.html
If your wifi is not that good, there is an ethernet adapter for a wired connection.
just got a chromecast and am using it (through its mini optical) with a mf vdac--as willemj states its digital output is very clean and noticeably better than the not-bad analogue output. if you already have an optical cable, a mini adapter costs about $3. i also tried an amazon echo, which is bluetooth/analogue connection and much inferior, though fun to yell at
I've used mine with a Bifrost Multibit and it sounds great. The CA is an audiophile bargain IMO. I use a nice glass fiber Lifatec Mini Toslink/Toslink cable:

http://www.lifatec.com/toslink2.html

Thank you gentlemen. Appreciate all the inputs and the links. So it looks like what I’ll need is a mini optical to regular optical cable to hook it up to the Modi. I already have a the 3.5mm mini plug to stereo RCA adaptor which I currently use to stream from iPhone through the line input on the preamp, but wanted something better and wireless. For the price, it’s a no brainer.

I move my Chromecast Audio from rig to rig(I know they are only $35.00) and it shines more when I stream digital via mini toslink to my Cambridge Audio 840C player/DAC.  For the price of entry of $35.00, the built in DAC is acceptable when I just connect to my integrated amps via RCA analog.  Only have Spotify and Pandora so I am sure with Tidal it will sound better also with the outboard DAC.

Bill
You will be amazed how good it is. The analogue output is fine for 16/44, but struggles a bit at 24/96. With its bitperfect digital output it really is a no compromise solution up to 24/96, and for only $35. If you use more than one, you can even synchronise them for multiroom use (if that takes your fancy).
In our bedroom we use the digital output into a small Ava Maestro 50 amplifier with auto on off. The amp and Chromecast sit out of sight, and are switched on automatically if and when there is a signal from the app. The TuneIn Internet Radio app has a sleeptimer that turns the system off automatically after a set interval. Unfortunately not all apps have this option.
I just picked one up earlier this afternoon. Can’t believe how small it is! Unfortunately I couldn’t find the optical cable locally so had to order it online. Real anxious to try it with the Modi Multibit and see how it compares with my Bluesound Node2.
Thanks again for all your help. 
Get Lifatec

this little thing is crazy good. 

Got the Chromecast gadget set up and so far only listened through  the analog output and it sounds real good. I had been using a similar  arrangement using the analog/earphone output of my iPhone and with the obvious benefit of wireless access/control, I can't say if the internal DAC in the dongle is better than the iPhone DAC but its definitely not worse. This is a temporary set up until I get the optical cable and run it through the Modi Multibit which I'm hoping will sound better. All in all, its a really great device even at double the price.

I'm particularly happy about being able to stream Tidal HiFi using this device even if it probably doesn't go any higher than 24/96. Definitely good enough for this system since its main use will be vinyl. By the way, the CDs already sound better running the player through the Modi right out of the box. But that's a whole different discussion.

mr_bill, wtf - No doubt lifatec glass cable is good but for now I'm trying to manage the cost for this moderate system so ~$100 just seemed a little out of proportion. But it'll be on my list, maybe next month.

willemj, I know you've been talking about how good is this Chromecast Audio and based on my brief experience so far I tend to agree with your sentiments.

I'll do some A/B testing with the Bluesound in my main system when I get the optical cable.

Thank you all again.

Good to hear you are happy. However, I noticed I forgot to include the link to the measurements of the analogue output: http://archimago.blogspot.nl/2016/02/measurements-google-chromecast-audio.html It is fine at 16/44 but measurably struggles at higher resolutions. With the analogue output there is something else to be aware of, however, since Google confuses the issue. There is an option for what they call High Dynamic Range, and you would think that is good news. However, in reality dynamic range is just the same as the default setting. The only difference is a higher output voltage. Standard is some 1.2 Volt if I remember correctly and HDR is the CD red book standard 2.0 Volt. As it so happens, that 2.0 Volt is pretty high for many analogue input stages, potentially leading to clipping of the input signal (my hunch is that a lot of what people call digital harshness is actually this input clipping). So in many systems the default may actually be better than the tempting High Dynamic Range. With the digital output this is not an issue, of course.
@kalali .. glad you like the little gizmo, it's very cool tech. It's pretty close in sound quality compared to my Node 2 when using the Bifrost Multibit. In fact, I'm not sure I have a clear preference. The CA can also be used via analog-in into the Node 2 for non-supported services like Pandora and Google Play. Such a versatile little device! BTW, I had the Lifatec cable in storage, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered with a cable costing more than twice the price of the CA. Have fun. Best.
I followed @willemj advice and for a month now stream "90 days free" Tidal thru Chromecast into Wadia 781i DAC. Sounds very good! Upgraded $5 generic mini-Toslink to WireWorld Supernova-6 glass mini and the sound got "snappier", the way Naim-head like me likes it! No double-blind testing here, so maybe its just in my head... Again, the only reason for Toslink upgrade was because I misread Wadia manual that it sounds its best with "glass optical" not realizing that its a separate proprietary input, not just plastic vs glass Toslink. Stupid me! But used $40 WireWorld off eBay does seem to sound better. Not as good as CD/SACD replay, but those who actually know what they r talking about say that Wadia is at its best as a transport-DAC, not just DAC

The only reason for my future upgrade from Chromecast would be because Chromecast won’t stream gigabytes of tunes off my laptop, but I can live with that: gives me an excuse to use my dozen modded iPods and Pono player ;-)

at the end of the day I cannot say if it was @willemj or Tidal’s free trial that pushed me into streaming, considering dozens of CDs in my collection still unopened I am glad that I fell for it!

P.S. Tidal gave me an excuse to fire up (the first time in 20 years in my case!) Nakamichi cassette deck! As long as I keep my Tidal subscription (and I will) I can listen to the tunes "softened up" by cassette replay!! Long live Perfect Sound Forever dumbed down to analog ;-)
The Chromecast Audio can also stream from your laptop if you use BubbleUPnP.

So I waited until I got the optical cable to give some more feedback on my experience with Chromecast Audio. In the meantime I let the Modi to soak in and also got the cable adapter to connect my iPhone to the USB port on the Modi. Streaming the same song using Tidal HiFi, the sound quality using the iPhone -> USB is clearly better than the Chromecast using the optical output and significantly better than the Chromecast analog output. The analog output is noticeably more veiled in comparison. I’m of course using different cables for each scenario but they are all moderately priced so that should not be a factor. The optical and USB ports on the Modi also appear to have similar specs. Anyway, I still say its worth the $35 selling price just for the convenience it adds to stream wirelessly but in my set up and to my ears, the phone/tablet -> USB connection is far superior.

I was tempted to take it downstairs and do a comparison with my Bluesound Node 2 in my main system but I figured it would ultimately be pointless since there are too many differences between the two set ups to draw any meaningful conclusions. Everything from a dedicated 20 amp circuit and power conditioner to cables and speakers and everything in between is different.

kalalai, i'd actually be curious to hear how the chrome compares to the node in the same syetme--if you want to take one for the team, let us know...
Will gladly oblige. I’ll just take the Node2 upstairs and swap it with the CC. 
By the way, those of you who have an iPhone and a DAC, owe it to yourselves to try it with the camera adapter cable USB connection. It sounds incredibly good streaming Tidal HiFi. 
Lot easier than I expected. Node 2 sounds more crisp with more detail and overall just a bit livelier but only a little bit. Definitely not day and night difference and certainly not 15 times better but clearly audible nonetheless. Part of it could be the difference in cables but I think the difference is more than just cables. 
I still think the hardwired USB iPhone connection is better by a tad. Certainly cannot blame it on my WiFi sincespeedtest just showed 208 Mb/s download speed 
loomisjohnson, thanks for the encouragement. I would have continued to wonder how they compared. 
thanks, kalali. sorta what i expected--that little chromecast w/optical is still a helluva cheap thrill
@kalali you just opened a can of "upgraditis" for me, I do not care much about price, Tidal and CC is just a legit substitute for bittorents to know which CDs/LPs to buy. Now I have to actually look into this new (for me) streaming thing, shoot!!! ;-(
How has your Chromecast Audio experience been for you so far?
I had a left over Google Home Mini from Christmas so I got it all setup
bought 6 of the Chromecat Audio’s[Gamestop $25.97 Best Buy matched the price]
.I had to add it to an input on My Onkyo Receiver[Toslink] as the Chromecast Audio and regular Chrome cast on My 4K Sony will not Play together yet[supposed to be able to use them together in a future update]
I downloaded Google Home to My Samsung Android Tablet for main control
.I used one of the Ca’s on the aux input of the Bose Soundlink,
2 of them to plug into my JBL LSR305 powered Monitors[they needed 1/8" to 1/4" adapters],
I plugged 1 into my Klipsch Computer Speakers and
I used 1 to plug into a Kustom PA50 Mini Pa.
I reset all to the Hidef setting[it should be on by default IMHO]
I set up a Kitchen group
Front Room Group
Outside Group and a Whole House Group
I can adjust All Volumes at once or
each one by itself.
Not sure why Google hasn’t updated to allow The built in Chromecast on my TV to integrate with the CA’s.
It would also be nice to assign a Left and a Right speaker for a stereo sound group.So far it is pretty sweet and a perfect way to put that old garage stereo/mancave stereo to use in a Modern fashion.
Old Boombox=Check!
Bluetooth Speaker[with Aux in]=Check
Car Stereo with Aux in=Check
I want to try one of the external phone battery bricks and see how long the Chromecast Audio lasts "Wireless and Unplugged",
so if you have a battery powered speaker you could add the CA and the power brick..a little Velcro and you could reach any part of your Domain.
I just upgraded the wifi to the lynksis Velop mesh network.I used 2 and plan on buying a third and 4th just to totally cover the whole house and yard with Wifi-ness.
It does really well now but I want to set one up by the TV/Stereo cluster