audio 'casting' options these days? - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 4 Old 05-15-2019, 11:00 AM - Thread Starter
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audio 'casting' options these days?

New here - first post - been struggling with a couple of different casting devices over the last year-ish.

Is there a 'Gold Standard' for this hardware at this point, or is it fading out of existence in favor of some other mode?

When I first looked for a way to get wireless audio going around the house, "Audiocast" pucks caught my attention, perhaps due to review fakery on Amazon, and of course Amazon isn't going to mention Chromecast Audio, so I didn't know they existed. I'm forever renovating so my speakers are always on the move. I bought two AudioCast pucks, spent many hours trying to get them to do just about anything, and found I badly needed to be technical-Mandarin-proficient in order to get support...eventually Amazon refunded me and told me to keep the damned things. They look very much like Chromecast Audio pucks. (If anyone wants them, they're free for the price of postage - PM me.)

Then I read something on a forum somewhere referring to Chromecast Audio pucks. Google seemed like they'd have been a better bet from the outset, for support as well as design. I ordered two...just a couple of months before they were discontinued, as I learned here much more recently.

Once I got over the initial-installation hump, the CA devices worked, most of the time, and were more reliable, but that's not saying much. It's worse than ever now: devices are connecting to wifi and per someone's post of the LED color/blinking-code-chart, they should be good to go, but Chrome can't find them when I click on the cast button. If it had been just ONE that couldn't be found, I'd assume it was a new failure, but it's both.

They never worked quite right with Pandora, in a way that made me suspect some kind of code sabotage, but I've not run across other complaints about this. One puck (nearest WiFi router and PC that I would use for controls) would be casting as expected, while the more distant one would drop out. Swapping the pucks doesn't move the problem - it's always the more distant location. If I do nothing, about 20 minutes later it will gurgle and sputter gradually back to life, very slowly, and very painful to listen, but if I'm up on a ladder or covered with dust, I'm not so inclined to go across the house to futz with my laptop to get things returned to normal. Repeats ALL day. When I could pause my work and walk back across the house to the PC, just stopping and restarting the Cast destination would return things to normal...for the next less-than-hour. Repeat ad nauseum.

But none of the above paragraph's problems happened, EVER, with Google Play Music. Thing is, though, GPM holds all kinds of mysteries for me. Tech support seems non-existent to the free users, and I'd (wrongly) assumed it would have to be better for a subscriber. I subscribed about ten days ago, and got ZIP when I tried to get some longstanding questions answered. One is the complaint/question as to why the length of a typical station's playlist is absurdly short: within a couple of hours I will hear the same tunes repeated. Doesn't seem to be any option to 'shuffle'. Doesn't seem to learn anything from my thumbings, up/down. And many oddities happen when I add my iPhone to the mix: ghost streams of formerly-selected stations will start playing, sometimes three different streams at once. Music regularly continues to play when laptop is sleeping...yeah, there are a lot of mysteries.

All this came to a head yesterday when CA devices just couldn't be located. The usual (not to say acceptable) remedy has been to reboot my laptop. Did that twice - still no devices. It rebooted on its own for some reason last night, and just now, I noticed that the CA pucks had been located again. I started Pandora right away, and...boom - they vanished.

So yeah, if all of this was to save the hassle and time spent managing the movement of wired speaker connections, I am deeply under water in terms of wasted time spent troubleshooting and writing stuff like this. Is this it is? What hardware works best for this?
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post #2 of 4 Old 05-15-2019, 06:52 PM
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This is a tough problem because of all the different factors involved with wireless streaming. First and foremost, your wifi needs to be solid. That includes both signal strength and channel congestion. If you're in an area with multiple networks competing in a small area, you're going to have a tough time maintaining the multiple connections needed to keep the audio from cutting out. That being said, there are a few major players who seem to do a good job.

1. Sonos. Yes it might be prohibitively expensive, but you do seem to get what you pay for. After adding a Boost device, which sets up its own dedicated network, these things are pretty dang good. You just need a Connect for each amp you want to stream to.

2. Chromecast. You already mentioned these. They've been around in one form or another for a long time, and it seems unlikely that Google would let them go away, especially when they've tied all their Google Home devices into that ecosystem. Adding a Google Home Mini gives you cheap voice control over your streaming as well.

3. Airplay. If you're already invested in Apple beyond just an iPhone, this might be appealing. I haven't played with the new Airplay 2 stuff yet, even the older stuff meets your qualification of the platform being around for the long haul. I've spent a decent amount of time streaming to Airport Express devices from my phone/iPad with mixed results. I do find that moving around a lot with my phone in my pocket usually results in distorted or broken audio. Airplay compatibility seems more limited than Chromecast as well, which is why I'd only recommend it if you're deeply invested in Apple already.
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post #3 of 4 Old 05-24-2019, 12:22 PM
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You could look at VSSL.

Chromecast and Airplay (soon to be Airplay 2)

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post #4 of 4 Old 05-30-2019, 03:07 AM
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The Chromecast audio, and most audio casting devices, uses multicast, and is hellishly hard to get to work in all but the simplest network environments. Even some of the (very old) wifi routers listed as certified by Google don't work because of firmware regressions. For example, the old Netgear R7000, which is my spare router on hard, is certified with the Chromecast but won't actually work with current firmware even after a factory reset, and nothing but cable modem, one smartphone running Android 9.0, and one wirelessly-connected Chromecast audio. This is as of last week, tested by me ...

It's trial and error, pretty much. And now that the Chromecast audio hardware has been discontinued, the situation may get worse.

You didn't mention what kind of router you have. From my experience, the Google wifi will work. 4-pack of Google wifi at Costco was $299, if you can still find it.

Google wifi is very limited in terms of admin, though, and can only be managed from a smartphone app. The mesh performance is underwhelming, also. It wasn't for me, and I returned it to Costco today. I have moved on to a much more expensive Ubiquiti USG + 4 x Ubiquiti NanoHD access points. Definitely for techies, though. And it still takes about 30 seconds for all of 16 Chromecasts and 4 groups to show sometimes. But they all do, eventually. I have been pulling my hair on this trying Netgear R7000, Netgear Orbi, Google Wifi, and the Ubiquiti stuff. My Netgear stuff will be put for sale as it just doesn't play well with multi-cast, and Netgear isn't willing to fix it.
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