One of the most challenging issues I have been working on for some time is whole house audio. The largest challenge has been keeping cost low, and my family adopting the solution. I first considered wired surround sound, but that turned into too large of a challenge, Sonos seemed like a great fit, but the cost placed that out of reach for our needs. After significant trial and error, the latest version of the Chromecast Audio seems to have solved my concerns.
From a hardware perspective, I started with a Vizio SB3851-D0 38″ 5.1 Channel SmartCast™ Soundbar 5.1 System. This worked well with the television, but doubled as a chromecast audio speaker. It was good, but only in one room, and so it did not get much use for music. Frustrated with my lack of progress, I decided to take a chance on purchasing 2 Chromecast Audio devices, with the assumption they would not work properly and I would return them.
The setup was pretty simple, I followed the instructions on the Google Home app on my iPhone. Once the devices were joined to the network, and speakers were connected via the 3.5mm analog port, I tested them individually with Pandora, finding the sound quality acceptable for what my families needs. This lead me to the reason for the purchase, multi-room audio.
The grouping was incredibly simple, in the Google Home App on my iPhone, and opened the device tab.
This displayed the three devices available as individual devices.
To create a new group, I simply selected the three dots on the top right of one of the devices and selected Create Group. I selected the devices to add to the group, and now I had a new virtual chromecast audio device to send audio to.
In my case, I have 2 groups, one for the house, consisting of the living and family rooms, and one for the house + master which brings in the master bedroom. Future plans include outdoor speakers on our back deck, garage speakers, and possibly something upstairs.
A few notes, this is great because I can keep adding more devices and creating more configurations. The main downside is the limited number of music services, I don’t use google music or youtube red, and my spotify account is the free tier, leaving me with Pandora for the moment. This has also lead me to think about adding a Google Home, although with an Amazon Echo and an Amazon Echo Dot, this is a tough sell at the moment just to bypass the phone for home audio. All in, this is an inexpensive and powerful solution, provided you are not looking for some extreme high end whole house audio.