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Guide to TVs, speakers, and receivers with Chromecast built in

Google lets you use your phone or voice as your remote control

The author at home with his Chromecast speaker

At first, I only used my Polk Mag Mini sound bar for TV sound. When I finally set up the built-in Google Chromecast feature, the bar became my living room’s entertainment centerpiece.

It just takes a few taps of my phone screen to fire up one of my favorite music playlists. And I can text or make phone calls without interrupting the tunes.

When I added a Google Home device, life got even simpler. Now I can just say, “OK Google, play some Dylan in the Den.”

The author at home his his son

For better or worse, my two-year-old loves saying the phrase "Hey Google" to request songs on the sound bar.

What is Chromecast built-in?

You may be familiar with the Chromecast device that plugs into your TV or stereo. Gear with Chromecast built-in works exactly the same way — but you don't need a separate device.

You connect the gear to your Wi-Fi network and get access to many popular streaming video or audio apps. You control everything with your phone, laptop, tablet, or voice.

Two types of Google Chromecast: Video and Audio

Right now, TVs are the only products with Chromecast built-in for video. That includes the latest Sony 4K and OLED TVs. You can use the built-in Chromecast to watch Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu, YouTube, NBA League Pass and much more.

TV and phone app

TVs with Chromecast built-in for video turn your phone into a sophisticated remote control.

There are many different products with Chromecast built-in for audio, so I’ll be focusing on that. You’ll find it in Home theater receivers, wireless home speakers, and sound bars. It allows you to play Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, and YouTube Music among others.

Streaming music service logos

How does Chromecast work?

Before I answer, I should probably cover some of Google’s terms here. “Chromecast built-in” used to be called “Google Cast.” So if you see that phrase on a product, it will work the same as the gear we’re discussing in this article.

“Cast” is also the verb they use to describe sending video or audio from one device (like your phone) to another (like your powered speakers).

Control with your phone

When you’re in a compatible app, like Google Play, you’ll see the Cast button at the top of the screen (shown in orange below).

Holding phone with powered speaker

When you hit the Cast button, your music will play through the speaker. If your audio gear is turned off, pressing the button will fire it up for you. You have the full playback control of the music app you're using, plus you can turn the volume up and down.

How to set up Chromecast

Chromecast setup is pretty quick and easy when your phone is on the same Wi-Fi network as your Chromecast built-in gear.

First, download the free Google Home app to your Android™ or Apple® device. The app will walk you through setup and will recognize the speaker or TV on your home Wi-Fi® network.

phone with setup screen

Next, you'll be asked to choose your preferred streaming services. I mainly use Spotify for music:

phone with music services screen

Once you're setup, you can send content by tapping the "Cast" button.

If you want to share video or audio from a service that’s not compatible, you can “mirror” your phone or laptop’s screen. You push a button in the Google Home app menu that says "Cast screen/audio.":

phone with mirroring screen

"Mirroring" will share whatever audio or video you have playing through your phone. That means your phone is making the connection to the content.

So video probably won’t look as sharp as, say, a Netflix movie — where your TV is actually making a direct connection to the streaming service. Also, "mirroring" will drain your phone battery faster.

Still, this is how I’ll listen to Podcasts that typically wouldn’t be available through Casting.

Voice control with the Google Assistant

The coolest and easiest way to control Chromecast built-in gear? Your own voice! It’s how I control my Polk Mag Mini sound bar.

During the setup process you can “name” each Chromecast speaker to make voice commands more natural. Pro tip: use one-syllable names, so your commands are quick and easy.

Now I can say, "OK Google, play the Black Crowes in the den," and "She Talks to Angels" — their most popular song on Spotify — will pump through the room.

You can use it with the Google Assistant on your phone or a separate Google Home or Google Home Mini.

Here’s how I set it up Google Home to work with my Chromecast built-in speaker:

Advantages of Chromecast built-in for audio

Bluetooth is still the most common way to play music wirelessly — it’s easy to use, easy to explain, and the quickest way to let guests play their own music. Plus it doesn’t require a network connection, so it works well on the go.

But once I set up my Chromecast built-in, I was surprised at how seamless it was to use from there.

JBL Playlist speaker on desk

The JBL Playlist is one of our most popular Chromecast speakers — compact design and solid sound.

Here are some reasons I preferred Chromecast built-in over Bluetooth:

  • I don’t have to grab my sound bar’s remote to put it into “pair mode.” I just hit play — or tell Google Assistant to play something — and the bar powers on and plays.
  • My phone deosn't have to stay within 30 feet of the sound bar. I can even move into another room — there's no audio dropout as long as I’m still within my home Wi-Fi signal.
  • When a text comes through, the chime doesn't blare through the speakers.
  • I can take phone calls without interrupting the tunes.

Multi-room music

The biggest advantage over Bluetooth? You can link Chromecast built-in speakers together and play the same song in different rooms.

It’s called “group Casting,” and it works with any Chromecast supported product – no matter the brand. So you could group your Sony sound bar with your JBL wireless speaker in another room.

This came in handy recently when we hosted my nephew’s birthday party. I had my Chromecast built-in sound bar in the living room and a Google Home speaker in the kitchen. Our guests heard the same song as they moved from one room to the next.

Here’s how that looks on the Google Home app:

Phone with groups screen

Conclusion

Products with Chromecast built-in are pretty handy and fun to use now. But there are some limitations – “casting” to play a podcast is an inconvenient work-around, and voice commands don’t always work as well as I expect. But Google is putting a lot of resources into improving the experience.

For one, I notice the Google Assistant grows smarter and more conversational every day. It understands when I mumble, plus can recognize and find most of the obscure bands I request. So if your TV or audio gear already has Chromecast built-in, the controls and features should just keep getting better.

Have questions about Chromecast built-in?

Or questions about multi-room music, voice control, or anything else we've discussed? Just call us! You can reach our Advisors at 1-888-955-6000.

Last updated 5/23/2018
  • Tim A from Chicago

    Posted on 11/7/2018

    In response to my own question/comment on stereo vs mono for Chromecast Audio devices: I had a long conversation with an expert at a Google Hardware store and he indicated that he thought that the device supported stereo output on the analog jack, he could not find it documented anywhere. He thought that my system setup was incorrect, since I had only amps and no "audio separator" device.

    So I did the detailed testing myself. Using a tone generator on my smartphone as input, I generated a two-tone signal - one tone for the left and the other for the right channel. First with my home theater system (no Chromecast Audio), I could hear the 2 tones and the "beat pattern" caused when using two similar tones (indicating that indeed stereo was being played through the system. Then, I used my Chromecast Audio device, with amp and in-ceiling speakers - but did *not* get a beat pattern (ie. my initial concern of not hearing stereo) until I physically moved location where I wasa standing! My room dimensions and location of speakers (two pair of left/right speakers) are such that they make for a number of locations where the audio interference patterns cause loss of perceived stereo.

    I stand corrected on the lack of functionality in the Chromecast Audio device. My apology to Google. (BTW, I trust Crutchfield/Jeff - my initial poke was in jest to start a dialog. :) )

    Hopefully this test/experiment helps others as well.

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield on 11/8/2018
    Thanks for the great follow up, Tim! I appreciate you bringing it up, and digging up the answer for us.
  • Tim A from Chicago

    Posted on 9/27/2018

    Hi Jeff/Crutchfield. Nice article, but one topic is not covered - stereo vs mono. (Actually, this is a bit of a miss from a Crutchfield (the audio guys) writer.) Nowhere in any literature is is explained that a Google Chromecast Audio device is inherently mono. There is no technical reason, from a casting perspective, that is needs to be this way but it is how is apparently designed. Have you explored this? Do you agree? I would be interested in knowing if some of the higher-end speakers the support casting address this. Can you point me to reviews and/or do some investigation on this? (I would really love to find a nice *pair* of speakers that I could Cast to in true stereo.) Finally, given my experience, for one application (room), I have chosen to stay with my Bluetooth *stereo* speakers, even thought the setup/usage is a but harder simply because of the better audio experience with 2-channel sound.

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield on 9/27/2018
    Tim, thanks for the comment. You're right -- I should look into this. I'll see what I can find out, and reply and/or update the article.
  • Derek

    Posted on 8/25/2018

    Question on how Chromecast built in actually works. If I have a CBI receiver and I cast an video or audio app to it, what is the phone's role? With a traditional hardware Chromecast (video or audio), everything resides on the Chromecast device so I can disable the mobile device that I casted from and the content continues to play. For example, in the past I've started a movie for the kids and went to dinner. Is this how the Built In works or am I streaming from the internet to my phone and from my phone to the tv? I'm confused because the google website states that I'm casting from my phone but it also says that the casting won't run down my battery. From this, it's not really clear how this works. Is the answer the same for video and audio apps? Thanks.

    Jeff Miller from Crutchfield on 8/27/2018
    Hi Derek,

    For the most part, gear with Chromecast built-in works very similarly to the Chromecast device. Video or music services that are compatible with Chromecast (like Netflix or Pandora) will make a direct connection to the gear (the receiver in your example). The phone acts mainly as a "remote" here -- it controls the content you're playing.

    Now, if you're playing audio and/or video from your phone that is not Chromecast compatible, you can choose "Cast screen/audio." This will "mirror" the content from your phone to your gear with Chromecast built in. In this particular case, your phone is making the connection to the video/audio service, so it will use more of your phone's battery.
  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 3/14/2018

    Very cool, Sudhir. Thanks for the tip!

  • Sudhir

    Posted on 3/6/2018

    Another pro tip: For each Google Home device you can set a different default speaker to any cast enabled speaker (including groups) and you could say "OK Google, play the Black Crowes" and the audio will output from the configured speaker or group of speakers. This can be configured in device settings.

  • Jeff Miller from Crutchfield

    Posted on 1/11/2018

    Thanks for clearing that up Darrin, I've removed my initial answer to Stan's question since it turned out I was wrong. Appreciate the help and hands-on experience!

  • Darrin

    Posted on 1/9/2018

    Right now, you can't group Video Chromecast dongles with Chromecast Audio or Chromecast built-in audio devices with Chromecast. For example, I have a few Chromecast Video and Audio Dongles, Google Homes, and a VSSL A.6 - all are chromecast enabled. I can't add the video devices in a group with the audio.

  • John Petz from San Diego

    Posted on 11/27/2017

    To me, "Chromecast built-in" is only half-implemented in all receivers I have seen. Why can't I cast a video to the receiver and have it play on my projector with sound as well? Perhaps it might be necessary for the user to change the receiver input to "Chromecast" or the Chromecast content could just override the current input selection if the user enables that. There is no technological reason a receiver cannot REALLY implement Chromecast if it is connected to the same network as the casting device, so please, please, will someone do chromecast correctly?

  • stan from Itasca, IL

    Posted on 11/6/2017

    HI - I have a question about my chromecast video dongles, and whether or not I can group those together to play music out of my TV (and one sound bar with chromecast built in).

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