Curious case of a would-be ‘Chromecast Audio’ successor

Google appears to be working on a new device that — at the very least — has the functionality of the classic “Chromecast Audio,” which helped make normal speakers “smarter.”

Chromecast Audio made speakers smarter

Back in 2015, Google debuted the Chromecast Audio as a way to make your home audio system smarter by allowing you to play Cast capable apps. The dongle replaced the Chromecast’s usual HDMI out with an audio out port, which could be connected to a speaker or home theater.

The following year, the Chromecast Audio was outmoded with the debut of the Google Home speaker, which offered an easy-to-set-up, Cast-equipped audio experience. Since then, the Google Home — now Nest — speaker lineup has only grown, while the Chromecast Audio was discontinued in 2019.

Despite being discontinued, the Chromecast Audio has maintained something of a cult following from audio enthusiasts who want to include the “smarts” of a Chromecast or Nest speaker in their high-end gear. In fact, a resale market has opened up for the original Chromecast Audio, with models on eBay often selling for significantly more than the original $35 retail price.

Part of the reason for this is that the Chromecast Audio was capable of high-resolution audio (up to 24-bit and 96kHz) unlike other Chromecast devices. With services like Tidal and Apple Music helping to make high-resolution audio more popular, a device like the Chromecast Audio has never made more sense.

A new ‘Chromecast Audio’ appears

In recent versions of the Google Home app, our APK Insight team has spotted that Google is preparing a new device, simply referred to as “YND.” From the code, it seems that YND will run on the same software as a traditional Chromecast — that is to say, note GoogleTV.

With a bit of digging, we found that Google Home includes code that explicitly labels YND as “Chromecast Audio,” alongside the original dongle, which was codenamed “Hendrix.” Putting it all together, it seems possible that Google is preparing a successor to the Chromecast Audio.

Notably, it’s likely that this device (if it releases) won’t launch under the name “Chromecast Audio.” For comparison, both the current Chromecast with Google TV and the upcoming rumored device dubbed “Chromecast HD” are labeled as “Chromecast Video” in similar code.

A refreshed Chromecast Audio would come at an interesting time for Google, given the company’s recent legal disputes with Sonos, which have led to some features being removed from Chromecast-equipped devices and speaker groups. At the original Chromecast Audio’s launch, we praised it in our review for offering the key benefits of Sonos speakers at a fraction of the price.

As it stands now, Chromecast Audio is an easy, cheap recommendation if you […] want to modernize a standard speaker with a line-in, RCA, or optical input. The result is very similar to what Sonos offers through its all-in-one speakers, priced at $199 and above, only you don’t need to replace the speakers you already own.

One thing that remains to be seen is how much demand there will still be for turning a classic audio system into a set of smart speakers. It’s possible Google could intend for a Chromecast Audio successor to launch alongside the upcoming Google TV powered “Chromecast HD,” which is rumored to be released sometime this year.

Some Pixel perspective

Another theory our team landed on is that this YND device could be related to the upcoming Pixel tablet — itself already listed in the Google Home app’s code. Our earlier reporting on that tablet indicated that it would be a smart display that could come detached from a smart speaker base.

In that proposed design, one would imagine that the dock would be able to continue functioning even while the tablet is detached. For that to be possible, the Pixel tablet’s speaker/dock would need to have its own Chromecast-capable hardware built in. Following through on that idea, it’s plausible that the arrival of this supposed “Chromecast Audio” is simply intended to let the dock be “smart” without its tablet connected.

In either case, it’s clear Google is intending to expand its lineup of smart home audio devices. Only time will tell whether that’s for the sake of the Pixel tablet, a refresh of the Chromecast Audio, or something we haven’t yet imagined.

Would you buy a revamped Chromecast Audio dongle if Google made one? Or are you more excited about the possibilities of a Pixel tablet? Let us know down in the comments.

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