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  • The Computer Audiophile

    Google Home Hub for HiFi?

    Gigantic corporations don't always have consumer's interests in mind when pushing new technologies. They frequently have their own interests in mind when trying to persuade everyone else that their interests should align. Fear of missing out plays a huge role on the consumer side as does technological change for the sake of commerce on the hardware manufacturers' side. 

     

    Anyone seen all the publications jumping to video and vacating written articles over the last few years? Facebook was behind this big push when it told everyone that millennials only click on videos. It turns out facebook lied and covered up the evidence of this untruth until it recently came out in court documents.


    Where am I going with this? VR, VR, VR oh wait, it's now voice, voice, voice ... For me, voice control is a technology that has interested me greatly, but has disappointed me even more because it's in its infancy. Amazon, Google, and Apple have pushed voice control so hard over the last couple years that people feel like they're are missing out if Alexa doesn't spy on them and send a copy of their conversations to friends.  Voice control is all about ordering products from Amazon without thinking about which brand (see Amazon's push to get rid of brands) and searching Google without a chance to think about anything else (enabling Google to control the total experience).

     

    Using voice to control our homes and audio systems is an afterthought to these companies. That said, when I received a Google Home Hub on Monday I was excited to weave it into my HiFi system. Much of what the Home Hub can do is possible with the other Google Home products, including the $49 Home Mini. However, the Home Hub interests me much more because of its touchscreen and the capability to offer some other features such as showing my Nest cameras as quickly as I can say, "Hey Google, show the backyard."

     

    The loudspeaker inside the Home Hub is ridiculously bad compared to anything an audiophile would place on a desktop. I have zero interest in listening to music though the Home Hub, but I have immense interest in listening to music via the Home Hub. 

     

    Ideally I want voice control to save me time or labor by doing things that take me several steps or doing repetitive tasks. My goal with the Home Hub was to get music started on my HiFi system. Sure I have grandiose dreams of Google automatically selecting a Mobile Fidelity version of Dark Side of the Moon, but I can wait for that. I want to enter my office and say. "Hey Google, play Miles Davis." I want that music sent directly from the cloud to my Chromecast Audio device that's connected to a dCS Rossini. I also want the music to be lossless. 

     

    Is this possible? It depends. The easy part is using the Home Hub with Google's Home app to connect with services such as Spotify, Pandora, and Deezer. Currently Deezer is the only service offering lossless audio through the Google Home products. Just as easy is selecting a Chromecast Audio device or HiFi component with built-in Casting support as the default speaker / audio device. If this default speaker isn't selected all the music streams out the Home Hub speaker. 

     

    I played around with Spotify and Pandora as a test. Both work great via the Home Hub and my HiFi system. But, one goal of mine was lossless audio and neither of those services are on that train as of today. I set Deezer as my default streaming service via the Home app. Deezer HiFi is required for lossless audio or a Deezer Premium account is required for streaming lossy MP3 via the Home Hub. 

     

    Hey google, play Kind of Blue. In no time Deezer was sending music to my HiFi system shortly after I gave the Google Home Hub the voice command. Unfortunately, the lossless version of the music wasn't being streamed. According to Deezer, Google Home products support lossless audio and this will be the default for HiFi accounts. The Home Hub appears to support lossless, but given the terrible built-in speaker it doesn't really matter. In addition, Deezer supports lossless streaming via its iOS app to a Chromecast Audio device. I tested this with an HDCD capable album and DAC to confirm the HDCD light illuminated (indicating bit perfect playback of lossless audio).

     

    I tried for a couple hours to stream lossless audio using both the Home Hub and Chromecast Audio, but the combination was a bridge too far. Separately the devices work with Deezer HiFi and lossless audio, but not when combined. I asked Deezer support but have yet to hear back from anyone there. I started chatting with Google support online, but that was like a soup sandwich. All over the place and impossible to work with. The "person" on the other end of the chat had no idea what I was talking about, so I gave up.

     

    As of right now, I'd say lossless streaming via the new Google Home Hub output to a Chromecast Audio device is a no-go. I hope to hear back from Deezer about the issue, but I don't have high hopes. I'll update this article if I have any news or breakthroughs.

     

     

     

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    My home hub arrives tomorrow and I am interested in a similar, but inverse solution ... using the new display / cast function of Roon I’m going to play music from Roon to a device and have the Home Hub serve as the display so for example when I’m playing music while cooking dinner or we are hanging in my kitchen / family room area, the Home Hub will be the what’s playing screen. 

     

    You should be able to define a default output device for a Google Home and you can pick a Chromecast or group.  In my case my current Google Home defaults to Party which is both my kitchen home as well as a chromecast in the family room.  This works for news or music based on what you say. 

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    1 minute ago, atmasphere said:

    My home hub arrives tomorrow and I am interested in a similar, but inverse solution ... using the new display / cast function of Roon I’m going to play music from Roon to a device and have the Home Hub serve as the display so for example when I’m playing music while cooking dinner or we are hanging in my kitchen / family room area, the Home Hub will be the what’s playing screen. 

     

    You should be able to define a default output device for a Google Home and you can pick a Chromecast or group.  In my case my current Google Home defaults to Party which is both my kitchen home as well as a chromecast in the family room.  This works for news or music based on what you say. 

    Cool. Let us know how it turns out. 

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    Tangent, has anyone on CA tried a Chromecast Audio with a re-clocker between it and the DAC? For example, the iFi purifier? I thought the Chromecast Audio toslink to my DAC still sounded dreadful but I think Chris or maybe Darko wrote about it?

     

    iFi SPDIF iPurifier

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    The trouble always comes via voice when there are multiple versions of the same song; probability it will pick the one you don't want to hear (live version, demo, etc) ~100%.  Or if the band or album has a clever name like REM.  Or how about when you have multiple services?  

     

    It's just such a pain that voice control for anything but the most basic musical requests for me has been a complete bust.  I don't even try anymore.  The HomePod has been relegated to something my kids fuss with.  

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    22 hours ago, umiami91 said:

    The trouble always comes via voice when there are multiple versions of the same song; probability it will pick the one you don't want to hear (live version, demo, etc) ~100%.  Or if the band or album has a clever name like REM.  Or how about when you have multiple services?  

     

    It's just such a pain that voice control for anything but the most basic musical requests for me has been a complete bust.  I don't even try anymore.  The HomePod has been relegated to something my kids fuss with.  

     

    I've found voice control to be more pain than gain. Way back in the 90s I used to use voice control for my presentations at conferences (my employer had some experimental capabilities loaded on my laptop) and I was fortunate to not have horrible things happen when I was on stage. Then again, I was VERY CAREFUL in what I asked it to do, and stuck with a vocabulary that I knew was reliable. 

     

    We have Alexa in our kitchen and guest rooms, and after trying a lot of different things, we use the voice stuff very, very little. Radio and shopping lists. For the longest time, if I asked Alexa to play the radio station WETA, she'd try to connect me to WetRadio (whatever that is). There was no way around it. I sent the data to Amazon, showing every way I tried to make it work... and that it worked fine with any other radio station. I worked with natural language tools, and really, that was some slick trick turning W - E - T- A into WetRadio. We use it for shopping lists, but it does weird things from time to time. Like when we were at the grocery, opened the shopping list, and found soccer testicles on the list. Whatever that is. Painful no doubt. To this day we can't reconstruct what we said that produced that.

     

    I can't begin to imagine the horrors I'd experience if I tried to use Alexa or Siri or Google voice for controlling my music library. I'd get the Monkees every time I asked for Monk.

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    I need to develop a song that will use voice control to call itself up - an endless recursive money machine...

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    23 minutes ago, miguelito said:

    Doesn't the TIDAL app on iOS support Chromecast? Would that not add TIDAL to the list?

     

    Yes and no. Tidal app supports Chromecast but the Google Home devices must support the app for voice control to work with the service.

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    On 10/24/2018 at 7:13 AM, loop7 said:

    Tangent, has anyone on CA tried a Chromecast Audio with a re-clocker between it and the DAC? For example, the iFi purifier? I thought the Chromecast Audio toslink to my DAC still sounded dreadful but I think Chris or maybe Darko wrote about it?

     

    iFi SPDIF iPurifier

    I do, it is a very convenient and good sounding solution, especially if you feed the ifi with an Sbooster. Not as good as an ultraRendu to usb in but I am much happier when my wife uses this instead of the audio out. Darko talked about this. Still have to try the usb-power-and-network adapter he suggested.

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