LG’s whole home speakers are among the first to launch with Google Cast for Audio, letting users play music from any Chromecast-supported app.
Casting tunes to LG’s Music Flow speakers will be similar to playing music and video through Google’s Chromecast TV dongle. Apps with Cast support will automatically detect when you’re on the same Wi-Fi network as the audio system, and will show a “Cast” icon that lets you send the music to the speaker of your choice.
Because Chromecast has been around since 2013, it already has a solid selection of supported apps, including Pandora, Songza, Google Play Music, Rdio TuneIn Radio, NPR One, and iHeartRadio. (Notably absent from the list is Spotify, though LG’s own companion app supports this service and others, such as Deezer and Amazon Cloud Player.)
Why this matters: Google Cast speakers aren’t the only way to wirelessly play music from a phone or tablet, but they’ll have some advantages over Bluetooth and Apple’s AirPlay. With Google Cast, the audio comes straight from the Internet, and the phone or tablet merely acts as a remote control. This avoids the degraded quality that comes from beaming audio to Bluetooth speakers. And unlike sound systems that support Apple’s AirPlay, users can still make phone calls or do other things that require audio while the speaker is connected. On the downside, Cast speakers will be severely hamstrung when the Internet is unavailable.
One way to take on Sonos
LG’s Music Flow speakers are already on the market, and are an alternative to Sonos’ whole-home speakers. But while LG’s system has some interesting features on its own, such as a way to send text commands to the speakers through Line’s messaging app, it can’t match the huge number of music services that Sonos supports. Google Cast should help LG fill in some of those gaps.
Prices for Music Flow start at $179 for a 30-watt speaker, and scale up to $379 for a 70-watt speaker. A few sound bars are also available at $499 and up, and LG will sell a 20-watt speaker with battery power for $199 next month.
Cast-ready speakers are also coming this spring from Sony and HEOS by Denon, but it’s unclear exactly when they’ll become available.