Recently, the music streaming giant re-branded it’s CD-quality (flac) tier and is now available on Bluesound’s platform. The announcement is most welcome as I’ve been patiently waiting for a Tidal HiFi alternative. After signing up for their 30-day trial, I listened to a number of very familiar favorites and so far I’m impressed with the sound quality. MQA support is supposedly in the works as well. Time will tell if Deezer ultimately satisfies. I’m encouraged.
After years of playing in Apple’s sandbox, this past Spring I began looking in earnest for non-Apple replacements for my aging gadgets (iPhone 6 & iPad Air). In a nutshell, Acer’s Chromebook R11 convertible replaced my iPad and Google’s Pixel 2 became my 1st ever Android phone.
Late to the party
Google’s Cast technology has intrigued me since it’s release but, being Apple-centric, trying it out proved difficult. Now that I’m all-in with the right hardware it’s time to let the casting begin.
First, let me say I love my Bluesound Node 2 and have no desire to replace it. While not perfect, the Node 2 does so much right. Bluesound supports many streaming services but, unfortunately, Amazon Music and Pandora are not supported. I use both. Of course, I can stream both services via a Bluetooth connection but that method is not exactly ideal.
While Chromecast capability has yet to be implemented by Bluesound there is talk of Bluesound doing just that. (Fortunately, the Bluesound team does in fact listen to their customers.) Enter Chromecast Audio (CCA). Setup was a breeze. I decided on utilizing the optical connection to the Node 2 thus bypassing the CCA’s DAC and within a couple of minutes I was able to cast both Pandora and Amazon Music to my system. What a joy to use .. no stuttering .. no issues at all. Oh, and it sounds good too!
For now the $35 Chromecast Audio device provides a nice work-around until Bluesound decides to bake casting into it’s product line. At this price point .. it’s a no-brainer. Highly recommended.
The latest release (February 2017) from these Brits is one fine album. I first heard the band on Radio Paradise (a favorite of mine) and quickly became a fan.
Now that the weather has changed it’s time to swap out the amps. In goes the APPJ PA0901A miniature tube marvel and out goes the Fleawatt.
You can read more about the amps in this blog post.
After much research prior to my 1st Android phone purchase, I settled on Google’s Pixel 2. Despite being extremely happy with the phone I was, admittedly, a bit disappointed with the Bluetooth specs Google had published for their latest greatest .. Bluetooth 5.0 + LE. That’s it. No aptX (never mind aptX HD). I wondered if I’d ever have a chance to hear aptX and it’s reported step-up in quality.
What the … ?
Reports of Android Oreo breaking Bluetooth abound online so a few days after the new phone arrived I decided to test the phone’s Bluetooth functionality. Not only was Bluetooth working flawlessly, it only took a couple of minutes to recognize a distinct sound quality up-tick. Curious, I tunneled further into the Bluetooth settings on my phone and discovered an aptX toggle button! Here’s a screenshot:
Searching online I found this thread on Android Central. The claim is Bluetooth 5.0, A2DP, LE, and aptX HD are all supported, as it is in Oreo. I still can’t find an official confirmation from Google but, my Pixel 2 tells me it’s using an aptX connection to the Node 2.
Toggling the switch on/off I can hear a distinct difference and the increase in sound quality is certainly enough for me to use this connection when I’m streaming music.
I’m a fan of Scott Hamilton yet this album from 1979 has alluded me until recently. Terrific cast of characters in collaboration with Mr. Hamilton. Highly recommended.