Chromecast vs Sonos vs others: which is the most stable / least buggy? (not asking about audio quality)

I have a pair of Riva Arena, Chromecast audio-compatible (Chomecast is built in) Wi-Fi speakers (similar size and price to the Sonos Play One) I control from my Android phone.

https://rivaaudio.com/riva-arena/

The sound seems good value for money, but Chromecast is just one incredibly buggy mess. This is not about Roon, it happens with all my other apps (MyTuner for the radio, MediaMonkey, Tidal).

My questions are:

  1. What is your experience with Chromecast audio? Is the protocol always an unstable mess or do other speakers implement it better?

  2. How about Sonos? Denon HEOS? Or any other wifi system? How stable / reliable are they? I’m not asking about audio quality (tons of reviews on that), but about stability and reliability of the software. You don’t get a sense for that reviewing speakers after a few hours, but only by using them constantly.

My budget is limited. I’d start with two speakers the size of the Sonos play one, maybe with time add a third one in another room and a soundbar for the TV, but I am not looking for an audiophile system.

I’m wondering if the Sonos might be more stable than the others, simply because it’s the most widespread and therefore widely tested system?

What I mean by “buggy mess” is that it took me multiple attempts to add the second speaker to the network, multiple attempts to add my partner’s phone, you often cannot control the volume (you change it in the app but it doesn’t change), you cast to the group of both speakers but only one plays till you press the volume button on the other… a real, almost unusable mess. I have of course tried the IT approach https://media.giphy.com/media/F7yLXA5fJ5sLC/giphy.gif

Thoughts? Thanks!

Chromecast works great for me. I have it connected to an Emotiva XMC-1 via HDMI and I have zero issues.

By looking at your last paragraph, I’m thinking your problem is the speaker, not Chromecast. Have you contacted Riva for help?

PS - if you look at the Amazon reviews for the Riva speakers, you’ll see that you’re not alone.
Seems like your focus should be your speakers, not Chromecast:

Thanks.

So in your case the Chromecast controls only one unit? Have you set up multiroom? May I ask how long you have been using it, and what device you cast from (PC, Android, Iphone)?

I have contacted Riva, and am awaiting a reply. It’s always hard to make sense of reviews because there will always be positive and negative ones. I suppose that, at least with Sonos, there are enough (>4k on Amazon) to make the sample representative (72% 5 stars, 9% 1 star on Amazon); with more niche products it’s more of a gamble. There were plenty of positive online reviews about the sound quality; I am, in fact, happy with the sound, and never expected volume control to be an issue!

I have had problems with my Chromecasts disappearing, Sonos is always rock solid, for me, and has been for many years.

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How do you troubleshoot? Just wait, reset the speakers, reboot the router?

For me Chromecast has been a frustrating troubleshooting experience. Switching off, having a drink and going back to it another day seems to be my go to way of working.

I see. May I ask what chromecast devices? Dongles or speakers with built-in Chromecast?

ChromeCast in Roon works fine for me to the ChromeCast audio puck I have never had any issues. On my Nvidia shield though been very Flakey.

Chromecast audio. If they get a WiFi interrupt they can sulk for a while.

I tried resetting the speakers, but my Huawei phone couldn’t find them. I tried with a Samsung tablet; it did find them and I reconfigured both speakers. Had I not had another Android device in the house, the speakers would have been unusable. In fairness, no idea if it’s Huawei’s fault or Riva’s.

They seem to work now - let’s see for how long. I’ll update the forum after a while, even if it’s not strictly speaking a Roon issue, just as an FYI for anyone who might be considering these. Shame because the price, design and sound of these thingies seems great value for money.

I hardly ever group my chromecast endpoints. The Chromecast audio works just fine plugged into a NAD amp. I am using the Chromecast’s DAC and connecting via audio cable. The Insignia Portable speaker is great, even better when I got it for 29.99 on sale over christmas.

https://www.insigniaproducts.com/pdp/NS-CSPGASP2/5865906

Hi @YetAnotherLondoner

Just wanted to contribute to your initial question regarding stability and hassle free operation. I have tried Sonos, Raspberry pi based zones and Bluesound. Went back and forth between these, mulltiple times over the past 2 years. Based on my use case (multiroom music in sync), Sonos and Raspberry pi zones (Allo devices) have proven to be the most stable and reliable. The Allo Digi units i have are the best in terms of stability and hassle free operation (not surprising considering they operate based on Roon’s most up to date RAAT).

Alongside Raspberry based end points, I find Sonos to be have become very stable lately. It was not always like that. Up to last summer there were quite a few ‘Roon lost control of the audio device’ glitches when using Sonos. From about july 2018 onwards, sonos has become (for me) super stable and reliable. I encountered a lot of glitches and problems with Bluesound which I tried to resolve but ultimately could not.

Sonos is certainly widespread but I am not sure if this is the reason behind the stability as of late. As far as I understand, Roon piggybacks the sonos without trying to control devices directly as in the case of RAAT end points. It is essentially like a handover where Roon provides a stream and the Sonos takes it and manages it as it likes. Sonos is very stable and scalable, especially if you use its own mesh network (connect one unit to router via ethernet cable).

One final advantage of using sonos is that non-Roon people, family and friends can use it with ease. This may or may not be important of course. It is for me as I like to share my system with friends and family. The sonos app has significant limitations (65K limit, no library management) but it is super easy to use and also integrates alternative streaming services. I will not comment on sound quality as you indicated this is not part of your question.

One final point: You can easily tweak the syncing of sound when using Raspberry pi (RAAT) units. You cannot do that with Sonos. So if for example you use a sonos connect to feed a dac or avr that uses buffering or dsp (most avrs do), you will end up with music slightly out of sync with say a Play One (annoying echo). You cannot unfortunately fix that with Roon - Sonos.

I use both (Raspberry pi based end points & Sonos units) with great results but I need to reduce my box count at some point. It is a bit ‘crowded’ having two systems like that.

Hope this helps a bit

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Thank you! A very detailed and informative post - much appreciated!

One of the big advantages of Chromecast is the flexibility of combining hardware from various manufacturers. The Riva Arena and Sonos Play:one are similar in specs and price, but, if in the future I ever decide to buy a soundbar or a surround system for the TV, well, the Sonos ones are incredibly more expensive. Eg A Polk soundbar with a small subwoofer costs around £250, whereas the Sonos beam is £400, and the sub another £700. Quite a difference! In reality, this is the only upgrade I will ever consider - I am very unlikely to ever go for ceiling speakers or any kind of super high-end setup.

However, having a cheaper system that forces me to reset it every other day isn’t really worth it, either, so it’s these two aspects I need to consider: cost (for a future soundbar) vs stability.

All the other points and differences are secondary, at least for my needs:

  • the 65k track limitation in Sonos; easy to get round it using Plex, Roon or any DLNA server
  • Sonos only supports 2.4Ghz (it’s not about speed but interference
  • Sonos doesn’t have bluetooth nor line-in
  • the Chromecast firmware on non-Google devices depends on the manufacturer, so it often lags behind Google’s latest
  • Chromecast requires an internet connection even to play local files
  • Chromecast works with Synology apps (I have a Synology NAS), Sonos doesn’t
  • Chromecast means Google will spy on me even more than it already does, by learning all about my musical taste!
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Just to say: Sonos does have a way to provide line-in, although you might not like it much. To do this you’d use a Sonos Connect which is effectively a gateway between legacy analogue equipment and the Sonos digital system. The Connect is admittedly quite expensive to buy new, although you can find used ones pretty easily. (If hunting for a used one, it might be helpful to know that the Connect and ZP90 are exactly the same thing; the name was changed during a re-branding some time ago.)