Want to turn your home into a smart home … cheaply? For the next week you can buy a Google Home Mini for $45 instead of $79. That’s $34 cheaper. I doubt that there’s a cheaper way to smarten up any home. But when it comes to music playback, well, quality is only so so. But you can do something about that.

With several Google Home Mini units scattered around your home you can have multiroom audio and, of course, Google’s massive computing facilities waiting to answer your spoken questions. You can also increasingly control other gadgets using voice alone.

There is competition, though, mainly from Amazon’s Alexa. And the Alexa equivalent to the Google Home Mini has one marked advantage: it has a 3.5mm output socket. So, it’s easy to upgrade its sound quality. The Google Home Mini lacks that convenience. Don’t worry, there are two other ways of getting sound out of the Google Home Mini.

Google Home Mini “Default music speaker”

The first method can be useful if you have a Chromecast-capable speaker. Chromecast is Google’s method for passing sound and video from your network to output devices. In addition to some standalone speakers, many network-connected soundbars from recent years work with Chromecast. You can have your Google Home Mini listen for your voice and deliver whatever information you want using its own speaker but send music to the soundbar or higher quality speaker.

Google Home Mini
Google Home App

Here’s how. I’m assuming that you have already installed a Google Home Mini device and a Chromecast device according to their instructions.

  1. Open the Google Home app on your phone. That should show the name of your building (“Home” for example). Scroll down to the room where your Google Home Mini is installed.
  2. Tap on the Google Home Mini (you may have given it a name).
  3. Near the top right corner is a cog. Tap on that to go to the “Device settings” page.
  4. Scroll down to “Default music speaker” and tap on that.
  5. You’ll be presented with a list of all the Chromecast-capable speakers in your network. Tap the one that you want and then tap “Done”.
  6. Confirm that the newly selected speaker is shown as “Default music speaker”.
Home Mini
Default setting for speaker is the device itself (left); Choose your desired speaker from the list (right)

Now, say “Hey Google, what’s the time?” and your Google Home Mini will answer as normal. But if you say, “Hey Google, play me some music” it will come out of the speaker that you’ve selected. Most such speakers and soundbars will sound a lot better than the Google Home Mini.

Using Bluetooth

But what if you don’t have a Chrome-cast capable speaker? Well, you can use any Bluetooth-capable speaker instead. Doing that is easy.

  1. Put your Bluetooth speaker in pair mode.
  2. Follow steps 1 through 4 above.
  3. Instead of choosing a Chromecast speaker from the list, tap “Pair Bluetooth speaker” at the top of the list.
  4. A list will be presented showing you any nearby Bluetooth audio devices which are in pairing mode. Tap the one that you want, then tap “Done”.
  5. Back out and confirm that the Bluetooth speaker is shown as “Default music speaker”.
Home Mini
Chromecast-capable speaker listed as “Default music speaker” (left); Bluetooth speaker listed as “Default music speaker” (right)

As with Chromecast speakers, the Google Home Mini will continue to use its own speaker to deliver information, but music will come via the Bluetooth speaker. So will podcasts.

You can read about the Google Home Mini here. Go to the Google Store here to get the deal. The special price ends at midnight on 15 May 2019.

(That’s a straight link to the Google store, by the way. We don’t get a cut.)