Guide to play­ing your mu­sic with Air­Play

Ap­ple’s stream­ing pro­to­col can send au­dio to a va­ri­ety of de­vices. Kirk McEl­hearn shows how to make it work for you

Macworld - - Contents -

If you use a Mac or an iOS de­vice, you may know about Air­Play, Ap­ple’s stream­ing pro­to­col that can send au­dio and/or video to a va­ri­ety of de­vices. Ini­tially launched in 2004 as AirTunes, for au­dio only from iTunes to Ap­ple de­vices, Air­Play is now sup­ported by speak­ers, am­pli­fiers, re­ceivers, and more, from dozens of brands.

While you don’t have many op­tions with Air­Play Mir­ror­ing (stream­ing both au­dio and video; you can do this from a Mac or iOS de­vice to an Ap­ple TV), us­ing Air­Play with mu­sic is in­cred­i­bly flex­i­ble. There are ways to use Air­Play you may never have thought of. Here’s an overview of some of the ways you can send mu­sic through­out your house us­ing Air­Play.

Pick a speaker

When you’re play­ing mu­sic from iTunes, you can choose an Air­Play tar­get by click­ing the Air­Play but­ton to the left of the iTunes LCD. Choose a sin­gle de­vice, or, if you want to send mu­sic to mul­ti­ple lo­ca­tions, click Mul­ti­ple and check the de­vices you want to use.

On an iOS de­vice, tap the Air­Play but­ton in Con­trol Cen­ter, or in a mu­sic app, and choose a speaker; you can’t stream to mul­ti­ple tar­gets from an iOS de­vice, how­ever.

Air­Play tar­gets in­clude the Ap­ple TV, stand­alone speak­ers, and hi-fi am­pli­fiers and re­ceivers. You can stream to any sys­tem us­ing an Air­Port Ex­press (£79); just con­nect its com­bi­na­tion ana­logue/op­ti­cal au­dio jack to a de­vice with the ap­pro­pri­ate ca­ble. The Air­Port Ex­press also lets you ex­tend a Wi-Fi net­work; but if you sim­ply want a de­vice to use Air­Play, get the third-gen­er­a­tion Ap­ple TV, which of­fers the same stream­ing op­tions, as well as all the other fea­tures of that de­vice.

Make sure to check En­able Air­Play/AirTunes on the Mu­sic tab of Air­Port Util­ity when set­ting up the Air­Port Ex­press, if you’re us­ing that de­vice.

Stream to an am­pli­fier or re­ceiver

More and more home au­dio hard­ware sup­ports Air­Play. Not just stand­alone speak­ers, but full­size am­pli­fiers and re­ceivers. So you can stream from your iTunes li­brary or iOS de­vice to a stereo sys­tem. Brands such as Yamaha, Philips, Marantz, Denon, and Sony of­fer de­vices that sup­port Air­Play. Some merely play au­dio, but oth­ers also dis­play in­for­ma­tion about what’s play­ing on their dis­play.

If you want to make your home en­ter­tain­ment sys­tem Air­Play com­pat­i­ble, check out which de­vices sup­port the pro­to­col. Even if you don’t plan to use Air­Play right now, if you’re in the mar­ket for new stereo equip­ment, you might want to get hard­ware that sup­ports this pro­to­col in case you change your mind.

Stream Air­Play over eth­er­net

You may have dis­cov­ered that third-party Air­Play de­vices aren’t al­ways ideal. Some de­vices lose con­nec­tiv­ity, or play back mu­sic with stut­ters and pauses. My ex­pe­ri­ence with such de­vices has been mixed, and I think the prob­lem is that these de­vices don’t have ad­e­quate an­ten­nas to pick up Wi-Fi sig­nals ef­fi­ciently. In ad­di­tion, some hi-fi sep­a­rates may of­fer Air­Play but not have in­te­grated Wi-Fi. With some am­pli­fiers or re­ceivers, you can buy an op­tional Wi-Fi adap­tor to use them wire­lessly.

You can get around this us­ing Air­Play over eth­er­net. If you have an am­pli­fier or re­ceiver that sup­ports Air­Play and has an eth­er­net port, con­nect it to the net­work; Air­Play works per­fectly. I use the Yamaha R-N301 (£199) con­nected to my net­work with a pow­er­line adap­tor. (You don’t need very high band­width for au­dio only.) Stream­ing is al­ways per­fect; no glitches, no dropouts.

Stream Air­Play to a Mac

While Macs can be Air­Play sources, they can also serve as Air­Play tar­gets, with the help of third-party soft­ware. I use Rogue Ameoba’s Air­foil Satel­lite (a free ad­di­tion to the $29 Air­foil [­pgw] app). When this is run­ning, my Mac is an Air­Play tar­get, and I can stream mu­sic to it from any other Mac, or from an iOS de­vice.

The Air­foil Satel­lite win­dow shows what’s play­ing (with al­bum art­work) and gives you con­trols to play, pause, skip tracks, and change vol­ume.

Why would you want this? You may want to lis­ten to au­dio from an iOS app on your Mac, rather than

through your iPhone’s lit­tle speaker, or you may even want to stream from one Mac to an­other.

Stream from an An­droid phone

While Air­Play is an Ap­ple pro­to­col, it’s wide adop­tion in the home au­dio in­dus­try has led at least one An­droid phone man­u­fac­turer to sup­port the pro­to­col. The forth­com­ing HTC 10 (go.mac­world. com/htc10pre) will sup­port Air­Play stream­ing, so even if you don’t have an iPhone or iPad, you may be able to use Air­Play.

Stream­ing to ev­ery room is eas­ier now that Air­Play is widely sup­ported. With these tips, you’ll be able to get mu­sic to any lo­ca­tion in your home.

Choose an Air­Play de­vice (or sev­eral) from this menu in iTunes

Stream to a Mac with Air­foil Satel­lite

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