Add AirPlay to Your Classic Stereo with an Old Apple TV

Originally published at: Add AirPlay to Your Classic Stereo with an Old Apple TV - TidBITS

Ever wish you could hear what’s playing on your iPhone through your stereo system? Here’s a step-by-step guide to add AirPlay support to your stereo for less than $20 and about an hour of your time.

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I decided to connect an old iPad to an old hifi to provide music for a function. I looked at using an old ATV@ but realised that I have an unused HDMI to audio adapter (ViewHD) that has RCA, Toslink and HDMI output. I just hooked this up to a Lightning-HDMI adapter and the optical input of the hifi and voila!

iPad > Apple Lightning-HDMI adapter > ViewHD adapter > Toslink cable > Hifi

So my set up is all wired - no use of Airplay/wifi. All the bits were lying around, mostly unused for years. Note that the Lightning adapter also supplies power to the iPad.
Next step is to add a microphone adapter (Griffin MicConnect on order) to the iPad so it can be used as a PA system. I looked at wireless solutions and considered them unsuitable.

@ Concerned about the need to set up wifi for the ATV at the function venue so decided not to rely on wireless technology

Update on the public address setup: External (wired) microphone to the iPad headphone socket (3.5mm) worked using the Griffin MicConnect adapter and Megaphone app but getting it to use the headphone socket for input and lightning/HMDI for output was a headache. It is done via Settings/Accessibility/Voiceover/Audio & Send to HDMI.


You can play to multiple AirPlay (not just AirPlay 2) devices with Airfoil from Rogue Amoeba. It’s not free software, but it’s cheaper than buying new devices that support AirPlay 2. It also supports protocols other than AirPlay.


Nice. I have an Onkyo AV receiver with all the bells and whistles (refurbs are great if you can find them). A day after setup the receiver, a neighbor sent his Spotify to my receiver (Country music playing from my garage!) thinking it was his airplay setup. Calls me up and tells me he did this accidentally and that was when I found a flaw in the Onkyo-Spotify: that if you don’t turn of internal settings of the receiver, by default, anyone can take over your amp (that has access to your wifi). So then, that neighbor’s brother tells me he has a Onkyo receiver he is getting rid of (a 909! it retailed for almost $3K in the day). So I am swapping that with the newer Onkyo, and using my Airport express with the above instructions. Glad I didn’t get rid of no-longer used AE. I recommend that one turns off updates to the AE incase Apple pushes some update to older models that might brick them.

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I don’t suppose I should ask why your neighbor is using your Wi-Fi, should I?

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Honestly, I think I put my wifi on his phone once to get some updates. They are good friends, so I don’t have issue. But we thought it funny at first that country was blasting out my garage, and he was a block away (using cellular) and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t hear it on his phone app. LOL. Lesson learned. (I since changed my wifi pwd so until he notices…)

My story is similar to Dave’s–started using an AirPort Express, moved on to a 2nd gen Apple TV. Dave doesn’t mention that the APX had its own DAC and could output to a receiver either with (via RCA) or without (via optical to an outboard DAC) it–so if you can find one you don’t need to buy a DAC at all unless you’re fussy about them, as some are. I could never hear the difference, myself.

My story ends a little differently, too: since I’ve replaced my old (and dead) stereo receiver with cheap Marantz AV receiver. I can still connect directly, this time via HDMI to its internal DAC. It’s all good.

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Cool and very creative! Too bad those lightning adapters are so pricey! But certainly worth it to get something like that working!

getting it to use the headphone socket for input and lightning/HMDI for output was a headache. It is done via Settings/Accessibility/Voiceover/Audio & Send to HDMI.

Oh nice power tip!

Nice. I used Airfoil back in the day on macOS but I didn’t realize it was available for iOS.

Getting off topic, but no one seems to mention that before AirPlay 2, we could still send music from iTunes on a Mac to multiple speakers at once. I’ve always been curious what the underlying difference was. Maybe AP2 uses a truly multicast broadcast now.

Great story!!

I tried to get rid of my AE for years before I realized it would be perfect to use it this way.

It worked fine for about 5 years in that capacity. Then a couple months ago, the LED went out and it didn’t advertise its service. When I plugged it in fresh, the LED would flash once and then stay off.

Hmm, maybe I could have tried to access it via Ethernet or USB; perhaps it just needed the firmware reset. But we’ll never know because it’s sadly in a landfill somewhere now! :sob:

But it did seem “dead”. Maybe it got covid.

Yes exactly. And that headphone jack could drive a preamplifier quite nicely. Sounded pristine.

In fact, according to MacTracker, that humble 3.5mm headphone jack doubles as an optical audio jack! But I’m not familiar with that type of connector!

Newer Roku models have just recently added support for AirPlay. And assuming that you have your TV audio available to your receiver, that’s a very nice way to send music from your Mac to your stereo system.

As an extra delight, your album graphics appear on the TV screen as your music is playing.

Very nice! I actually mentioned going straight to your TV, rather than stereo, in an earlier draft of this article, but then removed it for brevity.

And I do think the Apple TV will also display album art up on your TV screen too.

For what it’s worth, here’s my solution: For a little over $100 I bought 2 satellite speakers and powered sub-woofer from Klipsch, which connects via that “humble 3.5 headphone jack” on my 2015 iMac. Amazing sound. Way less expensive than anything else I’ve audited, too. I first tried this system for playing my iTunes library about 20 years ago, tho I upgraded to the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1 THX-Certified Computer Speaker kit about 2 years ago. It’s designed for gaming and streaming, but I swear it’s the best sound system I could ask for (given limitations of Mp3/Mp4, computer electronics). But lots of self-styled experts who’ve listened to my system dropped their jaws to agree with me. Think it’s worth your looking at/listening to too. (You can find the system on amazon too but I like supporting the speaker craftsmen directly.)

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I’ve tried this solution on and off, and finally I just bought an old Airport Express on eBay to replace my AppleTV.

The problem is that the AppleTV wants to update every so often, and if I remember correctly it brought up other dialog boxes every so often also. Some could be dismissed via using my Mac to see the ‘screen’ via QuickTime Player (that was a complicated one to figure out). But sometimes I needed to actually attach a monitor to it again via HDMI. The ATV just isn’t really designed to be headless like an Airport Express is.

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For many years Macs have been able to send audio output via an optical (Toslink) cable plugged into the headphone socket. They just need a Toslink to 3.5mm socket adapter. I connected my “media” iMac to a Sony hifi in this way for sweet sound. They have recently be replaced by an Apple TV 4K and stereo Homepods - hence the spare parts for my experiments described above.

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I use the headphone jack on my Apple TV 4K to connect to my amp with a 3.5mm jack to twin AUX adapter cable. The sound is just fine.

As I remember the optical connector was just like a mini-headphone jack, but slightly longer, so it could use the same port. Pretty neat. I probably still have one somewhere . . .

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It’s known as a Mini-TOSLINK connector. The same optical signals as a full-size TOSLINK connector, but in a form factor that allows it to be embedded in a 3.5" analog audio jack.

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I did this with an old AE and my Onkyo receiver a while back.
Since the receiver has built-in support for optical inputs, my setup is simply:

Airport Express → TOSLink Cable → Onkyo

Works like a charm though occasionally it hiccups but a simple reboot of the AE fixes the problem.

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