Add AirPlay to Your Classic Stereo with an Old Apple TV

Call me crazy, but I have been using a multiple speaker solution using AirPlay and iTunes on a Mac for more than 10 years now. The setup consist of 2 AirPort Express units, each connected to a stereo in a different room, and 2 Libratone Zipp speakers in two other rooms and, of course, a Mac. That used to be a PowerMac G4 Cube, but recently I switched to a somewhat younger Mac mini 2009.

I’ve ripped all my CD’s so I can now listen to them, or to internet radio, anywhere in my appartement, all controlled from the Remote app on my iPhone or iPad. I can also control the Mac remotely from my iPad or another Mac in my network if needed, to rip a new CD or install/update software for example.

AirPort Express - Wikipedia. Mine were both (are, really, I still have them in a bag in the closet) gen.1, the kind you plugged directly into the wall. I’d forgotten these babies could be audio servers if you added an external USB drive. Hmmm.

I have several AirPort Express acting as audio servers in various rooms of my house. iTunes (cum Music) has always been able to stream to multiple AirPlay devices from a Mac. And AirFoil can stream to them too (but only from a Mac, not from iOS. So there’s no direct solution for streaming from an iOS device to multiple gen-1 AirPlay devices. But this discussion inspired me to try the following, which works: On a Mac: Run both AirFoil Satellite and AirFoil. In AirFoil, pick AirFoil Satellite as the source, and pick the AirPlay devices you want as output. On the phone or iPad, select the instance of AirFoil as the audio output. Voila! you are streaming audio from your phone to multiple rooms (and they are well synchronized). As a further refinement, you can control the speaker selection from the phone by running Airfoil Satellite on the phone. If anyone knows a simpler way to do this, let us know.

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I was using an iMac to send audio to an AppleTV but gave up because of too many dropouts. I suspect the problem was due to using Apple Lossless and an Apple engineer who couldn’t understand buffering, or only made the buffer large enough for streaming compressed audio. I know have a Mac Mini as a server connected to the hi-fi with an A/D converter. I then use the Remote application on an iPad. My only complaint is there isn’t an option to show recently added Albums.

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Thanks for the note.

Besides the fact that updates for the 2nd gen Apple TV are, I think, long since dead, you can also disable auto updates, right?

The ATV just isn’t really designed to be headless like an Airport Express is.

True. But to make any changes to the AE, you have to connect it to a Mac with special software which, to me, was even more trouble :sweat_smile:.

In either case, once they’re set up, you shouldn’t ever have to touch them again unless you change your WiFi password.

You have a headphone jack on your ATV 4K? Can you share a photo?

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We could call you crazy :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:. But I call you cool :sunglasses: :joy:.

Apple was really quite ahead of the game. Jobs wanted to (pardon the pun) “own the media”, and made streaming protocols a priority.

I’d be interested in hearing more about this.

What I recall is that the AE had many potential applications, but you couldn’t enjoy all at once:

  • target for AirTunes media
  • print server
  • disk server
  • WiFi hotspot

This is just my recollection. Worth more homework.

But are you suggesting you could somehow stream tunes from an attached disk to your speakers? What would be the UI?

Cool :sunglasses:

Thanks for the tip!

Oh! Duh. I’m not at home and misremembered. I use the headphone jack in the TV that’s connected to the Apple TV via HDMI. Which wouldn’t really help if you don’t want a TV :slight_smile: Sorry for the error.

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Beats me, and maybe I forgot it because it wasn’t true :blush:, but Wikipedia says: “It can be used to extend the range of a network, including functioning as a printer and audio server.”

I never tried to use the USB port for anything, myself, and would be interested in hearing more about its uses too.

Many thanks! Our AirportExpressN has been sitting unused on top of the living room stereo since I gave up on trying to solve frequent dropouts when using Airfoil. . .

So I fired up Airplay 2 and Voila music in the living room!

When I read the post that mentioned Airfoil I decided to fire it up and see if I could stream Spotify. (When I stream Spotify via Airplay I can’t hear the music on my Mac.) A quick Airfoil update and Voila Spotify is playing on my office Mac and in the living room! And no dropouts as of this writing. . .

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I dug up my unused AE and looked at the instruction manual. It doesn’t show attaching a USB external drive - just a printer. However it does have an analog/optical 3.5mm socket so can be used with a Toslink cable.
Maybe an attached hard disk can be used as a “network” drive like the Apple Time Capsules but this is not mentioned. In any case it looks like playing music via the AE can only be done with iTunes on a Mac or PC.
You can see how old my AE is with this illustration (hint: look at the Mac!)

Does your Airport Express need to be on the same wireless network? I have an Eero network now and I do not think my old Airport Express can be on my Eero network. If it is on a separate network can AirPlay 2 connect to two different speakers on separate networks at the same time?

Good feedback, but I have to correct this point. As I mentioned in the article, I was using an AE up until recently. And I was able to stream audio to it from not only Macs but also iPhones and iPads. It works perfectly, (although, as someone else noted, it occasionally went offline and needed a reboot. But Apple TVs sometimes need rebooting too).

Great question.

I’m not familiar with Eero, but my guess is no.

If the two different networks are Bridged (different Layer 2s but common IP subnet), they will probably work fine for what you want. But if the two networks are Routed together (separate address spaces, connected via Layer 3), then probably not. Otherwise, it would also work across the internet :sweat_smile:

Imagine having your favorite song played in sync all over the entire earth!

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Fair enough - I think the manual was written before the iPhone existed. :grinning:

Update: I tried to start up the old Airport Express to see if I could use it as an “Airtunes” device. Unfortunately it looks like the wifi is either dead or not compatible with modern devices. Even after a reset it is not appearing in the list of wifis on a Mac or iPhone.
I even tried connecting it to my old “table lamp” iMac using an ethernet cable, without success (the iMac did not have wifi). Interesting that it still booted up after 16 years.

The AP Utility is in the App Store, but only for iPhone & iPad. The User Guide is here.

My memory is that the APX could extend a network. The User Guide confirms that here, doesn’t say it has to be an AP network.

I wish I had time to try some of these options out, but don’t at the moment. I rummaged around and found three of the little white boxes gathering dust . . . another time, a much bigger house.

After reading this, I was delighted to learn that two-port AirPort Express models support AirPlay 2, and go for about $30 on eBay. Had no idea. For multi-room setups where you want to bring your own speakers, rather than using HomePod or Sonos, this could be an incredibly inexpensive solution (the equivalent Sonos product costs many hundreds of dollars, and even old models go for considerably more). Of course, it requires a source to stream from, but a dedicated iPad or old Mac would do that job nicely.

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An iPod Touch is good for that as well. Copy your music to it and let it stream its output to an AirPlay device. And unlike a Mac or an iPad, you can carry it in your pocket.