Record player, AirPort Express. But how do I listen to my music?

I read this thread but still have a question if anyone can help. I have a vintage record player and AirPort Express which I’ve successfully connected to my mesh network. My question is this. If I buy a pre-amp, connect my record player to the phono-in ports on the pre-amp and the AE to the phono-out ports via a phono to 3.5mm jack plug will I be able to listen to the music on my mini HomePods?

The AirPort Express is used to push audio from any networked Mac to an amp or speaker (analog or digital) connected to that Express’ audio out port. But it does not pull music from an external source and distribute it over a network, which is I believe what you are trying to do.

Mmm, not sure I grok the question. The HomePod has no storage; it’s not an media source. You stream from your other devices (Mac, iPhone, etc) to it, or you ask it to stream from the Internet (Apple Music, Apple Podcasts, etc). The closest I can get to answering your question might be that you can tell your AirPort Express and HomePod to receive audio simultaneously from some other device, i.e. you can certainly use both in a multi-room arrangement. Is that it?

I understand (I think), thanks. So I need to plug a pre-amp into my MacBook and then Airplay from the MacBook to the HomePods - and yes I’m trying to get multi room music.

And all to play 50+ year old LPs.

OK, I think I’ve got it. So the part you really need help with is where you redirect your record player’s output through a Mac and onto the AirPlay network. Certainly your Express can’t help you with that; it’s supposed to connect to speakers, so it can be part of your multi-room arrangement, but it doesn’t take input. I think you’ll use some software from Rogue Amoeba, but I’m afraid I’m not familiar enough with that, or whether it will do multi-room to HomePods. You might start by checking it out.

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I don’t know what your budget might be, but web searching found this (pretty expensive, IMO) device:

MartinLogan: Unison. This $200 box is basically an AirPlay compatible transmitter. Hook it up to line-level output (e.g. from a phono preamp or from a receiver’s line-out) and it will broadcast that audio over your LAN where any AirPlay receiver can play it.

Quite a bit more expensive than a copy of Rogue Amoeba Airfoil ($35) and a USB audio input device (I use this one with my Mac), but quite a bit less expensive than getting a new Mac to act as a dedicated host for the software (if that’s what you have in mind).


That was really helpful - contacted Rogue Amoeba and they confirmed that would work (with a pre amp). I can use the Tidbits discount as well. I’ll use the trial version first just to double check.

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Great. The UFO202 looks perfect for my needs and is now ordered from Amazon. I don’t want to spend a lot of money as I can actually stream all my LPs from Apple Music but just wanted to listen to the original recordings e.g. Who’s Next, All things must pass. And so on.

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Just note that the UFO202 doesn’t include any software and minimal documentation. But you don’t need it. Your Mac will see it as a generic USB audio device, and should therefore be compatible with any software you choose to use it with.

FWIW, I use it to transfer vinyl and cassettes to my music library. I use the open source Audacity software for this.


I have an ancient device called an iMic that plugs into the USB port of a Mac and has input from AUX (eg a turntable or maybe preamp) or a microphone. The Mac then needs audio software to send the output to Homepods.
But some people claim the sound quality is much better playing the vinyl using a conventional analogue hifi.
In any case, just about all of my vinyl records are now available on Apple Music (or Spotify).

A coincidence. I was explaining to my bemused son yesterday, via FaceTime, my quest to play my LPs though I no longer have a stereo system (‘why do you still have a 40 year old record player when you subscribe to Apple Music?’ was his perfectly reasonable question). He then reminded me that he still had an iMic I’d bought for him a long time ago so he could plug his electric guitar into his Mac and listen over headphones. He still uses it so he can play without waking their baby. Simple and effective tech.
I had no convincing answer as to playing LPs. My son remains bemused.

Because analog has qualities digital doesn’t and we have relationships with both which determine how we encounter them. Somehow, even with all the faults or dust and scratches, implicit within how we perceive analog is the potential for connection which digital, no matter how far sampling may exceed our perception gets, cannot promise.

Now that’s the reply I should have given my son (and will find a way to reintroduce it into the conversation). Spotify does not rule all.

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Very true, and no accounting for. A friend of mine says “it depends on your taste in distortion,” but I like your way of putting it.

The first recordings I heard were my parents’ 78s (classical & folk). Those 45s with the big hole in the middle came along in junior and high school, but I moved directly to LPs (jazz, folk, classical), first mono then stereo. But until digital came along it all just seemed to get in the way, like a smear on the window, possibly because my first connection, as you put it, was to performing and listening to live, un-amplified classical & folk music.

Possibly. Anyway, it’s the connection that matters.

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I agree the way people perceive sound quality is highly influenced by the format and by the device they used to listen to music when their tastes were forming.

Those who began by listening to MP3s played through laptop speakers or cheap earbuds might feel lossless AACs on an iMac’s speakers sound pretty good. Similarly, I grew up listening mostly to records. So anything on vinyl sounds warm and inviting to me. But somebody who loves megabass and wants maxed-out levels on everything probably prefers CDs or uncompressed digital files.

For anybody interested in doing a deep dive on this stuff, this is a cool book:

“In 1915, Thomas Edison proclaimed that he could record a live performance and reproduce it perfectly, shocking audiences who found themselves unable to tell whether what they were hearing was an Edison Diamond Disc or a flesh-and-blood musician.”

Now, here’s what early 1900s recordings actually sound like:

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What a wonderful resource! I’m having a blast with it.

Without jumping into the analog-vs-digital debate (which nobody can ever win)…

  • They do not all sound the same. You may prefer the analog recording or the CD digital recording or the streaming digital recording (that’s a matter of personal preference), but they all sound different from each other.
    • I personally don’t like the sound of streaming content - it just doesn’t sounds as good as the CD releases of the same content. Which is one reason why I still buy my music on CD and rip the disc into my Mac’s Music library (at 128K VBR AAC, FWIW - still compressed, but sounds great to my ears and still sounds way better than streaming music).
  • You own your vinyl (and cassette and CD and any other media you legally purchased the music on). Streaming is rental. If Apple removes a song/album from their server, it will no longer be available via subscription. But I can play my media forever and nobody can take that away.
  • The artwork. Vinyl (and to a lesser extent, cassettes and CDs) often have great cover art (and often gatefold art and enclosed booklets with lyrics art and other content), none of which is available via streaming services.
  • They’re not always the same recording. Many artists have created different edits and mixes for their different releases. Sometimes the changes are subtle. Sometimes they’re dramatic.
    • One of the most extreme examples I know of is Tales Of Mystery And Imagination by The Alan Parsons Project. The album was completely remixed (including new content) for the CD release. For many years, the original vinyl was the only way to hear the original mix, although there are now special editions that include both mixes.
  • Not everything released on vinyl (or cassette or CD) is available for streaming. Especially if your tastes are less mainstream.

I ran into this with the T-Bone Burnett album “Proof Through the Night” for which the only available digital copy is the remix. So yes, I also have many ripped CD’s but also albums.

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming…

Once upon a time, a friend was driving somewhere with his girlfriend, and a solo piano piece was on the radio (c. early 80s). As it ended, just before he could comment that that was the worst recording he’d heard in years–scratches, clicks, wobbling pitch, the girlfriend sighed and said that was the best recording she’d ever heard of that piece–the expression, the intensity, the skill–no one had ever played it better*. My friend, not being stupid, managed to bite his tongue and not say anything, suddenly realizing that he heard recordings first, music second, but she, being a pianist, heard the music first with recording quality being a lowly subordinate. He was jealous enough of what he was missing that we heard about it a lot for awhile.

* A different though related subjective argument…


I haven’t listened to my LPs for over 25 years or more - most are in pristine condition, enclosed in plastic covers and with an additional paper LP cover. I did start up my record player earlier this week only to find the rubber drive belt had perished, not surprisingly really, but that was soon solved. I’ve been listening to music using my AirPods or HomePods for years so am looking forward to hearing the LPs once again. I went into the loft to find my 40 year old speakers to see if they might be serviceable but, sadly, the speaker cones have also perished. The first LP I bought was Who’s Next. That will where I’ll start when the pre-amp arrives.