Bet you never thought you’d see me say I like something Apple related! I’ll say it so everyone hears it – I love iTunes! Not for it’s music management abilities (although those are very good, in some ways), but rather, the feature of iTunes called “Airplay”. What is it? Your music library is on your computer. With Airplay you can play your computer’s iTunes library on another device in a different room – for instance, on your stereo in the living room. AirPlay allows you to stream music (and more) to AppleTVs and other Apple-approved devices that support Airplay.
Have you ever looked into solutions for playing and controlling multi-room audio? There are solutions from companies like Sonos, which has a box that connects to your existing speakers – for $349. Apple’s alternative? The Airport Express, which can be had for $99 (or $69 from the Amazon Marketplace).
How does it work? You plug the Airport Express into the wall outlet, and the small device has an line-out jack for your speaker’s auxiliary in port. Once you’ve added the Airport Express to your existing wireless network, and you instantly have wireless multi-room audio. It even let’s you manage the audio levels of each Airport Express separately.
But how do you control song you want to play?
For years, Apple has offered the Remote.app on the iPhone, the iPod Touch, and the iPad for free. It allows you to control your iTunes library if you’re on the same wi-fi network. You can browse artists, albums, songs, even playlists. In 2009, Apple added features to allow party guests with iPhones, iPods, or iPads to make requests that the library owner could approve and put in order. This instantly made me want to pack my laptop, wireless router, necessary cables, and bring them to a friend’s backyard party. This does work really well, although it’s a pain to carry everything.
If you don’t have an iOS device, don’t worry. Remote for iTunes is an Android application that offers the much of the same functionality as Apple’s own Remote.app, but it does cost $5. Still, it’s a great alternative for Android users who keep their music in iTunes.
If you’re not using Airplay but want to play your music library on your stereo, Airplay is worth a look. If you can make the investment of an Airport Express and you have an iOS or Android device – you’ve got a complete wireless home audio solution, complete with remote.