Apple AirPlay 2 is designed to be Apple’s breakthrough in the multi-room segment, and has already been backed by other well-known companies. How does it work? Will you have to buy new devices? We’ll cover all of this and more.
Apple’s 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference, WWDC, unveiled a series of innovations – and one of the most important events for hi-fi fans was the company’s entry into the multi-room audio segment. This opportunity is provided by a new version of Apple AirPlay technology, called Apple AirPlay 2, which was part of the update of Apple’s iOS 10 operating system to iOS 11.
So what do you get when you upgrade to Apple AirPlay 2? Which manufacturers and devices support this technology? If you already have first-generation Apple AirPlay products, can you upgrade to support Apple AirPlay 2, or do you have to buy a new model? Read on – and you will find the answers to these questions.
What is AirPlay?
Before turning to Apple AirPlay 2, it’s worth remembering the original Apple AirPlay technology. It was introduced to the world in 2010 as part of the iOS 4 operating system (around the time the iPhone 4 was released) and enabled users to wirelessly stream audio, video, and photos to Apple TV – and subsequently to compatible audio products.
It was based on Apple’s 2004 AirTunes software, which was used primarily to stream audio from iTunes to AirPort Express, allowing you to listen to music from your Apple device anywhere over your home wireless network.
Content was streamed directly over the network rather than via Bluetooth, but the device proved to be very difficult to set up. In addition, early models could not boast of a stable connection, as a result of which playback was often interrupted.
With the updates, AirPlay has become much simpler and more reliable, and in case your Apple device is connected to the same Wi-Fi network, it is enough to start streaming with a press of a button.
What is AirPlay 2?
For the first time, AirPlay 2 technology was presented to the public at WWDC 2017. The presentation focused on the main difference of the new version – the ability to stream music from an iOS device to more than one compatible device.
It’s Apple’s first real move towards multi-room technology and the first major AirPlay update in years. Many users believe that as a wireless protocol, AirPlay is no longer competitive with Bluetooth and Chromecast.
How it works?
From what we saw at Apple’s presentation, AirPlay 2 enables wireless music streaming to and from compatible devices on the same Wi-Fi network. The broadcast is carried out using the control center on devices on iOS, Apple TV and iTunes.
Here you can specify where exactly the speaker is located in your house, designating the room as “kitchen” or “living room”. You can control the playback of music on specific speakers at any time – both individually and as a group.
In addition, AirPlay 2 compatible speakers from different manufacturers can be combined with each other, which expands the choice of components in a multi-room system.
Who Else Supports AirPlay 2?
AirPlay 2 support has already been announced by many well-known manufacturers of hi-fi components – at WWDC such names as Naim, Bose, Bang & Olufsen, Devialet, Dynaudio, Bowers & Wilkins, Bluesound, Libratone, Denon and Apple-owned Beats were announced.
In addition, Apple’s recently announced HomePod wireless speaker with built-in Siri will also support this technology.
Can AirPlay-compatible devices be updated to support AirPlay 2?
An update will be released for some speaker models to migrate from AirPlay to AirPlay 2.
Libratone has announced an update for its Zipp line this year, but there will be no updates for the AirPlay-compatible Diva soundbar and older models.
Naim has promised to update the firmware for some of its Uniti line-ups – Uniti Atom, Uniti Star and Uniti Nova – to add AirPlay 2 support “in line with Apple’s launch schedule.”
In a post on the Bose community forum, Bose said the company “is actively preparing information to respond to inquiries regarding Airplay 2 and Homekit. Stay in touch”.
It looks like your current components will need an update. We will keep you informed and provide any known product specific details.
Is there an alternative?
AirPlay 2’s main competitor is Bluetooth, especially in the recently announced version of Bluetooth 5, which supports the function of transmitting a signal from one source to multiple recipients.
It is impossible not to mention Google’s technology – Chromecast. If you’re using a Chromecast Audio stick or Chromecast video dongle, you can stream content from iOS and Android devices to your Hi-Fi devices. Some models already have Chromecast support built in.
By the principle of operation, Chromecast differs from AirPlay – in the first case, your smartphone or tablet acts as a remote control, while the speaker plays a track from an Internet resource; in the second case, the audio file is sent over the Internet from the smartphone itself – but some third-party applications allow you to transfer a local file using the Chromecast from the smartphone to the speaker.
When can I get AirPlay 2?
iOS 11 will be released in fall 2017, with an update to AirPlay 2 coming shortly thereafter. Other manufacturers will likely adjust their update schedules to the release date, but we’ll keep you posted anyway.