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Music, Audio, and Podcasting Do you use your Mac to create music? This is the place for discussions on creating and editing music on the Mac!

AirPlay MultiRoom Sync


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chickenpie

 
Member Since: Jan 01, 2013
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Hi,

I've been looking at Apple (United Kingdom) - AirPlay - Play content from iOS devices on Apple TV. and, in particular, the AirPlay Enabled Speakers section where it says "you can stream your tunes to more than one room simultaneously". My main question is "Will the speakers be in sync?"

Bit of background - I'm looking at multi-room audio. Currently have no Apple kit nor speakers, amps, etc. so I'm starting from scratch. I've been looking at things like Sonos but, whilst that would do the job, it's very expensive - to the point where, for the same price, I can afford to buy Apple kit - so I'm open to suggestions.

Being able to have a song from iTunes or an iPod Touch streamed to multiple speakers would be spot on. I'm guessing that, for a 4 room solution, I'd need 4 x AirPort Express plus 4 amps plus 4 (sets of) passive speakers. As an example, I want to be able to have 1 playlist playing through rooms 1 and 2 from iOS device 1 and, for example, the Spotify app on another iOS device playing in rooms 3 and 4. Rooms 1 and 2 would need to be in perfect sync otherwise it would just sound awful; likewise for 3 and 4. I think I would need to have 2 x iPod Touch devices with access to the content (or use the Remote App to control iTunes running on a PC).

I like the way that Sonos pulls content from remote storage, e.g. NAS, leaving your controller (e.g. the iPod Touch) to just do control so low power on the controller. I don't believe that any Apple kit would allow me to do that. I guess that streaming content from an iPod Touch would eat the battery unless docked so I guess I'd just need speakerless docks - purely for power whilst playing audio.

Is this something that is achievable and will multiple AirPlay Speaker (or AirPort Express + Amp + Speaker)s play in sync? And any advice in general?

Many thanks.
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IvanLasston

 
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I have Apple Airport Expresses and Apple TVs peppered around my house. I have sent music to multiple speakers - but they are in different rooms. They sounded more or less in sync - but I am not sure why you are asking the question - unless you had multiple Airplay devices in the same room - why would it matter? I don't understand how rooms 1 and 2 would affect each other in your example?

That being said - your example does not work. iOS AFAIK cannot do the multi-stream you are talking about. iTunes on a computer can output to multiple outputs - but the same song for 1 computer.
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Just choose Multiple Speakers from the AirPlay menu in iTunes. AirPlay works over Wi-Fi, so you can stream music directly from your home network.
But if you had 4 iOS devices - you could stream 4 different audio from each iOS device. Or as stated - from iTunes on your computer - you could stream - so for your senario where you have 4 rooms with 2 playing the same song - you would need 2 computers.

The output of the Airport Express is either analog or digital - so you could hook it to an amp, or powered speakers directly. My 3 Apple TVs connect to 3 home theatre systems. My Expresses hook to an old bookshelf type system through analog, a powered mini speaker, and powered outdoor speakers - so only one Express hooks into an amp.

My current opinion - is if you are looking to distribute media throughout your house the better purchase is an Apple TV. If you need analog audio - or are only looking for audio distribution or don't have a TV where your speakers are - then the Express is a good option - it just doesn't have anything for media other than audio - but the Apple TV doesn't have Analog Audio out.

I am quite happy with the Apple kit - but it ties me into the whole ecosystem - which may not be what people want. Especially if you don't have a lot of Apple products. It seems to me Sonos has more options such as Android apps so it is something to think about.
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chickenpie

 
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Hi Ivan,

Thanks for the comprehensive reply - it was very informative.

The AirPlay site (Apple (United Kingdom) - AirPlay - Play content from iOS devices on Apple TV.) says "you can stream your tunes to more than one room simultaneously" which I interpret as meaning that a device, e.g. iTunes on a PC or an iPod Touch, could stream a sequence of tunes to a set of multiple speakers at the same time, i.e. 1 source (e.g. iPod Touch) to multiple outputs (e.g. AirPort Express). And I'm getting the feeling that even if that's the case, they won't be in sync.

My issue with sync across different rooms may seem picky, but we often want to have the same music playing in the kitchen and the dining room. Currently we have an FM radio in the kitchen and a DAB Digital Radio in the kitchen and the DAB is always running seconds behind (for obvious reasons). But even with 2 DAB Digital Radios, they are out of sync as well and it just sounds wrong as you can hear the music from the dining room in when you are in the kitchen.

Thanks for the explanation of Apple TV vs AirPort Express - that's good to know. We want to have "headless" audio at the moment. Some rooms have a TV already, but others don't. Could I plug the optical output into a sound system, e.g. surround sound system, but just not plug in the HDMI - do I need to be able to see a screen from the Apple TV or can I just stream to it directly from an iPod Touch and control everything from there? Ideally, we don't want to turn on the TV just to get music but it might be nice for the future.

I understand about the "tying into the ecosystem" but I guess I'll be tying myself into one ecosystem or another. Apple is a closed system, more so than Sonos. Sonos does have cross-platform clients, e.g. for Android as well (of which I have devices). But then what other options are out there?

The exploration continues :-)

Many thanks again.
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IvanLasston

 
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Well I tried it with my iPad and iPhone - and could not find a way to stream to multiple destinations from iOS. Maybe someone else has figured something out - but I have not been able to find a way to do that from iOS. From iTunes on the computer it is very easy - just check the various sources you want to output to.

Actually - when using Remote on iOS - you can select multiple destinations because you are just remotely controlling your iTunes on your Computer. What you cannot do - is play something on iOS Music App - or any other airplay app (like Spotify) and select multiple destinations. So one thing you were asking for - a remote app - does exist, comes from Apple, you can stream your library, and just remote control it from iOS. And as stated - you can stream to multiple outputs in that special case (but you aren't really streaming from iOS you are remote controlling iTunes.)

I just tested it out - and streaming to my Apple TV and listening directly on my computer (which are in adjoining rooms) - does sound in sync - but my Apple TV is directly wired to gigabit ethernet and so is my Computer. So I don't know about different permutations of wireless and what that would to to affect it.

I do have optical audio from my Apple TV running into a receiver on two of my home theater systems. The third one just uses HDMI. Audio should just work - but the Apple TV takes some on screen setup so I don't know how you would do that without a TV connection. (Maybe temporary TV connection) The Airport Express can be setup from a computer so you don't need any kind of monitor to set it up.

As far as other options - a fully integrated system like Apple or Sonos - are few. Microsoft of course has its own Media manager and library - which would tie to Xbox and such - and I'm sure Windows phone. I had s setup of a HTPC and Xbox 360 at one point. I'm just giving you fair warning - that you are tied to the whole Apple ecosystem - some people don't think about that - and get angry when some other hardware doesn't work because they have Apple (or something) - I personally have no problem with tying into Apple. Everything just pretty much works together with very little fuss - and the wife knows how to use everything without a 50 page manual on how to get music from computer A to room B - just point and click.
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chickenpie

 
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Many thanks for looking into this in such detail - it is most appreciated. I think, due to my lack of iOS devices and my requirement for in-sync playback it's going to be Sonos - the price seems expensive but I figure that once I've paid for iPod Touches for control, airport express, active speakers (or amp + passive), I can just pay 349 for a Play:5 and use my existing android devices for control. Then add to it from there.

Many thanks for all of your help.
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Drew1house

 
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There are many DA Optical audio to analog audio converters available on Amazon starting at about $20 US. This may solve your problem. One thing to keep in mind (I am dealing with) is there does not seem to be a way to adjust the volume on the optical out for the Apple TV.
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