The "holy grail" of home entertainment setups is to create a single, unified system where all media can be seamlessly played from different platforms, conveniently located all in one place.
For Apple users, a fully unified home theater system is more than a mere pipe dream — it's very much attainable thanks to Apple's AirPlay technology. With AirPlay, movie fans and music lovers alike can stream their favorite films, TV shows, albums and songs from various Apple devices, like iPads, iPhones and Macs and play them through their home entertainment centers.
Earlier this year, new Apple products began trickling out into the consumer wilds, containing an updated version of the AirPlay protocol. Dubbed "AirPlay 2," this iteration promises to build upon the success of its predecessor and expand its capabilities. So, here's everything you need to know about Apple's AirPlay 2.
What devices are supported?
AirPlay 2 is proprietary technology, and given Apple's well-known history of supporting a closed system, it's natural to assume that only Apple products will work with this latest version of AirPlay. Although that's certainly true when it comes to your streaming device — iPhone, iPad, etc. - that doesn't necessarily mean you can't use third-party hardware to take advantage of AirPlay 2. To stream music, podcasts and other audio media, simply sync your Apple device with a compatible AirPlay speaker or AV receiver, and you're all ready to go.
When it comes to streaming video, however, you will absolutely need an Apple TV device.
What network connections are required?
If you're wondering how to use AirPlay, we've got you covered. You'll need a wireless network set up, ideally a strong home Wi-Fi connection to really let the streaming video and audio shine. Network latency could negatively impact sound quality, so be sure your wireless service provider, router and other network components are all in solid working order.
The good news is that when properly configured and paired with a robust wireless network, AirPlay 2 provides better sound quality than Bluetooth streaming, due to the additional bandwidth that Wi-Fi affords.
What's new with AirPlay 2?
If you already have the original AirPlay service and are enjoying it just fine, you may be wondering why an upgrade is even necessary. AirPlay 2 has a few tricks up its sleeve that can greatly enhance your home theater experience.
One of the biggest changes to AirPlay is the addition of multi-room support. Apple users can now play different music all throughout their homes by syncing their AirPlay compatible speakers with their Apple devices. Want to listen to Television's "Marquee Moon" as you cook dinner, while your significant other jams out to Prince's "Sign O' The Times" in your den? AirPlay 2 — with a little help from a pair of wireless speakers — makes it easy.
When you're putting together your perfect home theater, you want to keep your options open. You don't want to be locked into a specific platform, ecosystem or manufacturer. AirPlay 2 is just one of many platforms that HEOS-enabled wireless speakers support, making them a welcome addition to any audio setup.