If you enjoy using an Apple TV media receiver to play music, photos and video wirelessly from the iTunes Library on your computer or an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch, you'll be happy to know that Apple is licensing the technology to other consumer electronics manufacturers. More than a dozen non-Apple products are now available that embed an audio-only version of AirPlay into a speaker system or receiver so you can now stream music through the air from a friend's or your own iOS device or computer.
What are two major benefits of AirPlay? First, you're able to stream music wirelessly from an iPad, iPhone or iPad touch. Second, you're able to stream your iTunes music library from a PC or Mac over your home network to an AirPlay-enabled receiver or speaker system.
If a component is AirPlay-enabled, then it also means it has built-in Wi-Fi reception. It may also have an Ethernet port, the wired alternative to Wi-Fi. For all these systems, an iPad, iPod or iPhone must be running iOS 4.2 or later and the computer needs to have at least iTunes 10.1 installed. Sometimes a remote is included, but you can typically control music playback from an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad for ultimate convenience. You download the free Remote app from the iTunes App Store for controlling iTunes on your computer (and Apple TV if you have one) from anywhere in your Wi-Fi-enabled home. Using the app to control iTunes, you'll be able to send music to AirPlay speakers.
The JBL OnBeat Air Loudspeaker Dock for iPod, iPhone and iPad accepts any of Apple's mobile devices for charging while simultaneously playing through to its 2 x 7.5-Watt speakers. But more than a speaker dock, the JBL OnBeat enables you to stream music wirelessly from your iTunes library on any Mac or PC computer in your home network or any iPad, iPod or iPhone in range. The OnBeat can be placed in any room or exterior area of your home that's reached by your Wi-Fi network.
The Klipsch Gallery G-17 Air AirPlay-Enabled Speaker System doesn't contain a dock but it has a more powerful amplifier and speakers than the JBL OnBeat. It pumps out 2 x 20W for low frequencies and 2 x 10W for high frequencies. The 16.9" wide system weighs 7.5 pounds and can be placed on a tabletop or can be wall mounted. Thanks to the built-in AirPlay technology, the system can receive music from your iTunes library wirelessly over a Wi-Fi network. The G-17 Air is also compatible with Android smartphones and tablets so you don't necessarily need be sporting an Apple to enjoy wireless audio.
The Pioneer X-SMC3-S AirPlay Music Tap System is a tabletop system with thin-panel speakers that integrates a 2.5-inch color LCD screen, FM radio, Internet radio, iPhone/iPod dock and front USB port. Thanks to the built-in AirPlay technology, you'll be able to enjoy music wirelessly from a PC or Mac running iTunes or an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. You'll also be able to access a rising number of AirPlay-capable apps such as Pandorda and iHeartRadio. By setting up more than one Music Tap System around your home, you'll be able to take advantage of a multi-room music system. The Tap System can also connect to a Bluetooth device.
Yamaha has introduced new home-theater-in-a-box (HTiB) systems with AirPlay connectivity. They include the YHT-597BL, YHT-797BL and YHT-897BL. A free remote-control app compatible with all three is available for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire devices.
If you're looking for an AirPlay receiver that is downwardly compatible with your compact disc collection, look no further than the Denon RCD-N7 Network CD Player, in black or white. A front-loading slot lets you slip in a CD, the original digital music format, in case you've forgotten. There's also a dock for an iPod or iPhone on top and an AM/FM tuner inside as well as Internet radio streaming. The model is also DLNA-certified for accessing music stored on your home network. The 9.5-lb component puts out two 65W channels. Speakers, though, are lacking. To fill the room with sound, Denon suggest its SC-N7 2-Way Bookshelf Speaker System, a pair of speakers in black or white that match the RCD-N7.
Denon offers the largest selection of AirPlay-enabled home theater receivers. That may be because Denon was the first manufacturer to come out with AirPlay-licensed AV components. Ranging in price from under $400 to more than $2,000, Denon's network AV receivers all enable you to stream music from your iPad, iPhone or iPod touch or from your iTunes library. Denon has also developed a free app you download from the iTunes App Store called the Denon Remote App. With it you touch your mobile screen instead of the factory-supplied IR remote in order to control such functions as volume and input selection. The app also works with the RCD-N7 Network CD Player.
The Denon AirPlay lineup start with the AVR-1912 7.1-Channel Network Streaming AV Receiver and AVR-2112CI 7.1-Channel Integrated Network AV Receiver, both capable of driving seven audio channels each with 90 watts of power. They each contain six HDMI 1.4a inputs and are both 3D video and audio return channel (ARC) compatible. The Denon AVR-2312CI 7.2-Channel Integrated Network AV Receiver puts out 105 watts in each of seven channels and offers seven HDMI inputs. The Denon AVR-3312 7.2-Channel Integrated Network AV Receiver and AVR-3312CIP Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver each ups the power to 125 watts in each of seven channels and adds 1080p/24 frame-per-second up-scaling via HDMI. Denon's ultimate AirPlay-enabled receiver, the AVR-4311CI AV Surround Receiver, directs 140 watts of power into each of nine channels and includes seven HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs.
Marantz has also jumped into the AirPlay receiver game with its SR5006P Audio Video Receiver. It pumps 100 watts of power into each of seven channels, features six HDMI 1.4a inputs, is DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) certified for streaming audio and photos from all connected computers and can stream audio and photos, too, from the Internet. The Rhapsody, Pandora and Napster music services and Flickr photo-sharing site are supported. The receiver also is Bluetooth-capable.
Beyond sharing audio content wirelessly, Apple TV continues to be your best bet for displaying video from your iTunes library, photos too, from a networked computer to your TV. And using the mirroring feature built into iOS devices, you can display anything on your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad on your HDTV through an Apple TV including slides for business presentations. Suddenly, bringing a 0.6 lb (0.3 kg) Apple TV (1080p) and an iPad to a boardroom already equipped with a big TV screen may substitute for a projector.
AirPlay was previously named AirTunes when it was only for audio. Apple continues to offer an audio receiver that lets you play iTunes music through your stereo or powered speakers in the form of a compact wireless base station that plugs directly into a power outlet. The AirPort Express Base Station with 802.11n and AirTunes contains a hybrid (digital and analog) 1/8" (3.5mm) mini jack with optical digital audio and stereo output.