This blog gets a lot of hits for people looking for the best and easiest way to stream music over wifi, so I thought I’d revisit what I’m using these days.
My goal was to get the cheapest and easiest set up, so that I can use it, my wife can use it, and guests can use it. It needed to be as easy to use and accessible as possible. I also wanted to be able to stream music to existing audio equipment that I already own. I’ve got a beautiful 1960’s Clairtone G2 that I love using (vinyl is great, but not always practical),
as well as a Carver M-400t cube with a Carver C-2 preamp running into some Magnaplanar MG-I IMP’s from the early 70’s.
Of course these systems both sound better with vinyl or CD’s running “real” audio (not compressed MP3’s), but when I’m having a party or messing around the house and don’t want to be manning the music at all times, it’s nice to be able to just let HAL DJ.
I searched and searched and searched for wifi audio streaming hardware under $50, but to no avail. I just wanted a box to plug into my stereo that would stream music from my computer. A used Airport Express from Ebay is definitely the way to go. You can easily find them for around $40, and all you’re using is the audio, so you can use older versions without any trouble. (Added bonus: with most AirPort Expresses, you could even hook up a USB printer to have WiFi printing at a central location in your home).
While I know there will be people who decry using iTunes as the main player in the set up, it’s free and while it has it’s draw-backs seems to be the easiest thing going. Also, most other software developers allow for interfacing or at least exporting/importing data that will work with an iTunes core.
I like iTunes as the center of the system, because it makes it super easy to choose various speakers (zones) around the house. You just go to the bottom right corner and select the speakers to which you want to stream from the drop down. You can stream to just one or two, or all of them. Simply select “multiple speakers” and the dialogue box below pops up.
The more speakers you stream, the longer it takes for iTunes to find them all and “get going” when you hit play (still under a few seconds with several speakers), but that’s a small price to pay for this simple solution to multiple zones.
Another huge benefit to a system with iTunes at the core is that, anyone with iTunes on their computer, an iPhone, or a compatible Android app can control the music play (if I let them), and they can even stream their own music to my system.
Obviously iPhones can work the system without a hitch, but if you’re on PC or Android, it’s still easy as pie.
For my Android device remote, I was originally using Jeff Sharkey’s TunesRemote, but he’s since stopped creating updates (not to mention you had to pair it EVERY TIME you used it, and that was a major pain in the ass). But not to worry, as there is a dedicated community who has taken over the app (now called TunesRemote+), and they’re doing a bang up job! The app stays paired to iTunes forever (I paired it once, and have never had to do it again), and it even works with some other programs like MediaMonkey and Songbird. It is made to act exactly like the iTunes remote, so there are a few apps out there that might be more robust (edit playlists from remote, etc.), but this is the best and easiest free Android iTunes remote I’ve found.
You will definitely want (need) to download AirPort utility from the Apple website, as it is what will get your computer gelling with the Airports around the house. It’s intuitive and easy to use, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting up and running once you install and run the app and have it find all your Airports.
And those who simply refuse to use iTunes need not fret. You can still use this setup by utilizing AirFoil ($25, both Mac and PC), which basically hi-jacks your Apple Airports and allows you to stream audio to them from anything on your computer!