By Oliver Carding
Long gone are the days where you’d walk into a room to be greeted by a vast collection of vinyl, CDs, and DVDs stored lovingly on a bookcase, many people are freeing up space and embracing the freedom of the digital medium.
In 2011, digital music sales increased 8% worldwide, with many people turning away from physical copies, instead favoring digital releases and live streaming. It is now predicted that the average iTunes user has a library of 7,160 songs.
With the demise of physical music on the horizon, people are now looking for ways to stream it around the house. In this blog post, we’ll look at the best ways to liberate your audio, easily allowing you to pipe your favorite music around the home.
Setting up a system for streaming audio is a lot less daunting than you would think. In theory, there are only a few different components required to bring everything together. The basic essentials are a broadband wireless internet connection, music player, receiver, speaker, and of course content.
With there being so many different ways to stream content through out your home, we have listed some of the easiest, and most popular ways.
AirPlay is an Apple technology, allowing users to easily broadcast their content from AirPlay enabled devices to other AirPlay compatible devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network, this includes computers, speakers, the second generation Apple TV and the Airport express.
It has the following benefits:
- As content is shared using Wi-Fi, Airplay beats other protocols such as blue tooth in terms of range. The average Bluetooth device can share audio up to 30 feet, whilst with AirPlay, you can stream as far as your WIFI extends.
- Due to the technology being owned by Apple, who are renown for producing high quality devices, AirPlay has only been licensed to similarly high end companies. This means that Airplay speakers are normally of a high quality, from companies such as Bose, Bang & Olufsen, and Samsung.
- When content is streamed across devices, iTunes information such as track name, artist name, and album artwork are also shared.
Apple Airport Express Base Station
The Airport Express has been described as Apple’s ‘best kept secret.’ It is an all-white unit, which is about the size and shape of a deck of cards. It can turn any stereo system into a Wi-Fi (or wired) receiver for your iTunes music regardless of where you keep your music on your (providing its an Apple device i.e. Mac, PC or iOS).
Apple’s AirPlay technology recognizes the AirPort Express on your home network, and treats the Base Station as a set of speakers, that you can “push” your music to, from your iTunes software.
It’s also possible to stream your music to multiple stereos by adding multiple AirPort Express Base Stations. Each one can be labelled according to whatever makes sense e.g. “Living Room”, “Kitchen” etc. and if you’re streaming from a PC or Mac, you can have them all receiving the music simultaneously.
Additional AirPort Express music features include:
- Each AirPort Express can be controlled from your computer, or remotely using your iOS device with Apple’s free “Remote” app.
- Each AirPort Express will show up as AirPlay devices in any app that supports AirPlay e.g. Spotify.
Sonos have been around for years and they are really the company to beat when it comes to streaming your music. Every Sonos system starts with their ‘Bridge,’ which doesn’t look like much but it creates the SonosNet proprietary wireless network. This allows Sonos devices to access online sources of content.
Sonos users can buy one of two speaker solutions:
- Sonos Connect receivers that connect directly to stereos or other powered speakers
- A more powerful Connect Amp, which houses an amplifier to attach virtually any set of bookshelf speakers.
For a more portable solution, Sonos offer Play:3 or Play:5 speaker systems. These are all-in-one sound systems combining a wireless receiver, amp and speakers. With this solution, the user doesn’t need to buy the Bridge. They just need to position the Play:3 in a location where they can wire it to the router with the internet cable. The Play:3 then creates the SonosNet network and acts as the Bridge on behalf of the other Sonos devices in the home.
Sonos offers the following features:
- Each Sonos unit can be individually controlled allowing you to choose to stream the same or different music sources to each device.
- The user can access far more music e.g. in addition to iTunes, they can access subscription services like XM radio, Slacker, etc.
- Keeping all music on a network Attached Storage device (NAS) means the users computer doesn’t need to be on constantly, as Sonos can access it directly.
- Some Sonos devices can be used as AirPlay devices, as long as you buy an AirPort Express and your Sonos component has line-in support (N.B.: The Play:3 is NOT equipped with line-in).
- Once connected and configured, the AirPort Express that is connected to your Sonos device will show up as an AirPlay speaker on your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad.
- The entire Sonos network can be controlled from any Android or iOS device via a free downloadable app.
Formed in 2003, DLNA stands for “Digital Living Network Alliance” and is an industry wide standard for sharing content on a home network. Apple’s AirPlay is technically a form of DLNA, though is closed, only allowing content to be shared between Apple and Bonjour enabled devices. DLNA on the other hand allows you to share content between any DLNA enabled device, regardless of the brand. The only issue is file formats, which can sometimes prove tricky. For example, say you want to stream a FLAC file from your computer to your TV, this is only possible if both devices support the file format, so it is always wise to double check what files are supported when purchasing a DLNA device.
All of the above are simple ways to stream audio around your home, not only will you relieve your home of clutter, but can improve social events!