One of the downsides of being early adopters of new technology is that we tend to buy the best system available at the time, only for a better one to come along later. I’m sure we’ve all been there.
That was the case for me with wireless audio. I wanted, many years ago, to be able to stream music to two other rooms in the house. I invested in a couple of Logitech Streambox Booms, which did the job. My Mac acted as a music server, and I could stream both my music library and Internet radio to the Logitech boxes.
But it was a clunky setup, a scrollwheel used to select artist, album and track in much the same way as the original scrollwheel iPod – though viewing only one line at a time. AirPlay, when it came along in 2010, was a markedly better solution, but also came with a far higher price-tag.
However, the upside of Apple neglecting AirPlay is that there are a lot of heavily-discounted discontinued products around. It was only when writing that opinion piece that I noticed just how low prices on these had fallen. That means that you can now put together a multi-room AirPlay setup for way less than it would have cost when the system was launched …
There are two ways you can go. If you already have speaker setups in each room, you can connect a box to each of these to put them onto your Wi-Fi network. That box can be an Airport Express, Apple TV or a Wi-Fi audio receiver. The latter is by far the cheapest method, but has one drawback that I’ll come to.
If you have a room without existing speakers, you can take advantage of the discontinued product bargains you can find on Amazon. In my case, I did a mix of the two.
Adding a box to an existing speaker setup is slightly fiddly, but you only have to do it once. Once you have it configured, it simply shows up as an AirPlay device in both iTunes on the Mac and Music on iOS devices.
The box I use is the Veetop HiFi AirMusic Box, which has an RRP of $90 but is available on Amazon for just $40. The only drawback of this is that you can’t simultaneously AirPlay to more than one Veetop box; if you want to stream to multiple existing speaker systems at the same time, you’ll have to fork out for an Airport Express or Apple TV. That’s still a bargain compared to a Sonos setup, though …
For my part, I just needed one box, for the B&O system in the living room, so I used the Veetop. To set it up, first plug into power – it comes with a USB lead but not a plug adapter, so you’ll need to buy one of those for a few bucks if you don’t already have a dozen of the things laying around. It connects to your speakers using a standard 3.5mm cable. You’ll need a 3.5mm jack at the Veetop end, plus whatever your audio system needs at the other end. In my case, this was a custom cable for the B&O Ouverture in the living-room.
Once you have everything hooked up, use a Mac or iOS device to connect to the Veetop via Wi-Fi. It will show up like any other wireless router with a name beginning with Veetop. Once connected to it, enter http://192.168.222.254 in your browser bar and press enter. You’ll then see the Veetop interface.
Click Music Service first and name the speakers. This is the name that will show up in your list of AirPlay devices. In my case, I called the B&O system ‘Living-room’ (spaces aren’t allowed). Click Done, wait for the device to reboot and then refresh the page. Then click Back.
Next, click Internet Connection, choose your main router from the wireless networks it finds, then enter your router’s password. Again, click Done and refresh the page after it reboots (I did say the setup was clunky …).
Finally, Back then click Basic Settings. Because the device is a Wi-Fi bridge, anyone can connect to it and use your Internet connection. You’ll thus want to switch on the same security you have on your main router. For simplicity, I gave the router the same name as the speakers, and the same security credentials as my main router.
You’re thinking you know the drill by now: click Done and wait for it to reboot, right? Nope! Because changing the SSID and setting a password will throw you off the router. So connect to the router by its new name (which will require the password you just set), then return to http://192.168.222.254. All is now set.
While you are still connected to the Veetop, use AirPlay from the same device you’re using and select these speakers. Play something for a few seconds to ensure it’s working. That done, you can reconnect to your main router and the speakers will still show up in AirPlay.
Voila, that’s one of your rooms online. Incidentally, if the speakers ever disappear from AirPlay, just power-cycle the Veetop – I’ve had to do that occasionally.
For the bedroom and bathroom, I replaced my Logitech Squeezeboxes with a couple of Logitech UE Air Speakers. It’s not an audiophile device, but it’s decent quality. They were $400 when launched, but you can now buy them direct from Logitech’s Amazon store for a little under $200. For a smaller room, there’s plenty of volume, and no distortion when you max out the sound.
There are two ways to sync these to your Wi-Fi network. The first, if you happen to have an old 30-pin iPhone knocking around, is to push open the hidden dock, connect the iPhone and say yes when asked if you want to install the app. The app then walks you through the rest.
I didn’t, so I used the second method: connecting to the Air Speakers’ own Wi-Fi hotspot. To do this, power on the speakers, then press and hold the Wi-Fi button on the back of the unit for ‘more than five seconds’ (I waited about 7 seconds). After about 35 seconds (seemed a little longer to me), the power light starts blinking green at a faster rate. That’s your signal that the Wi-Fi hotspot is now broadcasting.
Connect to the Wi-Fi network Air Speaker Setup. In your web-browser, go to http://192.168.1.12. You’ll then see the configuration screen. As with the Veetop, give the speakers a name. Again, this is the name that will show up in your list of AirPlay devices. I’d recommend sticking to my own system of using the name of each room for ease of use.
As before, select your main router and enter the password for it. Once you’ve done this, you’ll get a confirmation screen and the speakers will reboot, connect to your router and be online as an AirPlay device. This is confirmed by the power light turning solid green.
And that’s it – your AirSpeakers are now online. As an aside, the FŪZDock Apple Watch stand I reviewed last week looks almost part of the device when the cable is run underneath it – that’s what you see in the top photo.
Repeat the above steps for as many devices as you have to configure, and you’re done. Your AirPlay list will now show all your devices, both in iTunes:
And iOS devices:
Note that iOS devices can only play to one set of AirPlay speakers at a time, while iTunes lets you play to as many as you like if you first click the ‘Multiple’ tab:
In my case, I got three rooms online for a total outlay of a little over $400 – or about the cost of a single AirPlay speaker system when they first launched. That’s a Veetop box and two Logitech Air Speaker sets. If you want to try your luck with other AirPlay speakers, you can find other discontinued models from around $50-60. Bear in mind, though, that there are mixed reviews out there.
If you have your own multi-room AirPlay system, do let us know your setup in the comments.