Looking to Expand AirPlay? A Few Products That Can!
AirPlay isn’t something we focus on too much on the website, although that doesn’t mean it’s not of interest. Given that products of all shapes and sizes are available with AirPlay functionality whilst also being exposed to your HomeKit home as devices all by themselves (AirPlay 2 only), means they definitely deserve a closer look.
You may already know that Apple products including the HomePod, the HomePod Mini, and even Apple TV are all capable of streaming audio in one manner or another, as well as smart TVs that either just come with AirPlay, or are fully HomeKit compatible, which includes AirPlay functionality. There are also AirPlay capable receivers and audio speakers, although, with few exceptions, these aren’t exactly budget-friendly. The second iteration of Apple’s very popular Airport Express wireless router got a rather unexpected firmware update a couple of years back, to provide AirPlay functionality. The reason it was unexpected, is that the product itself had been discontinued by Apple a few years prior to this update, so it just goes to show that Apple really wants you to get a lot out of their products. Sadly, these are pretty hard to find now, due to this very feature.
So, if you already maybe have an old but dearly loved amplifier, or powered speakers, and want to get audio streamed to them via AirPlay, here is a small clutch of products that can help with this very thing.
ARYLIC A50+ WIRELESS STEREO AMPLIFIER
Contrary to what you might think, Arylic, not Acrylic, is the name of a company that specialises in a whole raft of products focussed on multiroom audio. Whilst their products (there are quite a few) are pretty agnostic when it comes to audio streaming, AirPlay 1 (not AirPlay 2) is part of their feature set. The company make Amplifiers, pre-amps, simple streamers, speakers, and even audio boards for DIY enthusiasts.
For this article, I want to bring your attention to one of their most popular products, the Arylic A50+. This austere looking device may seem plain, but when you see the connectivity options on the back of the device, you know this company is both serious about its audio capabilities and equally serious about providing its users with as many ways as possible to help get sound to their destination of choice.
The device has a Bluetooth antenna for direct audio, a WiFi antenna for network connectivity, a Micro USB port, RCA ports, a Sub output, a full-size Optical Audio-in port, as well as specific connectors for its own line of speakers. Even though the A50+ can connect wirelessly to your network using the 2.4GHz band (for maximum reach), the company felt it would be good to also include an RJ45 port for the best network connectivity. There’s even a USB port, that lets you stream audio files from a USB stick.
Even though I love music, and have been a musician for almost all of my adult life, I’ve admittedly never been too focussed on the finer details of High Fidelity, but when you see that the A50+ is capable of 50W x 2 output with 4Ω passive speakers (at 24v), it’s hard not to be a little impressed.
As we’re talking about AirPlay, we can confirm that this is integrated into the product, although once you’re connected to your home network, as it’s an AirPlay 1 device, it won’t be added to your HomeKit home, just so you’re aware. What might be of further interest to some though, is that the companion app also allows for direct connection to various other streaming platforms, like Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Napster, TuneIn, Internet Radio, iHeart Radio, QQ Music, QQ FM and more.
The Arylic A50+ is available direct from the company’s own online store (use code NEW003 for 5% off everything) for US$199.99, on Amazon.com for US$206.99, Amazon.co.uk for £149.99, and Amazon.de for €206.99
BELKIN SOUNDFORM CONNECT
Belkin and its sister company Wemo, are well known for a variety of electronic products, especially Wemo’s HomeKit compatible switches, plugs and its recently released video doorbell. By contrast, Belkin has tended to focus on a range of computer and phone accessories, so when the company released their Soundform Connect AirPlay audio adaptor, it came as a welcome surprise.
this teeny device uses 2.4G/5GHz WiFi to connect to your home network, is powered by a USB-C adaptor, and offers two options for sending audio to your amplifier; there’s an analogue 3.5mm stereo audio connection for older equipment that doesn’t have digital inputs, and a mini Digital Optical audio Out, if you do have a digital option for your equipment. I have a couple of Xiaomi soundbars that have a variety of inputs, including a Digital Optical connection, so this is perfect in my case.
The company also makes its own Soundform Connect app, which allows you to control and customise other Soundform Connect products, like their earphones and earbuds. At only 43.4mm / 1.71in deep, 62mm / 2.44in wide, and 19mm / 0.75in high, it’s probably one of the smallest AirPlay adaptors available.
Available on Amazon.com for US$99.99, Amazon.fr for around €95.00, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de for around £77.00 / €77.00
TERNCY HOME CENTER BRAUN
This next item is a bit of an oddity, that nonetheless, we think should be included – even if you might struggle to find it outside of Mainland China! The Terncy Home Center Braun, made by smart home company Xiaoyan, is primarily a Zigbee 3.0 hub for the company’s own range of Zigbee child devices, of which there are many. Whilst it’s a hub, it actually also features a standard 3.5mm audio out that uses AirPlay for even more functionality.
The hub itself is an update to the company’s original Home Center gateway, which didn’t feature any audio out options. The company offers all the typical Zigbee devices, including motion and contact sensors, buttons, wired switches, motorised curtains, and even HVAC systems and smart locks – all of which are HomeKit compatible. With this in mind, buying a hub like this wouldn’t make sense just for AirPlay, so investing in their other devices might be something you should look at first. Still, it’s currently the only hub – Zigbee or otherwise – that offers such a feature.
No, this isn’t an Amazon Echo Dot! It’s the WiiM Mini, a budget AirPlay Streamer, but with Hi-Res audio functionality. The WiiM Mini features a lot more than its $99 price tag suggests, with not only Aux In and Aux Out ports, but a full-size SPDIF (digital audio) port on the back. It’s also used a USB-C port for power and has touch controls on the top of its shiny surface.
Offering streaming gapless playback at 192KHz in 24Bit audio, the Mini offers not only AirPlay support but also works directly with Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect, as well as Amazon Music (not Amazon Ultra HD).
As with the aforementioned offerings by Arylic and Belkin, WiiM has its own app, should you want to use that instead of the standard streaming options.
One of the nice options with the WiiM Mini is that whilst it only uses WiFi for connection to your network, it does support both 2.4 and 5.0GHz 802.11 a/b/c/g/n/ac, as well as Bluetooth 5.0.
Available on the company’s official online store (use code WIIM005 for 5% off everything) for US$99.00 – Amazon.com for US$99.00 or Amazon.de for €106.99
11 thoughts on “Looking to Expand AirPlay? A Few Products That Can!”
It would be great to understand what these can really do. AirPlay seems to be a rather general standard. For example, a HomePod can stream directly from Apple music without a iOS device as an intermediate. Can these also do that? I have not yet hear of a non-Apple device that can fuction in this way, but if would be great if the did.
Hi, AirPlay 1 and AirPlay 2 devices can stream from your iOS or macOS devices but aren’t autonomous. only HomePod/HomePod Mini, or Apple TV, are able to do what you say, but these third party devices can’t, and so they can only be treated as end devices that rely on a source sent to them. That said, you can use AirPlay 2 devices in HomeKit automations (as they’re exposed as devices in HomeKit) to a limited extent, which may be of interest to some HomeKit users. AirPlay 1 devices aren’t capable of this.
you should mention which devices are airplay 2 compatible. I think from the above list only the belkin is able to do multi room via airplay 2. From Arylic there is only one other device which is able to do airplay 2 connections.
All the products are AirPlay 2, with the exception of the Arylic product, which I do state is AirPlay 1, not AirPlay 2 “…when it comes to audio streaming, AirPlay 1 (not AirPlay 2) is part of their feature set”.
Would love to see some small rear surround speakers with airplay 2.
Got 2 homepods and I do get some “surround” kinda effect with them.
But a dedicated pair of speakers would be epic. Hopefully a homepod mini can be used as a rear speaker in the future.
I’m using two Sonos One SL as rear surround speakers – in this setup paired with a Sonos Arc as main speaker – all Airplay 2 compatible. The Sonos One SLs are a significant step upwards from a sound perspective compared to the Apple HomePod minis, which I also have a number of but mainly used as HomeKit hubs.
Can I use the audio input of the WiiM Mini to connect a Recordplayer (Vinyl) to Airplay? so i can streem the music form the recordplayer to my Homepod mini’s?
I had the same question concerning a CD-Player. I would love to listen to old CDs via mulitroom-setup in other rooms, while the player is in the living room.
It would be great, if the WiiM Mini would grab the music via line-input from my Stereosystem and transfers it as an Airplay-transmitter to the Homepod Mini.
I tried Airchord on my iPhone via external USB-Analog->Digital Converter, but this configuration loses the connection quite often.
Hi, you can get multiroom audio by passing an audio signal from an amp via the Line in. As the Wiim Mini doesn’t have a power amp like the Arylic A50+, you wouldn’t be able to connect something like a CD player directly. When it comes to multi-room audio, it wouldn’t be Airplay, however, so if you really did want this, you’d have to have Wiim or Arylic devices using their own multiroom audio protocol.
Guys I’m super confused. I have found several forums saying that all airplay 2 devices are exposed in HomeKit as devices and can be used in scenes and automations….
I have an onkyo AV receiver hardwired to my network, and while I can certainly use airplay to it with out any issue, including simultaneously playing music to it, and all 5 of my HomePod minis, I CANNOT for the life of me figure out how to expose this thing to HomeKit and show it as a device in my apple home.
I am not exactly a noob HomeKit user…. I have something like 40 devices in my smart home, several sensors, cameras, a ton of lights, locks, etc. I have also integrated Aqara hub, Sengled hub, HomeBridge running on raspian (VMware workstation running on windows 10)….
I’m also a fairly seasoned systems engineer… I only say all this to make the point the that when I reach out for help I am truly super baffled 😂
Hi, from my experience, adding an AirPlay 2 device to HomeKit seems to vary to a degree; for example, the Roku Streambar is AirPlay 2 compatible, but it doesn’t come with a HomeKit QR Code. I can’t remember how it was added but it’s there in my HomeKit setup. The Belkin Soundform Connect, on the other hand, does come with a QR code and is added to HomeKit like a normal device. In cases where there’s not a QR code, once it’s added to your WiFi network, you should be able to select ‘add accessory’, then select ‘More options…’. From there, it should discover your device, as long as it’s AirPlay 2 – AirPlay 1 will not work with HomeKit.
In terms of automations, there’s a limit to what you can do with AirPlay – Play, Pause, Resume Audio, Adjust volume, Choose Audio (which allows you to choose from playlists or specific albums etc.) and a couple of others.
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