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Digital Life

Send that music wirelessly with AirPlay

TREVOR TAN tells you about the advantages of AirPlay, how to use it and what speakers to use

Published on May 16, 2014 2:16 AM

If you use an iPhone or iPad as a music player, you can use Apple's AirPlay technology to stream your tunes wirelessly. Here is what you need to know to use this feature to its fullest potential.

What is AirPlay?

This is a proprietary protocol developed by Apple that allows wireless streaming of audio, video and photos from your iOS devices to supported output peripherals.

For example, if you have an Apple TV media player connected to a high-definition TV, you can stream video directly and wirelessly from your iPhone to the TV.

AirPlay has its roots in audio. Then, it was known as AirTunes. It lets you play music wirelessly from your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch to AirPlay-enabled speakers.

The advantages

While Bluetooth music streaming is undeniably more readily available in most devices, its range is limited to about 10m.

AirPlay's range is about 20m or more, depending on how good and stable the Wi-Fi network is.

Plus, AirPlay can be used to control the volume of the speakers, so you do not have to adjust the volume on your iOS device. You can control multiple AirPlay speakers using one iOS device.

AirPlay's biggest advantage over Bluetooth is its lossless compression streaming. While Bluetooth 4.0 minimises quality loss better than previous iterations, it still does not do as well as AirPlay. To audiophiles, lossless Wi-Fi streaming is probably worth dying for.

On the downside, AirPlay is available only on selected Apple devices and the speakers need to be connected to a network.

How to use the feature

Installation may differ between speakers but, in general, AirPlay is easy and simple to use.

The most difficult part is getting the AirPlay speakers to connect to your home wireless or wired network. But once that network connection is achieved, the other steps are really simple.

Turn on AirPlay on your iOS device by swiping up from the bottom of the screen to bring up Control Center. Then tap the AirPlay panel to take you to another window.

Here, you will be able to see all your AirPlay-enabled devices listed. On the list, tap the AirPlay speaker of your choice and start playing your music through the speaker.

If the actual speaker happens to have a display, it will also stream information such as artist, song title, album title, album artwork and elapsed and remaining time.

Here are several AirPlay speakers you may want to consider.

^ Bang & Olufsen Play Beolit 12


Minimalist and classy, Bang & Olufsen's Play Beolit 12 is a rectangular body of metal and plastic, with a handle.

Inside it is a 120W amplifier system that drives two 2-inch tweeters and one 4-inch woofer for great audio. If you have the moolah, buy several of these to create a surround sound system.

A built-in rechargeable battery offers up to 4 hours of playtime via AirPlay. This battery can also charge your iOS devices. In fact, there is a recessed rubberised tray on the top that is meant for the iPhone.

^ Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air


Looking more like a rugby ball than a Zeppelin airship, the Bowers & Wilkins Zeppelin Air is the complete AirPlay solution in form and function.

The design is exquisite, with a silvery band around the middle of the Zeppelin speaker. Here lies the Lightning dock connector to charge your iPhone 5 or iPad. At the rear is the power input, an Ethernet port, a USB port and a 3.5mm audio input.

Beneath the beautiful curved grilles are two 1-inch tweeters, two 3-inch mid-range drivers and a 5-inch sub-woofer.

The result is some fantastic audio that one could never have imagined is coming from wireless streaming.

You will need the B&W Control iOS app to connect it to your Wi-Fi network. But once this is done, you can enjoy its looks as well as the music it delivers through AirPlay.

^ Libratone Zipp


Unlike other speakers that need to be connected to an existing network, the Libratone Zipp creates its own Wi-Fi hot spot.

So, you do not need to worry about using this device at the beach, or places with no Wi-Fi.

The cylindrical Zipp uses a 60W amplifier system that powers a 4-inch woofer and two 1-inch tweeters for a 360-degree experience

It comes wrapped in Italian wool for both looks and practicality.

The built-in rechargeable battery allows it to play up to 4 hours wirelessly and 8 hours wired.

If you prefer to use the wired method, the Zipp has a 3.5mm audio jack and a USB audio input.

^ Bose SoundTouch Portable Wi-Fi Music System


No bigger than a secondary school textbook and weighing just 1.5kg, this speaker is meant to be carried around as you might carry a book.

It has two 60mm full-range drivers for a 2.1 audio configuration to deliver solid sound. In front, an Oled screen displays information such as artist name and song title.

A rechargeable lithium-ion battery allows this speaker to play for up to 2-1/2 hours at maximum volume. While it supports AirPlay, it also has a 3.5mm stereo jack and a USB connection.

For those who want more control, use the free Bose SoundTouch Controller iOS app. It allows for six presets, so you can add, for example, Internet radio, or a playlist from a local iTunes library, by just dragging and dropping them into the list.

A remote control is included for quick access to its functions.