I started out years ago using a Creative Labs WiFi system. I think it was actually called “Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music.” Sound Blaster of course went on to become a more generic term for Creative Labs computer audio cards (actually, I think this was the case even then, and it made the name of the unit incredibly confusing). This was early wifi audio streaming. When it worked, it was pretty cool. The fact that the system had a remote that actually showed the name of the song playing, and songs in your library, and even playlists made the device years ahead of any other similar system, but it was S-L-O-W. If you had any sort of decent music library (more than 200 songs), it was painful to scroll through your tunes. Playlists were difficult to compile, and the server software crashed all the time. Other than that it was grand!
For some reason, no one has created a similar unit at a decent price since this unit was made available around 2004. The closest thing seems to be the SqueezeBox Duet, but it’s around $400 —which is WAY too pricey when you’re just trying to get audio to your old stereo.
There are some decent units under $150, but almost all of them have speakers incorporated into the unit. I just wanted a good wifi box to plug into my stereo via RCA plugs. Why does no one make this?!
I’ve finally found something that works for me, and it just goes to show: if you wait long enough, technology catches up and people make enough things that are “almost right,” so you can cobble together exactly what you need at the price you want.
I finally ended up just buying an old Airport Express off of eBay for $45 (they list for $99) and using it only to stream audio. Because it’s only for audio, you can use G or even B wifi, so don’t waste your money on a faster N unit.
When I received my Airport Express, I plugged it into the power strip and ran a 1/8” to RCA cable from the unit to my stereo. I downloaded the Airport Utility from Apple.com and followed easy steps that connected the Airport Express to my existing home network (selecting the options to use the Airport Express only for audio streaming). It was super easy, and I had music streaming to my G2 literally minutes after opening the Airport Express box.
I was happy to see that I can switch speakers from the iTunes interface (I am able to select one or more), and thus the music playing in my office is in perfect sync with the music playing in my living room. You can even control the volume of each independently, so I can make the music louder in the living room, and quieter in the office. Currently I have the audio in my office turned off so I can watch Hulu, but iTunes is still streaming to the living room. I will likely add another Airport Express in the future so that I can stream music to my patio as well.
I use Jeff Sharkey’s TunesRemote for a remote control, which allows me to access my entire library and all my playlists from my phone. HOW TO: Install the app on your phone (download from Android market), let it scan for your iTunes, click on the correct computer/network on your phone, the app will pop-up a four digit code, your device should appear in your iTunes window (same window in which your Playlists, etc. are displayed), click on your device in iTunes and enter the four digit code. I’m listing all that, because I had trouble setting this up at first.
If you don’t like using iTunes, Rogue Amoeba makes a program called Airfoil that allows you to stream any audio to your Airport Express. Basically Airfoil hijacks the audio from any program on your computer and then sends it to your Airport Express. You can even send to multiple Airport Express devices (like you would with iTunes). Don’t get all excited thinking that this will work with audio for your internet video though. It will be out of sync, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it (see this post).
So… I’ve got audio streaming to my G2, I’ve got a remote to control it, and I’m a happy, happy boy!