AirPlay is a wireless music system from Apple that allows you to stream your iTunes library across a Wi-Fi network to a host of different devices. It's intuitive, powerful technology that could prove to be the best reason yet to upgrade your kit. Below you'll find some of our favourite AirPlay-compatible products so far.
If you have an iPhone, iPod or iPad, you'll already be using iTunes to buy, store and organise your music. iTunes makes it easy to manage thousands of songs, offering quick and convenient access to your entire collection. But, until recently, it's had one major weakness: your songs have been shackled to your computer or music player. Apple AirPlay fixes that.
Like all the best ideas, AirPlay is incredibly simple. Now a standard feature in iOS 4.2 and later, it enables any AirPlay sender, such as a computer running iTunes or an iOS mobile device, to stream audio to any AirPlay receiver, such as a compatible iPod dock, AV receiver, set of speakers, mini hi-fi system and so on.
AirPlay doesn't just support music either. Album and artist information, elapsed track times and cover art are also distributed over the network. You can even share video and photos.
There are several ways to use AirPlay. Firstly, you can sit at your computer and push music from iTunes to a compatible networked sound system. Provided the AirPlay receiver is powered-up, it will automatically start playing your tracks. This might be an individual song, specific playlist or your entire library.
Secondly, you can push tunes from your iOS mobile device. This works extremely well with an iPad. Browsing cover art on the large iPad screen never grows old, and the ability to play tracks directly into your sound system over Wi-Fi is game-changing.
Set-up is easy. When you put an AirPlay-enabled product on your home network, an AirPlay icon (a rectangle with a triangle in it) will appear in the bottom right-hand corner of your iTunes screen. Clicking this reveals the device just connected. Select it when you want to stream to it.
One cool AirPlay trick is the ability to stream to multiple devices on your network simultaneously. This makes setting up multi-room audio a snap.
AirPlay devices don't have to match, so you can stream to a dock in one room and a mini-system in the other. Just select the 'multiple speakers' option in the iTunes pull-down menu.