AirPlay – Will Revolutionize Your Home Theater
Its no secret that we both love our whole house audio systems. Judging from the email we get its pretty clear our listeners like whole house audio as well. Braden uses the Logitech Squeezebox setup and I use Apple’s Airport Express. We tested and really like Sonos as well. So when Apple introduced their latest sharing technology called Airplay, we were intrigued to see what it offers over existing technologies.
Airplay is a wireless technology that lets you stream your music from iTunes (Mac or PC) to speaker docks, A/V receivers, and Airport Expresses. So what’s the big deal you may ask? I’ve been doing that for years. With Airplay, Apple has licensed the technology to third party developers so you’ll be able to build whole house audio systems by doing nothing more than plugging in power and joining your local network.
By licensing the technology you’ll be able to mix and match components to match the characteristics of your room. That way you can go cheap in your garage and high end in your media room. Denon, iHome, JBL, and Marantz have announced products that are compatible with the technology.
AirPlay does more than just stream your music to external speakers however. It streams information about your music, too. Airplay compatible devices will be able to display meta data about the music you are listening to including Song titles, artists, album names, elapsed and remaining time, and album artwork all appear on AirPlay-enabled speakers with graphical displays. Previous remote speaker capability simply streamed the music without any id3 data.
You will be able to control your music from your iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. That much is not new. What’s cool is that you will also be able to send audio from these devices to the remote speakers as well. No longer will need to leave you computer on to listen to your library. It will also be possible stream music from other applications like Pandora or Last.FM right from your portable device.
This frees Apple from having to create agreements with content providers. Essentially, Airplay comes with support from thousands of content providers on day one. Every radio station that has an app in the iTunes store is a content provider for streaming audio to an AirPlay connected device.
The possibilities are pretty cool if we think about it. You come home from a run listening to some great music and don’t want to stop. Simply press a button on your iDevice and your music is now blasting through the house without missing a beat! Have you been to a party and the host has lousy music? Get on his local network and send your own playlist to the whole house audio system and your friend will thank you for saving the party!
Airplay also has a video component that is very intriguing to us. If you have an AppleTV you will be able to send video from your iPod, iPhone, or iPad directly to the AppleTV. Until AppleTV supports apps this is the next best thing. What’s not clear yet is if the applications need to explicitly support this feature or if its automatic with any video.
Imagine sitting together and finding funny videos on Internet and then sending them to the AppleTV. No Hulu + on AppleTV no worries. Just launch it from your iPod and send it to the AppleTV. Since the iPhone 4 has an “HD” video recorder you can easily share videos that you shot with your friends and family. All you need to do is jump on the local network and you’re ready to go. Want to share vacation photos with friends and family? Its just a button push away. We are hoping that Apple will allow this technology to work for videos stored on your computer as well.
At this point in time only the AppleTV supports video streaming from iDevices, however, we feel confident that TV manufactures will either license the AirPlay technology or perhaps build in AppleTV. Maybe Apple will even manufacture an actual HDTV that we keep hearing about.
While other manufacturers have wireless whole house solutions this is the first time that you can bridge a single technology across different manufacturers with zero configuration. Competition should spur creative solutions and multiple price points. Tie all of them together with Apple’s revised Remote Control app and you have a sexy solution that is affordable and can grow with you.
Posted by The HT Guys, October 21, 2010 10:57 PM
About The HT GuysThe HT Guys, Ara Derderian and Braden Russell, are Engineers who formerly worked for the Advanced Digital Systems Group (ADSG) of Sony Pictures Entertainment. ADSG was the R&D unit of the sound department producing products for movie theaters and movie studios.
Two of the products they worked on include the DCP-1000 and DADR-5000. The DCP is a digital cinema processor used in movie theaters around the world. The DADR-5000 is a disk-based audio dubber used on Hollywood sound stages.
ADSG was awarded a Technical Academy Award by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2000 for the development of the DADR-5000. Ara holds three patents for his development work in Digital Cinema and Digital Audio Recording.
Every week they put together a podcast about High Definition TV and Home Theater. Each episode brings news from the A/V world, helpful product reviews and insights and help in demystifying and simplifying HDTV and home theater.