AirPlay is a great iOS feature that lets you wirelessly transmit video and audio via iPhone, iPad and Mac, allowing users to play their favourite songs via compatible speakers and stereo systems without having to get off the sofa. But what about speakers that aren't compatible with AirPlay?
In this article, we show how to add AirPlay support to a stereo system that doesn't have it already. If you're having problems with the technology, you may also be interested in our guide to AirPlay troubleshooting.
What is AirPlay?
AirPlay lets users stream audio and video wirelessly via their local internet connection, which makes watching your favourite TV shows on your Apple TV-equipped TV a breeze.
The beauty of AirPlay is that it can also provide wireless audio playback via a number of devices, including your home cinema system - if it boasts AirPlay functionality, anyway. But don't worry: even if it doesn't officially support AirPlay, you need only buy the right accessory to enable the functionality.
While the Apple TV (second-gen 2010 model or newer) supports AirPlay, it's a fairly awkward workaround to use an Apple TV as an AirPlay receiver plugged into your stereo system. There is another way to do it, though it's not as easy as it once was.
How to add AirPlay to any speaker or stereo system
While you were once able to connect any 3.5mm-enabled speaker into Apple’s Airport Express accessory to provide wireless AirPlay support, that’s no longer the case. It’s mainly due to Apple canning the AirPort Express and not releasing a new-and-improved variant, and even if you could pick up a second-hand AirPort Express online, you won’t be able to use newer versions of iOS or macOS to set it up.
So, what are users left to do? You could purchase a HomePod or any other AirPlay-enabled smart speaker to do the job, but if you want to hook up your ‘dumb’ speaker setup, you’ll have to pick yourself up a Raspberry Pi and get tweaking. It’s not as techy as it sounds though, don’t worry!
Before we explain the process, make sure you have the following:
- A Raspberry Pi (£28.96/$37.37)
- LibreELEC Kodi installer (available here)
- A Mac or PC to install Kodi
- A secondary display, keyboard and mouse to set up Kodi
- A 3.5mm-to-3.5mm audio cable (£2.98/$5.99)
- A microSD card (£5.84/$5.99)
- Ethernet cable or Wi-Fi dongle (£6.99/$9.99)
Installing Kodi on Raspberry Pi
The first step in adding AirPlay to your speaker system is installing Kodi on your newly-bought Raspberry Pi. This can be done on a PC or Mac, you just need to make sure you’ve downloaded the right version of the app from the LibreELEC website.
Once you’ve installed LibreELEC, open it and insert the microSD card into your PC or Mac. If you’ve not got a built-in SD card slot, you can pick up third-party card readers online fairly cheaply.
Next, select the appropriate model of Raspberry Pi depending on the variant you bought, and hit Download to download and prep the Kodi installer. A status bar will indicate the download progress, with times depending largely on the file you selected and the speed of your internet connection.
Once downloaded, it’s time to select your SD card from the drop-down menu. Once selected, hit Write to install Kodi on the selected drive and once completed, safely eject the card from your Mac or PC.
Once installed, simply plug the microSD card into your Raspberry Pi, hook it up to any display, keyboard, mouse and power supply and turn it on. The Pi should automatically boot the version of Kodi you installed, allowing you to progress to the next stage – configuring your Raspberry Pi to work with AirPlay.
Setting up AirPlay on Raspberry Pi
You should be taken to the Kodi home screen if you’ve installed it correctly – if not, retrace your steps in the section above. While it may look daunting, Kodi is easy to use, and thankfully, enabling AirPlay is pretty straightforward.
First things first, get the internet connection sorted, as this is the primary method for AirPlay using AirPlay on your Kodi-equipped Raspberry Pi. If you’ve got an Ethernet cable plugged in, you don’t need to do anything else, but those who want to use Wi-Fi will have to follow a few more steps.
First, you’ll have to pick up a Pi Wi-Fi dongle as it’s not built-in by default. Once hooked up, go to Programs > LibreELEC Configuration and select the Connections tab. From here, browse for and connect to your home Wi-Fi network.
Once you’re connected to the internet, it’s time to set up AirPlay. From the Home screen, go to Settings > Service Settings > General > Zeroconf and toggle ‘Announce Services to Other Systems’ on. Go back a step, select the new AirPlay tab and select ‘Enable AirPlay support’.
After a few seconds, your Kodi device should appear as an AirPlay speaker on any iOS device connected to the same network.
Hooking up Raspberry Pi to your speakers
The final step is to connect your AirPlay-equipped Raspberry Pi to your speaker. The good news is that once AirPlay has been set up, you’ll no longer need to connect a mouse, keyboard and display to the Raspberry Pi, so unplug them (but not the power or Ethernet cable/Wi-Fi dongle) before going any further.
Take your 3.5mm-to-3.5mm cable and plug one end into the headphone jack of the Raspberry Pi, and the other end into your speaker’s auxiliary input.
From here, select the appropriate input mode on your speaker and connect your iPhone or iPad to the speaker the same way that you would with any Apple TV or AirPlay-equipped speaker. Play some music on the source device, and if you’ve followed our instructions correctly, you’ll be able to hear your music play through your speakers!