Airport Express + Airfoil = Easy, (Relatively) Inexpensive Whole-House Audio

If you’re looking for a relatively cheap way to have music playing throughout your home, then look no further than the Airport Express. This amazing little device pretends to be a portable wireless router, but in fact, can do much more with very little effort.

If you’re looking for a relatively inexpensive way to play music throughout your home, then look no further than the Airport Express.  This amazing little device pretends to be a portable wireless router, but in fact, can do much more with very little effort.

This clever little device combines an 802.11a/b/g/n wireless router with a networked USB port and an audio output port.  Just plug a printer or hard drive into the USB port on the back of this guy, and it becomes available to any computer on the network.  For larger living spaces or homes with weak wireless signal in certain areas, you can also use Airport Express to extend the range on your wireless router.

All of those features are great, but in my opinion, the one that makes the Airport Express truly stand out is what’s called Airtunes.  Basically, all you need to do is connect the Airport Express to your network, and then connect the audio output port on the back to any stereo or speaker using a standard 1/8″ cable.  Then, from any computer running iTunes on the network, open “Preferences” and check the box that says “Look for remote speakers connected with AirTunes.”  Instantly, you’ll see that in the bottom-right of your iTunes window, you now have a drop-down list of selectable audio output sources for “Computer” and “{Insert name of your Airport Express here}”  To play music at both locations, just enable both of those outputs and you’re rocking out with iTunes!

To add more locations, just follow the same procedure and you can have seemlessly (and synchronized) music playing throughout your whole home (no drilling required).  Pretty cool, huh?

The problem:

Well, this is all great, but there’s still one main limitation that Apple imposes on Airtunes: by default, you can only stream music from the iTunes application.  That may not sound so bad, but what if you want to listen to audio from a YouTube video while you do some house chores, or some relaxing music via Pandora?  Out of the box, the Airport Express will not allow you to choose those applications (or your web browser) as an audio source.

The solution:

Rogue Amoeba sells a software application called Airfoil that allows you to select any audio source on your computer, and play that audio through any computer (Mac or PC) or Airport Express devices you have on your network.

I’ve been using this setup for a few months now, and on the whole, I’ve been fairly satisfied with the results.  Here’s a break-down of my Pros/Cons:


  • Only $99 for each Airport Express (Bargain hunter tip: You can pick them up for only $85 refurbished at the Apple Store online)
  • Airport Express can also be used as a portable wireless router when you go on business trips or vacation
  • Synchronized audio throughout (walk from one room to the next without hearing any delays)
  • Works for both Macs and PCs


  • Only 1 audio source (even with Airfoil), so every room plays the same thing
  • Requires a computer to be running
  • You have to remember to turn on the stereo/speakers in each room

Does anyone else have any experience with the Airport Express and Airtunes?  Do you have any other whole house audio solutions that are easy and require no drilling? If so, let us know in the Comments below!

Learn more about the Airport Express @ or Buy Now: New | Refurbished

Airfoil (for Mac and Windows) @

3 replies on “Airport Express + Airfoil = Easy, (Relatively) Inexpensive Whole-House Audio”

I am particularly fond of any technology that is multi-purpose. The fact that the airport express can be used in different contexts just makes it that much cooler in my mind. As for the music playing in every room, it’s one of those things you didn’t know you were missing until you have it up and running. It’s all about quality of life, right?

Sweet! The answer to my problems! (I’m still living in a corded world.) One question- does it only work for Mac?

Yep. Airtunes will work for both Mac and Windows and Airfoil also has versions for both operating systems. I’m a Mac user, so setup was a breeze for me, but from what I’ve read, adding the Airport Express to your network is fairly simple buy may involve some fussing about with the Windows Firewall to open up some ports. Worst case, you can always call Apple tech support and they’ll walk you through it.

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