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How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Apple just released new versions of iOS, HomePod, and tvOS that support AirPlay 2, a huge upgrade that lets you play music from your iPhone on multiple devices in multiple rooms. Here’s how it all works.

We’ve been testing this feature out at HTG HQ and we’re really impressed. We were playing music on a HomePod and an Apple TV playing through a TV’s speakers at the same time and everything stayed in perfect sync. The music filled the room perfectly despite playing through two completely different devices at once.

So What’s AirPlay and Why’s Version 2 Better?

Built into your iPhone, iPad, or Mac is the ability to play audio (or video) from the device in your hand to another device that supports it. So if you’re watching a video on your iPhone and you want to play it on your TV, you can use AirPlay to play it on the bigger screen, assuming that you’ve got an Apple TV hooked up. This also works for playing music, you can send music from your iPhone to your TV, HomePod, or AirPlay-compatible speaker.

The problem, for so long, is that you could only stream music to a single device at a time, which was a huge limitation, especially considering that Sonos has had multi-room audio for years, and Alexa added it to their smart speakers recently. So if you wanted to have music everywhere in your house streaming from your iPhone, it was really difficult.

AirPlay 2 adds the ability to stream music from your iPhone to multiple speakers or devices across any number of rooms in your house. As long as everything is hooked to the same Wi-Fi network and supports AirPlay 2, you can stream across the devices. So if you have a HomePod in your kitchen and Apple TVs hooked up in the living room and bedroom, you can play music across all of these rooms at once with just a tap.

What Devices Support AirPlay 2?

This all sounds great, but unless you have compatible hardware, it’s not going to help you much. If you want to stream to multiple devices, here are the devices that actually support AirPlay 2:

  • iPhones and iPads on iOS 11.4 (Here’s how to check and update it)
  • iTunes on macOS or Windows
  • Apple TV – running at least tvOS version 11.4 (Here’s how to check and update it)
  • HomePod – running at least HomePod version 11.4 (Here’s how to check and update it)
  • Any third-party speaker that has listed support for it. This includes Beats, Beoplay, BeoSound, BeoVision, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Marantz, Naim, Polk, and some Sonos speakers. You can check out the full list of speakers that have announced support on Apple’s site, but you’ll have to check with the manufacturer to make sure.

It’s worth noting that iPhones and iPads can be used as the controller device, not as the speakers. Which makes sense, of course.

How to Play Music Across Multiple Compatible Devices

Playing music across multiple devices, even if they are in multiple rooms, could not be easier. Just pull up Control Center on your iPhone and long-press on the Music control to open it up.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Once you’ve got that open, click on the AirPlay icon to choose your speaker output, and if your devices are all updated with the latest version, you’ll see circles next to the devices that can be selected. You’ll notice in this screenshot that my Apple TV 2 doesn’t have a circle—that’s because I haven’t updated that device to 11.4 yet.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Once you’ve got multiple devices selected, you can adjust the volume levels individually per device. You might have to hit the Play button again, but otherwise, it’s this easy to play audio across multiple rooms.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

From iTunes on Your macOS or Windows

You can’t use AirPlay 2 from just anywhere on your Mac to stream to multiple speakers (yet), but you can do it from iTunes really easily, assuming you’re running the very latest version of iTunes—check the App Store to see if there’s an update. If you’re using Windows, make sure you’re on the latest iTunes.

Once you’re sure that you’re using the latest version, just start playing some music and click the AirPlay icon. You can select multiple devices, volume levels, and play music across your Mac, HomePod, Apple TVs, or other compatible devices all at the same time.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to Enable Stereo Support for Multiple HomePods

If you have more than one HomePod in the same room, you don’t need to manually select both HomePods at the same time every time you want to play some music in the room. AirPlay 2 now supports setting them up as as Stereo Pair, which makes them appear as a single speaker to your iPhone or other output device, and plays the music across both of them.

Even better, when you do set them up, the HomePods will automatically split out the audio into Left and Right and play correctly on the two speakers in stereo mode.

To set this up, open up the Home app on your iPhone, and then long press on your Homepod, select Details, and then you’ll see the settings for the HomePod.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Once you’ve opened up the settings screen, you should see an option for Create Stereo Pair. Tap that and follow through the prompts to select multiple HomePods and put them into a pair. You’ll be also prompted to select which one is right and left, and you can swap them easily.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Once they are paired together as a single speaker, they will appear in your list as a single option and can be used just like any HomePod, but the audio will be synced in stereo mode across them.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

AirPlay Usually Requires Your iPhone to Be Present

It’s probably obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that if you’re playing music from your iPhone and using AirPlay to play it everywhere in your house… it’s actually playing off your iPhone. So if your iPhone has a hiccup or needs to restart or you just need to leave the house, the music is going to stop playing. It’s also going to stop playing if you decide to say, open a video game.

The one instance where this isn’t the case is when you’ve used Siri on the HomePod to start playing music—that doesn’t require your iPhone or any other device, as it’s playing directly on the HomePod.

HomePod Arrives in Canada, France and Germany Starting June 18

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

AirPlay 2 and Multi-Room Audio

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

  • HomePod is available in white and space gray for $349 (US) in the US, UK and Australia and will be available in Canada, France and Germany beginning Monday, June 18. HomePod will be available in Apple Stores, apple.com, the Apple Store app and at select Apple Authorized Resellers.
  • HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation) with iOS 11.2.5 or later. Stereo and multi-room audio are available with iOS 11.4.

Images of iOS 11.4 and HomePod

1 Canadian French language support coming later this year as a free software update.
2 Calendar support will be available in Canada, France and Germany later this year.

HomePod Arrives in Canada, France and Germany Starting June 18

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

AirPlay 2 and Multi-Room Audio

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

  • HomePod is available in white and space gray in the US, UK and Australia and will be available in Canada, France and Germany beginning Monday, June 18. HomePod will be available in Apple Stores, apple.com, the Apple Store app and at select Apple Authorised Resellers.
  • HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation) with iOS 11.2.5 or later. Stereo and multi-room audio are available with iOS 11.4.

Images of iOS 11.4 and HomePod

1 Canadian French will be supported later this year as a free software update.
2 Calendar support will be available in Canada, France and Germany later this year.

iOS 11.4 brings the highly anticipated features to Apple’s smart speakers

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How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

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iOS 11.4 is here, and it brings with it a few highly anticipated features for Apple’s HomePod speaker, including the ability to create a stereo pair of two HomePods and support for Apple’s new multi-room AirPlay 2 standard. Here’s how to get everything all set up:

Before you get to the fun part, you’ll have to first make sure everything has been updated to iOS 11.4. To update your phone, you’ll need to head over to the Settings app → General → Software Update. As for the HomePod, it should automatically look for and install the update at midnight, but you can check that it’s been updated or force the install yourself by heading over to the Home app. There, you’ll be able to see if there’s a HomePod update available, download and install the update, and manage other features for your HomePod. And in a neat option, the Home app can automatically detect if you’ve got multiple HomePods, and download and install the update for all of them in one shot.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Multi-room audio:

Once you’ve got all your updates installed, Multi-room audio should just work right out of the box. To use it, simply head over to your music app of choice on iOS and start playing music over AirPlay, and then select one of your HomePod devices. Now, with iOS 11.4, instead of just playing to a single source, AirPlay 2 compatible speakers will appear in the AirPlay pop-up with a small checkbox next to them, allowing you to toggle multiple speakers to all play the same song from your iPhone. This part will work for the HomePod, and presumably any other AirPlay 2 speakers you’ll get farther down the line.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

But with HomePods, there’s an extra level of multi-room audio that you’ll be able to do, where you can have each speaker play independent audio streams over Wi-Fi without having to use AirPlay at all. For now, this feature is limited to the HomePod, and specifically limited to Apple Music subscribers (although, hopefully the Apple TV will also get some sort of similar ability further down the line when it eventually gets updated to AirPlay 2.) To take advantage of that feature, head to the same AirPlay menu as before — which can be accessed from the AirPlay icon in most music apps, or the music widget, and then scroll down below the topmost locally playing track on the iPhone to select one of your HomePod devices. There, you’ll be able to select an Apple Music track to use as a source, and play that track to other AirPlay 2 speakers using the same checkbox system as when you were playing from your iPhone directly.

Stereo Pair:

If you’re planning on keeping your two HomePods together in one room, though, there’s also the option to group them together as a stereo pair.

To create a stereo pair — which treats the two HomePods as one, discrete unit for AirPlay and Siri purposes — head on back over to the Home app, select one of your two HomePods, head into the settings for it, and hit “Create Stereo Pair…” Next, you’ll have the option to select your second HomePod to create the pair with. Once selected, you’ll be taken to a second screen to confirm that you’ve got the left and right channels chosen properly — tapping on each HomePod will cause it to light up with a chime to make sure it’s set up right, and you can easily swap them with another tap — after which you’ll be good to go. When paired, the left HomePod will become the “main” device, handling microphone duties for Siri requests (which probably won’t matter since both speakers will be in the same room in this case.)

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

The grouped HomePod will show up in Apple Music, iTunes, AirPlay, and everywhere else as a single pair, which will play whatever content you stream to it in stereo audio. The same limitations of multi-room AirPlay will apply with a stereo-paired HomePod as with a single one, where you’ll still need Apple Music to make the most of the set up. Lastly — and I haven’t been able to fully confirm this, due to not having a third HomePod around — but you’ll still presumably be able to use the paired stereo HomePod set with multi-room AirPlay 2 audio as well, should you wish.

To ungroup the stereo pair and have your two speakers function independently again, head back over to the Home app, select your paired HomePods, and scroll down to hit the “Ungroup accessories” button. You’ll be able to re-pair them at any time by following the steps above.

AirPlay 2 and HomeKit are two useful Apple ecosystem characteristics that are creeping into a lot more hardware that doesn’t occur from the corporation, like Roku gadgets and clever speakers.

Specifically with smart TVs, the options make it possible for end users to forged a extensive selection of written content and unlocks a couple of convenient methods. This means that if you don’t thoughts a bit of lag, you can even use a Roku-equipped screen as an exterior show for your Mac.

What can you forged

Casting material is relatively straightforward. If you’re employing an Apple product, search for the two AirPlay symbols to drive articles to your Television. The a lot more round selection is for audio and the sq. one is for video.

In conditions of audio, you can cast tunes from all the common streaming expert services and a lot of other apps, but you want to use an Apple iphone, iPad or some other form of Apple item. You can also team with each other many AirPlay 2-enabled speakers/screens to perform multi-place audio.

On the online video side of issues, you can solid really considerably everything ranging from Netflix to YouTube, but when once again, you can only do this from an Apple machine. Also, many thanks to a the latest update, you can stream Apple Physical fitness+ information.

As I outlined over, you can even use Airplay-enabled screens as an external show for your Mac or mirror an iPa or iPhone’s display.

Does my machine assistance AirPlay?

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

You can uncover a complete checklist of supported TVs and units capable of streaming AirPlay movie listed here.

Apple has a list of AirPlay-enabled speakers right here.

What does HomeKit include to my Television set?

HomeKit is the next piece of this puzzle. The system lets customers to management precise components of their Television set from their cell phone or with voice controls.

This means that you can use the distant tool designed into Control Centre on iOS to navigate your smart TV’s menus, and you can change it on/off from the Apple Dwelling application. If you want, you can even then insert that television to an Automation so it turns off when you depart your household.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

The AirPlay remote on iOS and the Property Application.

Out of all of these, the a single function that helps make enabling HomeKit on your Television set worthwhile is the software program remote. It unfortunately can’t regulate quantity, but if you want to perform/pause one thing and your real remote is misplaced in the couch cushions, this is useful to have.

It’s also worth noting that you want to set up HomeKit from your Tv and connection it to your Apple account. Generally, this is located beneath and AirPlay and HomeKit sub-setting on most TVs.

HomePod Arrives in Canada, France and Germany Starting June 18

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

AirPlay 2 and Multi-Room Audio

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

  • HomePod is available in white and space gray for $349 (US) in the US, UK and Australia and will be available in Canada, France and Germany beginning Monday, June 18. HomePod will be available in Apple Stores, apple.com, the Apple Store app and at select Apple Authorized Resellers.
  • HomePod is compatible with iPhone 5s or later, iPad Pro, iPad Air or later, iPad mini 2 or later, or iPod touch (6th generation) with iOS 11.2.5 or later. Stereo and multi-room audio are available with iOS 11.4.

Images of iOS 11.4 and HomePod

1 Canadian French language support coming later this year as a free software update.
2 Calendar support will be available in Canada, France and Germany later this year.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

AirPlay 2 and HomeKit are two useful Apple ecosystem features that are creeping into more hardware that doesn’t come from the company, including Roku devices and smart speakers.

Specifically with smart TVs, the features allow users to cast a wide variety of content and unlocks a few convenient tricks. This means that if you don’t mind a bit of lag, you can even use a Roku-equipped screen as an external display for your Mac.

What can you cast

Casting content is fairly easy. If you’re using an Apple device, look for the two AirPlay symbols to push content to your TV. The more circular option is for audio and the square one is for video.

In terms of audio, you can cast music from all the popular streaming services and many other apps, but you need to use an iPhone, iPad or some other form of Apple product. You can also group together multiple AirPlay 2-enabled speakers/screens to play multi-room audio.

On the video side of things, you can cast pretty much anything ranging from Netflix to YouTube, but once again, you can only do this from an Apple device. Also, thanks to a recent update, you can stream Apple Fitness+ content.

As I mentioned above, you can even use Airplay-enabled screens as an external display for your Mac or mirror an iPa or iPhone’s screen.

Does my device support AirPlay?

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

You can find a full list of supported TVs and devices capable of streaming AirPlay video here.

Apple has a list of AirPlay-enabled speakers here.

What does HomeKit add to my TV?

HomeKit is the second piece of this puzzle. The platform allows users to control specific parts of their TV from their phone or with voice controls.

This means that you can use the remote tool built into Control Centre on iOS to navigate your smart TV’s menus, and you can turn it on/off from the Apple Home app. If you want, you can even then add that television to an Automation so it turns off whenever you leave your house.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

The AirPlay remote on iOS and the Home App.

Out of all of these, the one feature that makes enabling HomeKit on your TV worthwhile is the software remote. It sadly can’t control volume, but if you need to play/pause something and your real remote is lost in the couch cushions, this is handy to have.

It’s also worth noting that you need to set up HomeKit from your TV and link it to your Apple account. Generally, this is found under and AirPlay and HomeKit sub-setting on most TVs.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Multi-room audio may be the biggest feature of AirPlay 2, but it is far from the only new tricks AirPlay 2 has up its sleeve.

Out of the gate, only HomePod, Apple TV 4, and Apple TV 4K support AirPlay 2, though manufacturers are able to add support to their third-party speakers as well. Already Apple has outlined many upcoming speakers including those from Sonos, Pioneer, Libratone, Marshall and more that will gain support.

What can it do?

Chances are, you’ve heard of the headline features of AirPlay 2, namely multi-room audio and stereo pairing on the HomePod. That doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the true benefits of this impressive update.

Notably, there is now a substantially bigger streaming buffer. This helps reduce interruptions due to network issues. In our testing, this was very noticeable. Audio drops were down significantly from the original AirPlay.

Secondly, there is now tighter sync between devices, which reduces the lag quite a bit in most situations, and lends itself to multi-room audio. There can still be a bit of lag when starting/stopping a stream, but it is definitely less than in the past.

Siri is also better equipped for streaming audio. She can be asked to play/pause music on any AirPlay 2 speaker, regardless of the manufacturer. Your iPhone still stays in the middle with third-party speakers though, with audio going to the device first before being re-streamed to the speaker.

An extremely handy new feature is the ability to move audio. Just ask Siri on the HomePod to “move the music to the living room” and she will.

AirPlay is also now more independent. Instead of constantly being interrupted by a phone call, a game, or a video, AirPlay 2 can continue to stream in spite of all of this. These annoyances have plagued users for ages and these tweaks make it much more usable, especially compared to other smart speakers.

And, AirPlay 2 speakers are a part of HomeKit. Any AirPlay 2 speaker will appear within the Home app and can be assigned an individual room like any other accessory. Speakers can be played/paused from within the Home app, and included within favorites.

HomeKit support seems to end there though, as speakers still aren’t able to be included in any scenes or automations. Amazon recently added music to routines and schedules with Alexa, putting Apple further behind in this regard. Hopefully, Apple remedies this soon.

How do I use it?

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Using AirPlay 2 is as easy as the original. Swipe into Control Center on your iOS device, and tap the AirPlay icon within the music control.

Here, all of your AirPlay and AirPlay 2 speakers will appear. Any speaker that supports AirPlay 2 will have a circle aligned to the right, whereas original AirPlay speakers will have nothing.

Each speaker you select to cast to will be marked with a check within the circle. You can select as many AirPlay 2 speakers as you want, though they cannot be used at the same time as an AirPlay 1 speaker.

You can also access AirPlay from within any app that supports it. Pandora, Spotify, YouTube, Audible, and many more all add a quick and easy AirPlay icon right within their apps.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

Apple TV is also AirPlay 2 ready now, so during any playing video a swipe down from the top brings down the info bar. Swiping to Audio shows any AirPlay 2 speakers that can be streamed to. If on the home screen, a long hold of the play/pause button will also bring up the AirPlay controls.

Limitations

AirPlay 2 isn’t without its drawbacks. As mentioned before, third-party speakers can’t stream directly, keeping the phone in the equation. If the phone ever dies or goes outside network range, the music will end.

As of now, Macs aren’t invited to the AirPlay 2 party, still relying on the initial protocol. That means streaming audio to any AirPlay speaker — even one that supports AirPlay 2 — still has a substantial delay, making watching videos nearly impossible.

System audio can only be sent to one speaker at a time, but multi-room audio is still available within iTunes. We are making the guess this particular limitation has to do with the fact Macs currently don’t support HomeKit. If the Mac should gain HomeKit support, say at WWDC, this could change.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

For manufacturers of third-party speakers, AirPlay 2 is more demanding than in the past, which makes it impossible for some to be upgraded. Take the Wren V5, a popular AirPlay speaker. It doesn’t have enough onboard memory, and won’t get the advantages of AirPlay 2. A lot of uncertainty is going around as to what will be able to be upgraded and which speakers won’t.

The biggest and most obvious limitation though is it is completely tied into the Apple ecosystem. Anyone rocking an Android handset will be completely left out in the cold. A few third-party speakers get to participate, but HomePod and Apple TV are still the shining examples of how it should work and have their own distinct advantages.

Music to our ears

Even though it was substantially delayed, AirPlay 2 is definitely worth the wait. Quicker connecting, larger buffer, multi-room audio and a HomePod that is finally starting to be competitive. This is another example of how Apple has tightly integrated their software and hardware, which really pays off for those who have embraced Apple’s family of devices.

It will be interesting to see how quickly third-party speakers adopt Apple’s latest streaming tech, with some promising updates within only one to two weeks.

Hopefully, we see more exciting news regarding AirPlay 2 speakers, as well as their integration with HomeKit, at WWDC18.

AppleInsider has affiliate partnerships and may earn commission on products purchased through affiliate links. These partnerships do not influence our editorial content.

Comments (20)

igerard

what about the delay if working with GarageBand on the iPad? I guess not usable ?

I tested with AirPlay 1 to the HP. a very big delay, several seconds.

mac_128

Does AIrPlay 2 allow multiple AirPods to be used at the same time as well?

flagstone

I don’t think AirPods have anything to do with AirPlay 2 – AirPods are Bluetooth, while AirPlay 2 is over WiFi. Bluetooth is I think just point-to-point, so I don’t think it supports (at least for audio) splitting like that.

Andrew_OSU

Hi there! AirPods actually aren’t related to AirPlay. AirPlay speakers are all actually over Wi-Fi and not Bluetooth.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

AirPlay 2 and HomeKit are two useful Apple ecosystem features that are creeping into more hardware that doesn’t come from the company, including Roku devices and smart speakers.

Specifically with smart TVs, the features allow users to cast a wide variety of content and unlocks a few convenient tricks. This means that if you don’t mind a bit of lag, you can even use a Roku-equipped screen as an external display for your Mac.

What can you cast

Casting content is fairly easy. If you’re using an Apple device, look for the two AirPlay symbols to push content to your TV. The more circular option is for audio and the square one is for video.

In terms of audio, you can cast music from all the popular streaming services and many other apps, but you need to use an iPhone, iPad or some other form of Apple product. You can also group together multiple AirPlay 2-enabled speakers/screens to play multi-room audio.

On the video side of things, you can cast pretty much anything ranging from Netflix to YouTube, but once again, you can only do this from an Apple device. Also, thanks to a recent update, you can stream Apple Fitness+ content.

As I mentioned above, you can even use Airplay-enabled screens as an external display for your Mac or mirror an iPa or iPhone’s screen.

Does my device support AirPlay?

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

You can find a full list of supported TVs and devices capable of streaming AirPlay video here.

Apple has a list of AirPlay-enabled speakers here.

What does HomeKit add to my TV?

HomeKit is the second piece of this puzzle. The platform allows users to control specific parts of their TV from their phone or with voice controls.

This means that you can use the remote tool built into Control Centre on iOS to navigate your smart TV’s menus, and you can turn it on/off from the Apple Home app. If you want, you can even then add that television to an Automation so it turns off whenever you leave your house.

How to use apple’s new multi-room audio features in airplay 2

The AirPlay remote on iOS and the Home App.

Out of all of these, the one feature that makes enabling HomeKit on your TV worthwhile is the software remote. It sadly can’t control volume, but if you need to play/pause something and your real remote is lost in the couch cushions, this is handy to have.

It’s also worth noting that you need to set up HomeKit from your TV and link it to your Apple account. Generally, this is found under and AirPlay and HomeKit sub-setting on most TVs.