AirPlay – or AirPlay 2, to be specific – isn’t something we focus on too much on the website, although that doesn’t mean it’s not of interest. Given that products of all shapes and sizes are available with AirPlay 2 functionality whilst also being exposed to your HomeKit home as devices all by themselves, means they definitely deserve a closer look.
You may already know that Apple products including the HomePod, the HomePod Mini, and even Apple TV are all capable of streaming audio in one manner or another, as well as smart TVs that either just come with AirPlay 2, or are fully HomeKit compatible, which includes AirPlay 2 functionality. There are also AirPlay capable receivers and audio speakers, although, with few exceptions, these aren’t exactly budget-friendly. The second iteration of Apple’s very popular Airport Express wireless router got a rather unexpected firmware update a couple of years back, to provide AirPlay 2 functionality. The reason it was unexpected, is that the product itself had been discontinued by Apple a few years prior to this update, so it just goes to show that Apple really wants you to get a lot out of their products. Sadly, these are pretty hard to find now, due to this very feature.
So, if you already maybe have an old but dearly loved amplifier, or powered speakers, and want to get audio streamed to them via AirPlay 2, here is a small clutch of products that can help with this very thing.
ARYLIC A50+ WIRELESS STEREO AMPLIFIER
Contrary to what you might think, Arylic, not Acrylic, is the name of a company that specialises in a whole raft of products focussed on multiroom audio. Whilst their products (there are quite a few) are pretty agnostic when it comes to audio streaming, AirPlay 2 is part of their feature set. The company make Amplifiers, pre-amps, simple streamers, speakers, and even audio boards for DIY enthusiasts.
For this article, I want to bring your attention to one of their most popular products, the Arylic A50+. This austere looking device may seem plain, but when you see the connectivity options on the back of the device, you know this company is both serious about its audio capabilities and equally serious about providing its users with as many ways as possible to help get sound to their destination of choice.
The device has a Bluetooth antenna for direct audio, a WiFi antenna for network connectivity, a Micro USB port, RCA ports, a Sub output, a full-size Optical Audio-in port, as well as specific connectors for its own line of speakers. Even though the A50+ can connect wirelessly to your network using the 2.4GHz band (for maximum reach), the company felt it would be good to also include an RJ45 port for the best network connectivity. There’s even a USB port, that lets you stream audio files from a USB stick.
Even though I love music, and have been a musician for almost all of my adult life, I’ve admittedly never been too focussed on the finer details of High Fidelity, but when you see that the A50+ is capable of 50W x 2 output with 4Ω passive speakers (at 24v), it’s hard not to be a little impressed.
As we’re talking about AirPlay 2, we can confirm that this is integrated into the product, once you’re connected to your home network and have added this to your HomeKit home. What might be of further interest to some though, is that the companion app also allows for direct connection to various other streaming platforms, like Spotify, Amazon Music, Tidal, Qobuz, Deezer, Napster, TuneIn, Internet Radio, iHeart Radio, QQ Music, QQ FM and more.
BELKIN SOUNDFORM CONNECT
Belkin and its sister company Wemo, are well known for a variety of electronic products, especially Wemo’s HomeKit compatible switches, plugs and its recently released video doorbell. By contrast, Belkin has tended to focus on a range of computer and phone accessories, so when the company released their Soundform Connect AirPlay 2 audio adaptor, it came as a welcome surprise.
this teeny device uses 2.4GHz WiFi to connect to your home network, is powered by a USB-C adaptor, and offers two options for sending audio to your amplifier; there’s an analogue 3.5mm stereo audio connection for older equipment that doesn’t have digital inputs, and a mini Digital Optical audio Out, if you do have a digital option for your equipment. I have a couple of Xiaomi soundbars that have a variety of inputs, including a Digital Optical connection, so this is perfect in my case.
The company also makes its own Soundform Connect app, which allows you to control and customise other Soundform Connect products, like their earphones and earbuds. At only 43.4mm / 1.71in deep, 62mm / 2.44in wide, and 19mm / 0.75in high, it’s probably one of the smallest AirPlay 2 adaptors available.
TERNCY HOME CENTER BRAUN
This next item is a bit of an oddity, that nonetheless, we think should be included – even if you might struggle to find it outside of Mainland China! The Terncy Home Center Braun, made by smart home company Xiaoyan, is primarily a Zigbee 3.0 hub for the company’s own range of Zigbee child devices, of which there are many. Whilst it’s a hub, it actually also features a standard 3.5mm audio out that uses AirPlay 2 for even more functionality.
The hub itself is an update to the company’s original Home Center gateway, which didn’t feature any audio out options. The company offers all the typical Zigbee devices, including motion and contact sensors, buttons, wired switches, motorised curtains, and even HVAC systems and smart locks – all of which are HomeKit compatible. With this in mind, buying a hub like this wouldn’t make sense just for AirPlay 2, so investing in their other devices might be something you should look at first. Still, it’s currently the only hub – Zigbee or otherwise – that offers such a feature.
No, this isn’t an Amazon Echo Dot! It’s the WiiM Mini, a budget AirPlay 2 Streamer, but with Hi-Res audio functionality. The WiiM Mini features a lot more than its $99 price tag suggests, with not only Aux In and Aux Out ports, but a full-size SPDIF (digital audio) port on the back. It’s also used a USB-C port for power and has touch controls on the top of its shiny surface.
Offering streaming gapless playback at 192KHz in 24Bit audio, the Mini offers not only AirPlay 2 support but also works directly with Spotify Connect and Tidal Connect, as well as Amazon Music (not Amazon Ultra HD).
As with the aforementioned offerings by Arylic and Belkin, WiiM has its own app, should you want to use that instead of the standard streaming options.
One of the nice options with the WiiM Mini is that whilst it only uses WiFi for connection to your network, it does support both 2.4 and 5.0GHz 802.11 a/b/c/g/n/ac, as well as Bluetooth 5.0.