Published on July 27th, 2011 | by Greg0
Airfoil Brings Airplay To A New Level
It's easy to get sucked into the Apple ecosystem. Not every product is amazing, or far superior to competitors, but the lineup overall means that they work together nicely and add up to something more than the pieces. The AppleTV isn't better than other set-top boxes, with or without XBMC, and the iPhone and iPad are certainly top of the line but not necessarily better than Android smartphones and tablets. Take, for instance, Airplay- a decent idea, but not automatically better than Sonos or Soundcast or Squeezebox or Yamaha's MusicCAST2. There are plenty of restrictions on each, but some clear advantages that come with already having a bunch of Apple products (and their lower expense, generally).
For those who are exploring wireless music and audio options, you'll quickly find holes in each system. But we found one program- Airfoil- that helps glue Airplay together, allowing you to send audio from your Mac or PC to any Airplay-enabled device. Just as cool, you can use Rogue Amoeba's free Airfoil Speakers app to turn any iPad or iPhone into another speaker as well- adding a bunch of interesting audio playback options to your household. Want a party where everyone has their own speaker? Or want an easy way for your friends to show up and share their favorite tracks from anything other than iTunes through your home theater system? Pandora, streamed wirelessly? As from within iTunes, you can stream to multiple devices simultaneously.
We've tried out the software on both Macs and PCs, and it's easy to download and install. A free version is available, with reasonable limitations, and family packs are available or you can purchase single licenses for $25. You'll need all of the devices on the same network (of course), but ours was split between wired and wireless devices in a variety of configurations and every device was detected without an issue. As with all Airplay audio, it won't always be perfectly synched across all playback devices- we found there to be audible delay when using multiple sources regardless of audio source, use of Airfoil, wired or wireless connection. But Airfoil gives you, simply, the ability to broaden your Airplay horizon beyond iTunes, a feature that is quite handy. If in doubt, we definitely recommend you try it out. And the latest version of the iOS app offers a bunch of new features, including remote control of your computer audio source, so you can initiate the connection from your iPad or iPhone.