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How to add AirPlay to any speaker or stereo, and make them wireless

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.

What is AirPlay?

AirPlay lets users stream not only video but audio wirelessly via their local internet connection, which makes watching your favourite TV shows on your non-smart TV a breeze. (It was first introduced by Steve Jobs way back in September 2010 as part of iOS 4.2, and as a successor to AirTunes.)

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. That’s why Apple released the AirPort Express Base Station, an accessory that offers AirPlay functionality (in terms of audio anyway) via a 3.5mm jack output, as well as the ability to set up AirPrint, allowing you to print documents wirelessly from your iOS device.

How to add AirPlay to any stereo system

So, you want to add AirPlay support to your existing stereo system? Follow our how-to below and you’ll be wirelessly playing your favourite songs in no time!

1. Assess your setup and buy the required equipment

The first step is to assess your needs and work out what you need to buy in order to add AirPlay to your stereo system.

Let’s start with the stereo system. You need to establish whether it supports an auxiliary input; this is usually a 3.5mm jack but can also take the form of RCA cables in older stereo systems. This is crucial to the setup process as the AirPort Express provides the stereo system with wirelessly streamed audio via an input and of course, no input means no streaming.

Once you’ve got your hands on a decent stereo system with an auxiliary input, the next product to buy is the AirPort Express Base Station. The AirPort Express can be bought directly from Apple for £99 in the UK or $99 in the US, but you may be able to find older variants (that still work!) on the likes of eBay.

It’ll also be worth getting your hands on an audio cable to connect the AirPort Express to your stereo. You can find a standard 3.5mm to 3.5mm cable for £3.99 in the UK or $5.79 in the US, while those with older systems can pick up a 3.5mm to RCA cable for £1.99 in the UK or $7.99 in the US.

2. Connect the AirPort Express to your stereo system

Once you’ve got your hands on an AirPort Express, an audio cable and of course, your stereo system, it’s time to set it all up.

Simply plug the AirPort Express into an outlet near your stereo system, and plug the 3.5mm jack into the Audio Output port of the accessory. Next, plug the other end of the cable into your stereo system – the placement of the input port may vary depending on the design of your system.

3. Connect the AirPort Express to the Wi-Fi network

We’re almost there, the end is in sight – all you need to do now is connect your AirPort Express to your local network, be it via Wi-Fi or Ethernet. Connecting the AirPort Express via Ethernet is fairly simple – just plug it in and you’re ready to go – but connecting over Wi-Fi takes a little longer, and may vary depending on the AirPort Express model you have.

You need to open your Mac or iOS device Wi-Fi Settings menu and tap AirPort Express under the ‘Set up a new Airport Base Station’ category that should appear when you’re within range. Simply follow the instructions onscreen to connect to your home Wi-Fi network and complete the setup process.

4. Start playing tunes!

Now if you’ve followed our how-to correctly, you should now be able to access the AirPort Express via the AirPlay menu found in iOS’s Control Centre, or on the toolbar of your Mac. Simply connect, turn your stereo system on, change it to the Aux-in input and start listening to your favourite songs wirelessly!

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