How to play anything on your HomePod, including vinyl records, with Airfoil and a Mac

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 16
Apple's HomePod may be limited in connectivity, but thanks to its support for the legacy AirPlay standard, it's possible to connect basically anything you want to it over Wi-Fi. One of the best ways to do this is with the Airfoil app, available from longtime Mac developer Rogue Amoeba.




Airfoil actually encompasses a whole suit of cross-platform products that allow users to take existing hardware and expand their AirPlay accessory lineup. But the key to it all is the desktop Airfoil app, which is available for Mac as well as Windows.

Airfoil allows users to take audio from their computer and broadcast it anywhere on the network via the AirPlay protocol. And because the HomePod supports AirPlay, Airfoil can transmit system audio to Apple's new standalone speaker.




This is noteworthy because HomePod lacks traditional Bluetooth support, meaning the number and types of devices that can transmit music and audio to it are limited. But with a computer and AirPlay in the mix, those walls start to come down.

For example, in our test, we plugged an inexpensive USB-connected Sylvania turntable into our Mac, which recognizes it as a USB plug-and-play audio device. From there it was just a matter of selecting the proper source audio, and then selecting the HomePod as our AirPlay output.




We found that the analog-to-digital audio conversion with this inexpensive record player was a little flat, but thankfully Airfoil also includes custom equalizer settings that can enhance the sound. After selecting the "Rock" EQ preset, the album became much more rich and deep, sounding akin to how it does on traditional speakers with analog audio out.

Airfoil, of course, can do much more than transmit vinyl to the HomePod, and can be used to hijack any audio source from a Mac to use over AirPlay. This means that if you can get audio into your Mac and convert it to diigtal, you could in theory stream anything to your HomePod -- cassettes, 8-tracks, an electric guitar or MIDI instrument, whatever you please.




To sweeten the pot, Airfoil even allows output to multiple AirPlay speakers at once. That means if you own two HomePods, or a HomePod in combination with other AirPlay speakers, you can stream music to them simultaneously -- even before AirPlay 2 launches. With Airfoil, you can output audio to your HomePod and Apple TV home theater system at the same time, truly filling your home with sound.

It should be noted that Apple's iTunes also allows streaming to multiple AirPlay devices, including HomePods.

Finally, Siri functions such as adjusting the volume or controlling HomeKit accessories work fine when streaming music over AirPlay, though obviously you won't be able to play or pause your analog record player by voice.

Airfoil is a free download that comes with a free trial. The full application can be unlocked with a $29 purchase.

For more on Apple's HomePod, see AppleInsider's full review.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 23
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 3,895member
    Neil,

    You are going to find everyway you can to get music to play on the Homepod, aren't you?
  • Reply 2 of 23
    maestro64 said:
    Neil,

    You are going to find everyway you can to get music to play on the Homepod, aren't you?
    I spent $350 on this thing, I might as well.

    Plus I'm tired of people saying how "locked down" the device is.
    lkruppauxiojahbladelolliveraegeansocalbrianchasmjony0
  • Reply 3 of 23
    2oh12oh1 Posts: 493member
    Airfoil is a fantastic app.  I bought it last year and my only regret is not buying it a long time ago.

    For me, the best thing about Airfoil is that it has support for Applescript - which means - you can automate it in all kinds of ways.

    I created a simple Applescript app that turns on the Wemo connected to the amp for my stereo and starts streaming iTunes to those speakers. And when the Applescript app quits, the Wemo gets turned off and iTunes switches back to playing on my Mac.  Then, I created another Applescript to toggle the Wemo-stereo app and I assigned it to a hotkey at Option F10.  So, Option F10 turns on my stereo and starts streaming if it's off, and it turns it off & stops streaming if it's already on.  And since that Applescript app is an app, it means I have an app icon in my dock when my stereo is on.  For me, that's really handy as a reminder to turn it off when I'm not using it (by quitting the app).

    Airfoil is awesome.  It's definitely worth its price.
    nhughesmatrix077jony0
  • Reply 4 of 23
    Out of Interest what is the audio to video synchronisation like with this software? I’ve found airplaying my iOS devices to a legacy Airport Express is fine but when I airplay audio from my MacBook Pro to it, the synchronisation is way off, as in several seconds. 
  • Reply 5 of 23
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 3,895member
    nhughes said:
    maestro64 said:
    Neil,

    You are going to find everyway you can to get music to play on the Homepod, aren't you?
    I spent $350 on this thing, I might as well.

    Plus I'm tired of people saying how "locked down" the device is.

    I like it locked down so I can tease the android friends and say see what it could be like but you will never know. 

    I plan to buy a second once Airplay 2 happens. I am planning on building a new home and was planning in wall (hidden) speaker and wired into a system which allows airplay everywhere, I may need to rethink this idea. 

    edited February 13 jahbladejony0
  • Reply 6 of 23
    maestro64 said:
    nhughes said:
    maestro64 said:
    Neil,

    You are going to find everyway you can to get music to play on the Homepod, aren't you?
    I spent $350 on this thing, I might as well.

    Plus I'm tired of people saying how "locked down" the device is.

    I like it locked down so I can tease the android friends and say see what it could be like but you will never know. 

    I plan to buy a second once Airplay 2 happens. I am planning on building a new home and was planning in wall (hidden) speaker and wired into a system which allows airplay everywhere, I may need to rethink this idea. 

    There are apps that allow AirPlay output on Android. They could install on their device and stream (though they wouldn't be able to handle initial setup). People forget AirPlay has existed for a long time (it used to be AirTunes), and it has been hacked and reverse engineered to death. As the resident "World's Biggest AirPlay Fan," I feel compelled to spread the word.

    Also, Airfoil rules.
    auxiololliverchasmjony0
  • Reply 7 of 23

    Out of Interest what is the audio to video synchronisation like with this software? I’ve found airplaying my iOS devices to a legacy Airport Express is fine but when I airplay audio from my MacBook Pro to it, the synchronisation is way off, as in several seconds. 
    There is no syncing with Airfoil, unfortunately. You're looking at like a 2-3 second delay when using the app. It is meant for audio only.

    When using a record player, if you're close to it, you can obviously hear the un-amplified audio and how far ahead of the streaming audio it is. And then, of course, stopping or starting the record has a delay as well. Not a big deal, though.
    lolliver
  • Reply 8 of 23
    Mmm...

    I have Airfoil and hadn't considered all the input options for the homePod.

    My second homePod arrives tomorrow and I plan to use Airfoil to play around with an ersatz stereo effect.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 9 of 23
    I should note, for those that care, that there is a vowel-challenged product out there called "TRNTBL" that is a wireless record player, and it includes support for streaming directly to Apple's AirPlay. It appears that they are shipping some units to some customers, but there are also complaints about orders that were never received. We'd like to check this product out to review (if it's legit), but I left it out of this article because I don't want to promote a company that can't ship to paying customers.
    lolliver
  • Reply 10 of 23
    Can I stream music from a NAS without having my computer on? Currently I use Sonos, and their app does a decent job of streaming my collection from my Synology, allowing grouping of speakers and showing what is playing along with cover art.
  • Reply 11 of 23
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,639member
    maestro64 said:
    Neil,

    You are going to find everyway you can to get music to play on the Homepod, aren't you?
    Somebody has to combat the naysayers and trolls.
    nhugheslolliver
  • Reply 12 of 23
    Can I stream music from a NAS without having my computer on? Currently I use Sonos, and their app does a decent job of streaming my collection from my Synology, allowing grouping of speakers and showing what is playing along with cover art.
    You can't do this with Apple's Music app, obviously. But I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work in a third-party app, whether a media player with NAS support, or a NAS file browser with media playback support. It would be best if the app had built-in support for AirPlay and used appropriate APIs to run in the background, but even systemwide AirPlay support should suffice.

    I don't host my media on a NAS (I used to, but abandoned that when iTunes Match launched), so I can't recommend any apps that do this, unfortunately. But I did just stream an MP3 from iCloud Drive in Apple's Files app, and AirPlay it via iOS to my HomePod. So it works.
    edited February 13 teejay2012
  • Reply 13 of 23
    Has anyone tried using the homePod in a really big room?  Out of doors?

  • Reply 14 of 23
    chasmchasm Posts: 372member
    Can I stream music from a NAS without having my computer on? Currently I use Sonos, and their app does a decent job of streaming my collection from my Synology, allowing grouping of speakers and showing what is playing along with cover art.
    Unless that NAS has built-in AirPlay support, I'm going to say "no" for the HomePod. Point to Sonos on that one, but if I had a HomePod and wasn't using native streaming, it would almost certainly be 100 percent from my iPhone, which can use apps to connect to NAS wirelessly, so although that's one extra device in the chain it is doable using an intermediary device like a smartphone.
    teejay2012
  • Reply 15 of 23

    Vinyl via HomePod? Now that is very interesting to try out.

    Do these USB Turntables have built-in pre-amps/ amps? Where is the amplification being done before the audio is streamed to the HomePod? Does it depend on the Mac? If it does, then is that good enough?

  • Reply 16 of 23
    But you still won't get the special audio processing that apple does when you play through apple music. I can't buy one in my country for a while, but I have heard it is a significant difference. Would love to hear more about that, but so far I have only heard about it from users, not read about it in reviews..
  • Reply 17 of 23
    JanNLJanNL Posts: 211member
    "It should be noted that Apple's iTunes also allows streaming to multiple AirPlay devices, including HomePods."

    That was my question with all the reviews not mentioning it... is it possible to choose two HomePods in AirPlay (for example from iTunes on my iMac) and does it sound better/more of a stereo sound feeling? Love and use AirPlay a lot and for a long time.

    edited February 14
  • Reply 18 of 23
    JanNL said:
    "It should be noted that Apple's iTunes also allows streaming to multiple AirPlay devices, including HomePods."

    That was my question with all the reviews not mentioning it... is it possible to choose two HomePods in AirPlay (for example from iTunes on my iMac) and does it sound better/more of a stereo sound feeling? Love and use AirPlay a lot and for a long time.

    My second homePod arrives later today,  so I don't have an empirical answer.  I think:
    1. you can  Airplay to multiple homePods, but they are each playing the same source -- the homePods are unaware of each other.
    2. you can run 2 copies of  the Airfoil app on the Mac, one with the balance effect set to the left, the other to the right -- to get a stereo  effect

    As I understand it, when Airplay 2 arrives, multiple homePods can play the same source -- they will talk to each other and adjust their output based on their placement and the sound being played, in one case giving a stereo effect.
    edited February 14
  • Reply 19 of 23
    JanNL said:
    "It should be noted that Apple's iTunes also allows streaming to multiple AirPlay devices, including HomePods."

    That was my question with all the reviews not mentioning it... is it possible to choose two HomePods in AirPlay (for example from iTunes on my iMac) and does it sound better/more of a stereo sound feeling? Love and use AirPlay a lot and for a long time.

    If you output to two HomePods via AirPlay in iTunes on Mac, you will get the same sound out of both speakers, just as with any regular AirPlay speaker. If you want the simulated stereo, or the ability to stream to multiple speakers from an iOS device, or the ability to control speakers via Siri/HomeKit, you'll need to wait for AirPlay 2.
  • Reply 20 of 23

    Vinyl via HomePod? Now that is very interesting to try out.

    Do these USB Turntables have built-in pre-amps/ amps? Where is the amplification being done before the audio is streamed to the HomePod? Does it depend on the Mac? If it does, then is that good enough?

    The Sylvania record player I have is extremely cheap, but surprisingly versatile (and portable) for the price (about $40). It has a built-in preamp that is capable of pushing out sound from cheap internal speakers, or you can send audio over aux, or the USB port. Once you have the proper drivers installed on your Mac, it works pretty well. As I said in the story, the sound was a little flat, so I used the built-in EQ on Airfoil to give it some oomph.
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