How to connect Apple's AirPort Express to any router to make an AirPlay 2 streaming target...

Posted:
in General Discussion edited August 2018
Dig out your old Apple Airport Express and you can reconfigure it to make it an AirPlay 2 streaming target and stream music to any speaker you can hook up to it. AppleInsider digs one out.

Apple AirPort Express Base Station


This is why we hang on to our old Apple gear. The AirPort Express hasn't seen any development in half a decade and Apple discontinued it this year. But, with Tuesday's firmware update, these devices can now be used with the latest AirPlay 2. So dig out yours and prepare to do just the very tiniest amount of fiddling.

What you're going to do is turn that AirPort Express from a Wi-Fi router into a client. Rather than being the device all your Macs and iOS connect to in order to then get on the internet, you're effectively making it a Wi-Fi adaptor.

So many devices come with their own built-in Wi-Fi adaptors but there are still printers, games consoles and sound systems that don't. As long as they do have either an Ethernet or a USB port, though, you can give them 802.11n Wi-Fi by plugging them into an AirPort Express.

You do lose one thing, though Once your AirPort Express is set up this way, it can't be used as a router. Instead of having your internet line hard-wired into the AirPort Express which then shares the signal out over Wi-Fi, you're hard wiring the sound system in.

Consequently, there's no point doing this at all if you're still relying on an AirPort Express as your Wi-Fi router.

However, if you were still doing that, you should definitely upgrade. AirPort Express still uses the 802.11n standard where modern routers are on 802.11ac. Ignoring what these two standards promise, in practice 802.11in gets you less than 15 percent the speed that an 802.11ac router does.

If that doesn't get you ripping your 802.11n AirPort Express out then it's because you probably already have. Either way, you now have, or are soon going to have, a spare AirPort Express and this is what you do with them.

Pick your device

As a species, we don't tend to print out as much as we used to but we can't get rid of printers yet. So if you've still got a USB one, consider taking yours off your Mac and plugging it into an AirPort Express instead. That way every device in your place can print wirelessly to it.

With print jobs you don't really care how long they take. You don't want them to be slow, but a few seconds either way doesn't make a difference.

With audio, it does but even these slow AirPort Express units are compatible with AirPlay 2.

Start your Engines

Plug in the AirPort Express, and let it boot.

Once it's running, connect your speakers, your printer, or both into the AirPort Express, and launch AirPort Utility on your Mac.




If you already have an AirPort Express configured then it will show up on this map. Check that it has the latest firmware. If the dot next to the name is green then you're fine. If it's yellow, then you don't have the latest but there will also be an Update button.

When you've got the latest firmware installed, then take the AirPort Express back to basics. Select it, then in theBase Station menu, choose Restore Default Settings.

Next, click on Other Wi-Fi Devices. It looks like a button but it's really a drop-down menu that will list all the AirPort-compatible devices that the utility can find either on Wi-Fi or Ethernet.




Select the Base Station and the Utility will take a bit of time to gather information about it.

When that's done, you'll have a screen that includes an Other Options button at bottom left. Click on that and you get options such as creating a new network or replacing an existing device. There will also be Add to an existing network. Choose that and click on Next.




Choose your Wi-Fi router in question of any make and model, enter the password if prompted, and you're done. Your non-Wi-Fi-enabled device, or those speakers you love, are now on your Wi-Fi network.

What's more, they're on your network and because you have the latest firmware, they are immediately able to benefit from AirPlay 2 without you doing anything else.

Where to buy

Although supplies are dwindling, shoppers can still get their hands on an AirPort Express Base Station at Adorama for $95 with free shipping and no tax collected on orders shipped outside New York and New Jersey.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 13
    Just keep in mind that it is not necessary to set up an AirPort Express in client mode to use it as an AirPlay target (and by extension, any separately powered sound system that is connected via audio in) or to share a printer wirelessly.  Client mode is mainly used for adding an internet connection to devices like Home Theater systems, game consoles, etc. (like you mentioned) that can make use of internet access but have no wireless adapter and are in locations where hard-wiring with an Ethernet cable is impractical. 
    edited August 2018 cecil444svanstrom
  • Reply 2 of 13
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,634administrator
    mbenz1962 said:
    Just keep in mind that it is not necessary to set up an AirPort Express in client mode to use it as an AiprPlay target (and by extention, any seperately sound system that is connected via audio in).
    It isn't always, sure. As-is on an AirPort-centric network, it works fine. But, it works better with other manufacturer's routers if you do so.

    Looking at eBay already, there are a lot of people looking to get the Express all of a sudden. This is for them.
    edited August 2018
  • Reply 3 of 13
    mbenz1962 said:
    Just keep in mind that it is not necessary to set up an AirPort Express in client mode to use it as an AiprPlay target (and by extention, any seperately sound system that is connected via audio in).
    It isn't always, sure. As-is on an AirPort-centric network, it works fine. But, it works better with other manufacturer's routers if you do so.

    Looking at eBay already, there are a lot of people looking to get the Express all of a sudden. This is for them.
    If the Express is connected to the other router via Ethernet back-haul it should also work fine. You are right that if a person tries to extend the network of another router, it sometimes just doesn't work reliably.  In these cases, client mode would likely fix the issue as you mentioned.  It might be good to add a sentence to one of the first few paragraphs of the article to explain that.  The article doesn't really explain why you might want to use client mode (other than use as a WiFi adapter for some equipment) which could lead someone to think this is necessary for AirPlay 2 targets.  Just a suggestion though, nothing in the article is inaccurate.
    edited August 2018 lolliver
  • Reply 4 of 13
    I don't use airplay yet but would this setup work to use a external HD to be my systems Time Machine? Time Machine, doesn't work with the ATT router I'm using now. I have two express and one extreme Airports. 

  • Reply 5 of 13
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,634administrator
    I don't use airplay yet but would this setup work to use a external HD to be my systems Time Machine? Time Machine, doesn't work with the ATT router I'm using now. I have two express and one extreme Airports. 

    The AirPort Express won't mount a hard drive. However, you can use a similar procedure to put the AirPort Extreme into bridge mode, and hook up the drive to that.
  • Reply 6 of 13
    mknelsonmknelson Posts: 356member
    I don't use airplay yet but would this setup work to use a external HD to be my systems Time Machine? Time Machine, doesn't work with the ATT router I'm using now. I have two express and one extreme Airports. 

    The AirPort Express won't mount a hard drive. However, you can use a similar procedure to put the AirPort Extreme into bridge mode, and hook up the drive to that.
    And depending on which version of Airport Extreme you have you may want to turn off the wifi there or on the ATT router based on which has better specs.
  • Reply 7 of 13
    mr. hmr. h Posts: 4,728member
    I’d be interested to hear anyone’s direct experience of using AirPlay 2 on an Airport Express. I have an Express configured in bridge mode connected to my main router over Ethernet, but AirPlay 1 only works reliably if the AirPlay source is connected to the Express’s WiFi. Despite the Ethernet connection, if the AirPlay source is connected to the main router’s WiFi, it’ll work OK for about 10 minutes but then the stream will start to be regularly interrupted (AirPlay to an AppleTV connected to the main router via Ethernet works fine so I’m pretty sure the fault lies with the Express here). AirPlay 2 is supposed to have more robust buffering so perhaps might work better for me.
  • Reply 8 of 13
    zroger73zroger73 Posts: 710member
    I updated my two AirPort Express routers yesterday afternoon. I also have two HomePods and three Apple TV 4's. I used AirPlay 2 to all devices yesterday evening and it worked perfectly. This is going to be great for entertaining. My outdoor speakers are connected to an AirPort Express, so previously I had to use one of my Macs as the audio source in order to have music indoor and outdoors. Now, I can use my iPhone which will be much more convenient.

    Thanks, Apple, for this small, unexpected, useful gift!
  • Reply 9 of 13
    Immediately went online and bought a used Airport Express for 50 bucks from someone literally down the road from me. Setup took about 5 minutes. If you buy a used one, do this: Connect it to your router with an ethernet cable connecting it to the ethernet port with the arrows on the Express. Press the reset button on the Airport Express for a few seconds till the light starts blinking rapidly. Now it should come up in Airport Utility and you can set it up as a new device. Choose the option to join a Wifi and if you select the one your Mac is connected to, you don't even have to enter the wifi password. Then its smooth sailing using the instructions from the article. You can change the Airplay Name it shows separately from the Base Station Name, which is neat. Streaming to Apple TV and newly acquired Airport Express simultaneously worked straight away. Thank you to the exec at Apple who okayed this update and Appleinsider for letting me know :)
    zroger73
  • Reply 10 of 13
    ltnizltniz Posts: 2unconfirmed, member
    I have followed these instructions, but the Airport Express keeps disappearing from the network after about 10 minutes. Unplugging and then restarting will fix the issue for another 10 minutes. I've reserved a static IP address on the network for the airport express, but same result. There's not a lot of troubleshooting for this problem out there. Suggestions were to change ipv6 to local-link mode and remove Apple IDs from Backup to Mac. But same result.
  • Reply 11 of 13
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,634administrator
    ltniz said:
    I have followed these instructions, but the Airport Express keeps disappearing from the network after about 10 minutes. Unplugging and then restarting will fix the issue for another 10 minutes. I've reserved a static IP address on the network for the airport express, but same result. There's not a lot of troubleshooting for this problem out there. Suggestions were to change ipv6 to local-link mode and remove Apple IDs from Backup to Mac. But same result.
    This sounds like hardware issues.
  • Reply 12 of 13
    RmWRmW Posts: 2member
    Main router is Sagecom 4320, 2.4 GHz 802.11 b/g/n Bridged router is D-Link DIR 615 flashed with DD-WRT, 2.4 GHz 802.11 b/g/n HP Desktop running W7 with a wireless card 2.4 GHz 802.11b/g/n I had a single router/access point with a wired connection to the desktop which is where I-tunes resides and everything ran flawlessly. I had to relocate the router for bonded DSL service which meant adding a bridge for network printing and to keep my microcell connected to the network. An Ethernet connection is not feasible. I-tunes running on the desktop connects to the AE when I connect to the network using the internal wireless card. I began to have issues with music stuttering. When I connect the desktop to the network with a wired connection to the bridge I have internet access, but I-tunes does not see the AE. It is my understanding that the bridge configuration allows all connected devices to see each other. What am I missing?
  • Reply 13 of 13
    RmWRmW Posts: 2member
    Both routers use the same SSID and security
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