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kirkmc

Article: What AirPlay 2 Means for Your Listening Setup

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I did a bit more digging on this, as streaming audio through the phone is my pet peeve. It appears that AirPlay 2 as of right now doesn't really help and requires the phone still be heavily involved with playback in most cases.

 

The HomePod can stream right from the cloud under certain circumstances, but all other audio routes through the phone. Spotify and Tidal have had this nailed for years by sending audio straight from the cloud to the playback device. 

 

 

For the geeks, here is a link to a developer video and PDF.

 

https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2017/509/

 

509_introducing_airplay_2.pdf

 

 

Paging @DarwinOSX - It seems AirPlay 2 still requires the phone pretty heavily. Do you have any other information?

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One possibility is that Apple rolls the HomeKit functionality into the Apple TV - or the HomePod itself - which could serve to free the iPhone (or iPad) from the equation. But that would require specific apps that are downloaded to either device, and the Apple TV makes a lot more sense for that. There have been suggestions over the years that the Apple TV might become a home hub, but, to be honest, it's a bit expensive for that. If you have a HomePod, it would make a lot more sense for that to be a hub. I'm sure they could make it so apps on the HomePod display on an iOS device. But that all gets a bit confusing, not knowing what is where. 

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3 minutes ago, kirkmc said:

One possibility is that Apple rolls the HomeKit functionality into the Apple TV - or the HomePod itself - which could serve to free the iPhone (or iPad) from the equation. But that would require specific apps that are downloaded to either device, and the Apple TV makes a lot more sense for that. There have been suggestions over the years that the Apple TV might become a home hub, but, to be honest, it's a bit expensive for that. If you have a HomePod, it would make a lot more sense for that to be a hub. I'm sure they could make it so apps on the HomePod display on an iOS device. But that all gets a bit confusing, not knowing what is where. 

 

 

I'm not totally sure what you are saying but Apple TV already acts as a HomeKit hub.  So does the HomePod.

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The problem is lots of devices can serve as HomeKit "hubs," but it's not clear what any of them do other than centralize a somewhat limited interface for controlling devices. The HomePod doesn't have an interface at all, and the Apple TV is limited to use when a TV is on, which isn't practical. What is needed is a HomeKit hub that allows more than just basic controls and settings, something that can store apps that can then be accessed by other devices, which would provide the functionality that Chris is talking about. 

 

The current concept of the HomeKit hub is amorphous, and quite confusing. I have not set up my Apple TV or HomePod as a "hub," and control everything from my iPhone (or even my Apple Watch) which cannot be a HomeKit hub, according to Apple. 

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Mirroring Chris's remark, I wonder if Apple will ever evolve their approach to where a phone or tablet is simply a remote and configuration component and not part of the actual stream. 

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Just now, loop7 said:

Mirroring Chris's remark, I wonder if Apple will ever evolve their approach to where a phone or tablet is simply a remote and configuration component and not part of the actual stream. 

 

Exactly. Like the way you can control iTunes from an iOS device. That's what would make more sense; the HomePod can already connect directly to Apple Music and to your iCloud Music Library.

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This is an interesting write up on features, but I am disappointed that there is not more information on sound quality and listening experience.  (Nor I did not find the linked article much more helpful in this regard.)  Given Apple's history, I expect that the sound quality is less  than most CA readers would hope.

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And why do you think sound quality would be any different for music streamed over AirPlay than for the same music played on the device you're streaming it from? AirPlay does not compress audio; it converts it to Apple Lossless, which is then played back on the target device. And what does this have to do with "Apple's history?" AirPlay has always worked this way. I've never heard anyone comment on its sound quality. 

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Curious Kirk...

 

What's the limit of AirPlay 2? Is it native 16/44.1? Will there be some upsampling to 48kHz?

 

I can't seem to find any clarity about this. I assume since there's no fanfare about "hi-res", Apple's still not interested in 24-bit or >48kHz.

 

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4 hours ago, kirkmc said:

And why do you think sound quality would be any different for music streamed over AirPlay than for the same music played on the device you're streaming it from? AirPlay does not compress audio; it converts it to Apple Lossless, which is then played back on the target device. And what does this have to do with "Apple's history?" AirPlay has always worked this way. I've never heard anyone comment on its sound quality. 

 

Ummm...I'm not the expert, you are.  So let's not put too much weight on why I might think something.  But since you asked--as I understand it, AirPlay2 relies upon some combination of iPhone, iPad and HomePod--all produced by a company that has pushed great products with sound quality that is typically far below comparable stuff from competitors such as Naim, Klipsch, and (even) Bose.  So most CA readers are going to have a fundamental concern--will the sound be good enough, or am I just going to find this irritating?

 

I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks this.  Note that Archimago asks about a very important Apple weakness in the very next question.  He's more specific (and kind?) than I am, but our overriding concern is the same.

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2 hours ago, Archimago said:

Curious Kirk...

 

What's the limit of AirPlay 2? Is it native 16/44.1? Will there be some upsampling to 48kHz?

 

I can't seem to find any clarity about this. I assume since there's no fanfare about "hi-res", Apple's still not interested in 24-bit or >48kHz.

 

We need to get an AirPlay 2 device with digital output to do actual testing. 

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7 hours ago, Archimago said:

Curious Kirk...

 

What's the limit of AirPlay 2? Is it native 16/44.1? Will there be some upsampling to 48kHz?

 

I can't seem to find any clarity about this. I assume since there's no fanfare about "hi-res", Apple's still not interested in 24-bit or >48kHz.

 

 

It has always been 16/44.1, upsampled to 48 kHz; there's no reason to think that has changed. 

 

It is upsampled to 48 kHz because of the Apple TV, and the fact that audio in movies is usually 48 kHz. I don't see Apple getting into the high resolution game any time soon, and there really is no reason why they should. The vast majority of their users don't care about high res, and it would just confuse things. I wouldn't be surprised if they move to lossless soon, however, both for streaming and for the iTunes Store. 

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5 hours ago, Ralf11 said:

will my Apple TV3 work with AirPlay2 - or did they brick it?

 

As I said in the article, it works with the Apple TV 4th generation and later. It's likely that the older models don't have the hardware to support the changes. But you can still use it with AirPlay; you just won't get the benefits of AirPlay 2 (larger buffers, multi-device audio). 

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5 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

We need to get an AirPlay 2 device with digital output to do actual testing. 

 

There is nothing to suggest that the audio is any different now than before. The only digital output on supported models is HDMI; the 3rd generation model, which had an optical output, is not supported. However, it still works with AirPlay, just not the newer iteration, and the audio will be the same. 

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7 hours ago, PeterG said:

 

Ummm...I'm not the expert, you are.  So let's not put too much weight on why I might think something.  But since you asked--as I understand it, AirPlay2 relies upon some combination of iPhone, iPad and HomePod--all produced by a company that has pushed great products with sound quality that is typically far below comparable stuff from competitors such as Naim, Klipsch, and (even) Bose.  So most CA readers are going to have a fundamental concern--will the sound be good enough, or am I just going to find this irritating?

 

What I find surprising is your assumption that something about AirPlay "doesn't sound good." AirPlay is a transport protocol; it doesn't affect the sound quality. It doesn't compress audio like Bluetooth. The sound quality is dependent on the playback hardware. You may not like the sound of the HomePod (I don't particularly care for the sound of a single HomePod but I was pleasantly surprised hearing two of them set up as a stereo pair), but that has nothing to do with the digital stream sent via AirPlay. 

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5 hours ago, kirkmc said:

 

There is nothing to suggest that the audio is any different now than before. The only digital output on supported models is HDMI; the 3rd generation model, which had an optical output, is not supported. However, it still works with AirPlay, just not the newer iteration, and the audio will be the same. 

The AirPort Express doesn’t upsample like the AppleTV. I want a similar AirPlay 2 device just to look at the digital output. 

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Just now, The Computer Audiophile said:

The AirPort Express doesn’t upsample like the AppleTV. I want a similar AirPlay 2 device just to look at the digital output. 

 

Right, and the AirPort Express doesn't support AirPlay 2 anyway. 

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5 hours ago, kirkmc said:

What I find surprising is your assumption that something about AirPlay "doesn't sound good." AirPlay is a transport protocol; it doesn't affect the sound quality.

 

You just said it upsampled 16/44.1 to 16/48.  That can be done well or it can also be done poorly.

 

On this fact alone you can't say it doesn't affect sound quality.

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4 minutes ago, Dr Tone said:

 

You just said it upsampled 16/44.1 to 16/48.  That can be done well or it can also be done poorly.

 

On this fact alone you can't say it doesn't affect sound quality.

 

Apple has been doing this for years; it's not new. I'm not aware of any complaints about it not sounding good. 

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8 hours ago, kirkmc said:

What I find surprising is your assumption that something about AirPlay "doesn't sound good."

 

You've misquoted me at multiple levels.  My preconception is based on Apple's history, not AirPlay per se.  I trust that you understand why iPhones, iPads, iTunes, etc might have given me this notion.  I hope to change my view based on future products, and I hope CA articles will feature lots of information on listening experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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great write-up Kirk!  for what it's worth, I love my HomePod... it's in the kitchen doing due diligence in keeping me cooking a mean meal......... ?

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31 minutes ago, Danny Kaey said:

great write-up Kirk!  for what it's worth, I love my HomePod... it's in the kitchen doing due diligence in keeping me cooking a mean meal......... ?

 

I think it's great for that sort of listening. It's not an audiophile device, however, in any way. 

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