Apple AirPlay 2: Apple's streaming tech explained

AirPlay is Apple’s Wi-Fi streaming tech and there’s now a second-generation version that’s now widely available, introduced in iOS 11.4 last year. But what is AirPlay 2, what can it do and what products can you use it with?

What is Apple AirPlay 2?
Update to Apple’s long-running AirPlay protocol
Offers multi-room and stereo pairing for HomePod
Supports music, photos, video and mirroring

Apple AirPlay 2 offers wireless streaming of content from your Apple device (like your iPhone, iPad or Mac). Originally this was dominated by music, but it also covers photos and video, so will let you stream a wide range of content from your phone to your Apple TV – and in 2019 your television. AirPlay 2 also includes device mirroring to share the content of your phone’s display on another device.

AirPlay 2 opens up a whole world of multi-room streaming capabilities that were previously not available on the iPhone or iPad and also ushers in multi-room compatibility for the HomePod.

AirPlay was first introduced in September 2010, having previously been called AirTunes for audio-only streaming. The basic premise of AirPlay and AirPlay 2 is a system comprising a sender and a receiver. The sender is something like your MacBook or iPhone, and the receiver is an Apple TV or third-party speaker, such as a Sonos device. All devices need to be connected to the same Wi-Fi network.

For video, Apple AirPlay 2 will also be available on a range of TVs including 2019 models from Samsung, Sony and LG. This was previously limited to Apple TV, but with support from major manufacturers, AirPlay 2 is now a lot more useful for video consumption in the home. We’ve included a list of supported TVs further down the page.

Which Apple devices support AirPlay 2?

AirPlay 2 rolled out as part of iOS 11.4. The full list of compatible devices is as follows and these are basically the Apple devices you’ll be able to use:

iPhone
iPhone XS Max
iPhone XS
iPhone XR
iPhone X
iPhone 8 Plus
iPhone 8
iPhone 7 Plus
iPhone 7
iPhone 6S
iPhone 6S Plus
iPhone 6
iPhone 6 Plus
iPhone SE
iPhone 5S
iPad
12.9in iPad Pro (first generation)
12.9in iPad Pro (second generation)
9.7in iPad Pro
10.5in iPad Pro
iPad (2018)
iPad (fifth generation)
iPad Air 3
iPad Air 2
iPad Air
iPad mini 5
iPad mini 4
iPad mini 3
iPad mini 2
iPod touch
iPod touch (6th generation)
Apple TV
Apple TV 4th Gen
MacBook and MacBook Pro
MacBook: Late 2009 or later
iMac/iMac Pro:Late 2009 or later
MacBook Air: 2010 or later
MacBook Pro: 2010 or later
Mac mini: 2010 or later
Mac Pro: 2010 or later

In other words, anything made more than 7 years ago isn’t supported with AirPlay 2.

How does AirPlay 2 work with iOS and music?
Control multiple speakers from the iPhone or iPad
Multiple users can add songs to one playlist
Multi-room for HomePod

Apple AirPlay 2 adds speaker control to the Home app, meaning you can individually control all of your AirPlay-compatible speakers from your iPhone for the first time. Note, however, that the speakers need to support AirPlay 2. This is something that can already be done using a MacBook with iTunes, but iOS devices have previously lacked the ability. 

Considering it’s more down to the phone sending the audio signals to the speakers, we expect any streaming service you have installed on your iPhone to be able to work with AirPlay 2 speakers.

When you play music from your iOS device, you can select which speakers around your home you want it to be sent to and control individual volumes of those speakers. These controls can be found in Control Centre by swiping up from the bottom of your iPhone screen.

One feature possible with AirPlay 2 is the ability to play different songs in different rooms, although only Apple Music subscribers can take advantage of it. You can simply ask Siri to play one song on one speaker, and another on one in a different room.

Another feature of AirPlay 2 is the ability for multiple users to add songs to one playlist. Say you’re at a party, and one person has their iPhone as the music source, playing Apple Music – other Apple Music users are able to send songs they want played to the source iPhone, to save having to connect and reconnect several phones.

When is AirPlay 2 coming to my speakers?

The following brands have confirmed existing hardware is getting an AirPlay 2 update. We’ll update this list as more updates roll out.

Bang and Olufsen

Bang and Olufsen is offering AirPlay 2 updates for the following products:

Beoplay M3, M5, A6, A9 mk2 & mk3
BeoSound 1, 2, 35
BeoSound Essence mk2
BeoSound Edge
BeoSound Core
BeoSound Shape (via BeoSound Core)
BeoVision Eclipse (audio only)
Bluesound

A software update brings AirPlay 2 to all Bluesound Generation 2i speakers – you’ll be prompted to update your players to the latest version of BluOS.

Bose

According to a Bose forum thread, Bose is “actively collecting information to answer inquiries about AirPlay 2 and HomeKit”. Confirmations are scarce, but some are confirmed:

Bose Home Speaker 500 – 2019
Soundbar 500 – 2019
Soundbar 700 – 2019
Denon

AirPlay 2 support has been introduced to a number of Denon’s new and current hi-fi and home cinema products and 2017 and 2018 models are compatible. 

Denon HEOS HS2
Devialet

Devialet has confirmed that it will be supporting AirPlay 2, but it’s still developing the solution.

Phantom
KEF

KEF says that the LSX supports AirPlay 2, but then says it will be available from early 2019.

KEF LSX
Libratone

Libratone has updated its Zipp line for AirPlay 2. Unfortunately, it’s not coming to the AirPlay-enabled Diva soundbar or older products.

Zipp
Zipp 2
Zipp Mini
Zipp Mini 2
Marantz

A range of Marantz receivers will support AirPlay 2.

AV7703, 7704, 7705
AV8805
NA6006
ND6006
NR1508, 1509, 1608, 1609
SR5012, 5013, 6012, 6013, 7011, 7012, 7013, 8012
Naim

Naim has confirmed that the following Mu-so and Uniti models have been updated to support AirPlay 2. 

Mu-so
Mu-so Special Edition 
Mu-so Qb
Uniti Atom
Uniti Star 
Uniti Nova
ND 555, ND5 XS 2m NDX 2
Onkyo

Onkyo has pushed an update to a number of products as of 18 April, spanning AV receivers, home theatre systems and network stereo receivers. The following devices can now all be updated:

TX-RZ5100, TX-RZ3100, TX-RZ1100, TX-RZ830, TX-RZ730, TX-NR686, TX-L50
LS5200
TX-L20D, TX-8270
Pioneer

Pioneer has confirmed the models that will be getting an AirPlay 2 upgrade. The software update is now live so you should be able to update the following products:

VSX-S520, VSX-S520D, VSX-LX303, VSX-LX503, VSX-933, SC-LX901, SC-LX801, SC-LX701
SX-S30DAB

 

Sonos

Sonos confirmed only newer Sonos speakers will support AirPlay 2, as will future Sonos products. AirPlay 2 is now available for the following older products: 

Play:5 (second-gen)
Playbase
Sonos One
Sonos Beam
Sonos Amp (coming soon)
airplay 2 tvWhen is AirPlay 2 coming to my TV?

It has been confirmed that AirPlay 2 is coming to a range of televisions. This is a major step-change for Apple, as you’ll no longer need Apple TV to connect to the big screen.

LG

LG is offering HomeKit support and AirPlay 2 on 2019 models. There’s been no mention of older TVs.

LG OLED (2019)
LG NanoCell SM9X, SM8X (2019)
LG UHD UM7X (2019)
Samsung

Samsung will be offering pretty wide support for AirPlay 2 on its TVs. Beyond that, it’s also going to have exclusive iTunes access, giving you an app on your TV to access Apple’s content. AirPlay 2 will be enabled on 2019 models, then updating on 2018 models later in 2019.

Samsung QLED (2019, 2018)
Samsung 7, 6, 5, 4 series (2019, 2018)
Sony

Sony is also joining the AirPlay 2 party on 2019 TVs.

Sony Z9G (2019)
Sony A9G OLED (2019)
Sony X950G (2019)
Sony X850G (2019)
Visio

Visio perhaps offers the widest support for AirPlay 2, coming to models from 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Vizio P-Series Quantum (2019, 2018)
Vizio P-Series (2019, 2018, 2017)
Vizio M-Series (2019, 2018, 2017)
Vizio E-Series (2019, 2018, 2017)
Vizio D-series (2019, 2018, 2017) 
Apple AirPlay 2 with Apple TV

Provided you have tvOS 11 or later, your Apple TV can send audio to speakers around your home as well, rather than just coming from your iPhone or iPad.

Whatever speaker is connected to the Apple TV, be it a soundbar or speaker system, is automatically a de facto AirPlay 2 speaker. 

Apple AirPlay 2 in HomeKit

AirPlay 2 is also able to be used with other HomeKit devices to create scenes. Imagine coming home and not only your lights coming on to welcome you but a fanfare of trumpets played through AirPlay 2 supporting speakers.

On a more serious note though, you could use it to alert you of certain things that are happening – like an alarm – or merely that part of your evening routine is to have music played at a certain time automatically without you having to worry about turning it on. 

Apple AirPlay 2 with Siri

Siri takes on a prominent role with the arrival of AirPlay 2 and multi-room audio. You can tell her which speakers you want music playing on whichever speakers you have dotted around your home, and you can even ask her to play different songs on different speakers. You’re not just restricted to using Siri with the HomePod either, as she will play nice with any other third-party AirPlay 2 speaker. 

Will the original AirPlay still work?

Yes it will, don’t worry!

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