Who doesn’t love AirPlay? I know I do. I’m constantly listening to music—whether it’s Pandora or Soundcloud or Sirius XM (free through May 30)—so being able to have high-quality audio at any time is an absolute must for me.
The only problem is, buying Wi-Fi (or Hi-Fi) speakers can set you back hundreds of dollars, which might be more than what you’re willing to spend right now.
Additionally, you might have a set of speakers or a surround system that you love. The only issue is that everything is tethered.
Why throw out a completely good audio setup if all you need is wireless connectivity?
And that’s where this guide comes into play.
In this article, I’m going to show you a couple of easy ways to set up AirPlay on a set of speakers for less than $50.
Regardless if you’re super technical (or not), I’m going to share two methods for adding AirPlay to an old set of speakers so that you can enjoy the benefits of wireless streaming from any Apple AirPlay-enabled device (Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc.).
Let’s get started.
Option 1: AirPlay on Any Speakers without the Technical Setup
If you’re not super technical, or you don’t want to deal with the technical setup, then you might want to look at this option. Otherwise, you can skip this section and learn how to make a DIY AirPlay receiver using the Raspberry Pi.
Purchase an AirPlay-Enabled Reciever & Wire it Up
First, you’ll need to pick up an AirPlay-enabled receiver. Here are a few receivers that you can purchase that will add AirPlay out of the box.
Just make sure that your sound system has an RCA or 3.5mm Aux-in line before you buy one of these receivers.
Then, once your receiver arrives, all you have to do is connect the audio output (Optical or Auxiliary) to the input on your sound system.
Next, connect the receiver to your WiFi. Finally, play some music, and select the AirPlay device from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac.
Voila! Your sound system is now upgraded to 21st Century technologies!
And, it was a super-easy way to get wireless audio without any technical know-how.
Additionally, if you have an old AppleTV lying around, you can use it for AirPlay as long as your existing surround system has an optical audio jack. I know this option isn’t $50, but a lot of people have AppleTV’s and don’t realize that it can be used as a bridge for outdated stereos. If you’re planning on buying an AppleTV anyway, then this is another viable option.
Option 2: DIY AirPlay Speakers with a Raspberry Pi (More Technical)
The next option is to put your DIY tech skills to the test and add AirPlay functionality to an existing set of speakers using a Raspberry Pi.
The Raspberry Pi is a low-cost option for many DIY home automation systems. You can also use it to set up a wireless sound system using your home network and AirPlay.
That’s what we’re going to tackle in this section.
Things You’ll Need for DIY AirPlay Speakers
I completed this project using the Altec Lansing RM3010 Stage-Gig Amplified Speaker and a Raspberry Pi 3 B+. The speaker, itself sounds awesome (great bass and balanced mids), but it requires input from an RCA connection or 3.5mm Aux device.
They don’t make the Stage Gig anymore, so feel free to use any set of good-quality speakers you have lying around your house.
How to create AirPlay Speakers with Raspberry Pi
I’m not going to spend time showing you how to set up a Raspberry Pi, but I wrote a full article on that process, here.
Once the Pi is up and running, you can follow the steps to add the Shairport Sync library by mikebrady.
While this library is great for audio, it does not support AirPlay video or photo streaming. If you’re looking for screen mirroring as well, I recommend having a look at the RPiPlay repo on Github.
Here are the abbreviated steps I used from Appcodelabs to get AirPlay set up on the Pi.
Step 1. Update and Install Dependencies
sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install autoconf automake avahi-daemon build-essential git libasound2-dev libavahi-client-dev libconfig-dev libdaemon-dev libpopt-dev libssl-dev libtool xmltoman
Step 2. Clone the Github Repository
git clone https://github.com/mikebrady/shairport-sync.git
Step 3. Open the Shairport Sync Directory, Configure Build Options, and Build and Install the Application
cd shairport-sync autoreconf -i -f ./configure --with-alsa --with-avahi --with-ssl=openssl --with-systemd --with-metadata make sudo make install
Step 4. Configure the Raspberry Pi Audio Options in Raspi-Config
This step ensures that audio streams from the Raspberry Pi’s auxiliary output rather than through the HDMI jack.
Go to “7. Advanced Options” > “A4. Audio” > Option 1 “Force 3.5mm (‘headphone’) jack”
Step 5. Set the volume output and start the service automatically
amixer sset PCM,0 100%
Once you have this setup, you can add the Shairport Sync to automatically launch when the Raspberry Pi boots up. That way you don’t have to start the application manually.
sudo systemctl enable shairport-sync
Step 6. Test it out with your new speakers!
Connect your speakers to the audio jack on the Raspberry Pi. Then, grab your iPhone (or iDevice) and pick out a song. Select the Raspberrypi AirPlay device, and slowly turn up the volume.
If everything is working correctly, then you should hear your music through your old speakers!
Hi-Fi and Wi-Fi Speakers You Might Like
I wanted to include this section if you’d rather buy a new AirPlay-enabled speaker or sound system. For around $200, you can get a modern system that doesn’t require setup or add-on devices.
I recommend Sonos, Denon, and Polk Audio speakers.
Are you going to add AirPlay to an existing set of speakers or buy new ones?
Let me know in the comments whether you purchased a commercial AirPlay device or added AirPlay to a Raspberry Pi.
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