Creating an iPhone-Controlled Wireless Home Audio System

I am a bit of an audio geek and I have been longingly looking at the multi-room music systems for years. They have really started to get a lot cheaper lately but the price for most systems still start at $1,000.00.  It is hard to convince my spouse that the idea of having a central music server and music piped into other rooms is $1,000 cool. So when I got the Remote [iTunes link] Application for my iPhone, i started to think about what I could do for a lot less money. Remote lets you control your iTunes library using wifi anywhere in your house.

We had already encoded all our music into MP3 and placed it on a central computer in our kitchen.  We installed some really great speakers there, but what happens if we want to listen in the bedroom or living room? We could run speaker wires throughout the house, but we have an older house and it is expensive and/or unsightly to run speaker wires throughout the house.  Also if we did have speakers wired in, we would need a multi-room receiver and we would still have to run back to the kitchen to change the song or pick another playlist.

I had looked in the Apple Store at Airport Express recently and read about how you could use it to create “wireless” speakers and noticed in my iTunes settings dialog box,  the ability to send music to these “Airtunes” speakers. After purchasing a refurbished Airport Express from Apple Store, and a few hours fiddling with them, I came up with a pretty nice and cheap solution.

I used Airport Express and a pair of old but cute PC speakers to create a remote speaker set. I bought and installed Remote on my iPhone, configured it and now I am able to control my iTunes, sitting right next to the remote speakers.

It works pretty great so I thought I could share with you what worked for me. These instructions will let you broadcast music in iTunes. You can use Airfoil to broadcast music from other music players to your Airtunes Speakers.

What you you’ll need to get started:

  • Apple Airport Express
  • Airport Express Stereo connection kit (or a Monster mini-to-RCA left/right audio cable or  Monster mini-to-optical digital Toslink audio cable
  • A Mac or PC with wireless connectivity (Mac with AirPort or AirPort Extreme wireless capability – PC with 802.11a, 802.11b, or 802.11g card)
  • Powered speakers (computer speakers work great!) or a local amplifier and non-powered speakers.
  • iPhone or iTouch with Remote [iTunes link] application installed.

Getting started:

  1. Plug in the airport express wherever you want to place your remote speakers.
  2. Install the Airport Utility application on your Mac or PC.  You can either download it at this link or use the accompanying CD to install it.
  3. Use the Airport Utility to scan for the Airport Express Hub.
  4. When it is located, click Continue to set it up. The Utility will read the configuration information and prompt you for a name and password. Name it something that will instantly let you know which speakers you are turning on and off. For example, “Downstair speakers” or “Kitchen Speakers” works well.  Click Continue.
  5. Use this guide to continue making choices as you set up the Airport Express. The easiest path is to just add it to an existing wifi network, but if you don’t have one you can set up one between your pc/mac and the Airport Express.  When done, the airport Express lcd light should be a solid green.
  6. Plug in your speakers and then using either the Airport Express Stereo Connection Kit or individual connectors you can purchase at Radio Shack, connect the Airport Express to your speakers.
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 6 for each airport Express you want to install (ie for each set of speakers you want).
  8. Test that you can broadcast to your remote speakers from iTunes.
  9. Go to iTunes and purchase Remote application. Follow these steps to set it up and connect it iTunes on your PC or Mac.
  10. Launch Remote on your iPhones. Using Remote Settings, turn on the speakers you want to control.
  11. Sit back on your couch and pick playlists and songs to play.