Apple's AirPort Express — What You Need to Know

The Apple AirPort Express adds flexibility to a home network and music listening

Apple officially discontinued the Apple Airport Express in April of 2018, but it may still be available new from remaining stock, as well as refurbished or used through select online and brick-and-mortar retailers. However, there are still millions of units in use. As a result, this article is being maintained.

You can use an AirPort Express to extend Wi-Fi from your wireless router and it can also act as an access point.

The AirPort Express can access music or audio streamed from an iPhone, iPad, iPod or iTunes via your computer, and using AirPlay, play it on a connected powered speaker, stereo, or home theater system.

The AirPort Express is 3.85-inches wide, by 3.85 inches deep and about 1-inch high. It requires an AC power to operate.

Airport Express Connectivity

The AirPort Express has two Ethernet/LAN ports. One is for connection to a PC, Ethernet hub, or a networked printer. The other is for a wired connection to a modem or an Ethernet-based network. The Airport Express also has a USB port that can connect a non-network printer, allowing wireless network printing on any printer.

Airport Express
Fletcher6 / Wikipedia Commons 

The Airport Express has a 3.5mm mini-jack port (refer to photo above) that can connect to powered speakers or, via RCA connection adapter (that has a 3.5mm connection on one end and RCA connections on the other), to a soundbar, sound base, stereo/home theater receiver, or audio system that has a set of analog stereo audio input connections.

The AirPort Express has a light on the front that shines green when it is connected to your home network and ready to stream. It shines yellow if it is not connected to your home network.

AirPort Express Setup

To set up the Airport Express, you'll need to run the Airport Utility on your iPhone, Mac, or PC. If you use an Apple router, such as the Airport Extreme, you already have the Airport Utility installed on your computer.

If you are using an Airport Extreme, install the Airport Utility on your Mac or PC and it will walk you through the steps to get your Airport Express up and running and extend your network to the Airport Express.

Using the AirPort Express as an Access Point

Once set up, the AirPort Express will wirelessly connect to your home network router. The AirPort Express can share that wireless connection with up to 10 wireless devices, allowing all of them to connect to your home network.

While wireless devices that are in the same vicinity as the Airport Express will probably be in the range of the router, devices in another room or further from the home network router may be better able to connect wirelessly to a nearby AirPort Express.

The AirPort Express can extend your WiFi network by becoming an access point. This is practical for extending to a music streaming unit in the garage or a computer in an adjoining office.

Using AirPort Express to Stream Music

Apple's AirPlay lets you stream music from iTunes on your computer, your iPod, iPhone and/or iPad to an AirPlay-enabled device. You can use Airplay to stream to an Apple TV, and AirPlay-enabled home theater receivers, as well as to other AirPlay devices, such as an iPhone. You can also use AirPlay to stream directly to an AirPort Express.

  1. Plug the AirPort Express into AC power and see that the green light indicates that it is connected to your home network. You can now use AirPlay to send music to your AirPort Express.

  2. To listen to streaming music using the AirPort Express, connect it to an audio input on your stereo/AV receiver, or connect it to powered speakers.

  3. To stream music from your computer, open iTunes. At the bottom right of your iTunes window, you will notice a drop-down menu that lists the available AirPlay devices in your setup.

  4. Choose AirPort Express from the list and the music you play in iTunes will play over the home theater receiver, or powered speakers, that are connected to your AirPort Express.

  5. On an iPhone, iPad or iPod, look for the arrow-in-a-box Airplay icon when playing music or audio.

  6. Tap on the Airplay icon to bring up a list of Airplay sources.

  7. Choose the AirPort Express and you can stream music from compatible Airplay-enabled apps from your iPad, iPhone or iPod, and listen to the music through the speakers or stereo connected to your AirPort Express.

Other Things to Check

  • Make sure that any powered speakers connected to the AirPort Express are turned on.
  • If the AirPort Express is connected to a stereo or home theater receiver, it must be turned on and switched to the input where you have connected the AirPort Express.
  • The sound quality is determined by the quality of the source media files and the capabilities of your audio system and speakers.

Multiple Airplay Devices and Whole Home Audio

Add more than one AirPort Express to your home network and you can simultaneously stream to all of them. You can also stream to an AirPort Express and an Apple TV at the same time. This means that you can play the same music in your living room, your bedroom and in your den, or any place you put an AirPort Express and speakers or an Apple TV connected to a TV.

The AirPort Express can also be used in combination with a part of a Sonos multi-room audio system.

Airport Express and Apple AirPlay 2

Although the AirPort Express has been discontinued (as stated at the beginning of this article), Apple has provided a firmware update that allows it to used with AirPlay 2. The means that although you may no longer be able to use it as a Wi-Fi router, you can still use AirPort Express as a Wi-Fi extender for some devices and its life has also been extended and expanded for use as a streaming reception point in an AirPlay 2-based wireless multi-speaker/multi-room audio setup

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