Airport Express Falls Short

by Hadley Stern Jun 09, 2004

imageOn the face of it Airport Express sounds really really cool. Stream tunes to your stereo anywhere in your house. Just plug it in to your wall, connect an audio jack out into your stereo and you are done.

Well, almost. Unlike digital music players  that let you stream and control your digital music collection Airport Express is merely a streaming device.

Want to actually control your next track? Or pause what is currently playing? You have to traipse to wherever your Mac or PC is and control the songs from there. If your machine is in the same room you are in better luck. Still its not ideal.

The problems with Airport Express dont stop there. Want to stream songs to multiple machines that are playing are different songs? Cant.

The Airport Express is undoubtedly a cool product that fills a need within the Airport line. The ability to extend a wireless network with a small device is great. But as a home audio device it has much to be a desired.

I have called, in the past, for Apple to create an iStereo, a digital componant that would stream music like the Aiport Express does but also let users control their music from the device. I suppose if the next version of the iPod has Bluetooth built in that could solve part of the puzzle. Still, the market is begging Apple to create a stereo component. HP has done it, Linkys has done it, and any number of small aftermarket players have done it. Unlike these companies Apple has the most to gain from getting a device out in the marketplace. Steve, spend some of the 5 billion you have in cash and get the job done. Now.


  • “The problems with Airport Express dont stop there.”
    I think you mean the problem with AirStream

    “Want to stream songs to multiple machines that are playing are different songs?”
    sure, this can’t be done. But this is asking a bit much as well. I mean, how many times are you going to want to play different music in different rooms? Planning on opening a large club in your home? I think Apple looked at this caveat and said.. .oh well, its not tha big of a deal. This is just looking for things to complain about.

    As for the Airport Express. The real point of this is that it is a wireless-ethernet bridge. Most people use these behind their entertainment centers. I have a netgear 802.11g bridge behind mine that is hooked to a switch to allow my ps2, xbox, and tivo to be online. Apple’s solution would do the same thing, but, wowzers, now i have a new wire i can connect to my stereo and play my music through it. This is a definate Plus, and thats all it is, its a plus. First and foremost this is a bridge.

    Which brings me to my other point, its a bridge the size of your fist. No ac adapter, no large base. This can be dropped into your laptop bag and pulled out at any time in order to make your friend’s, mother’s, hotel’s, or client’s ethernet only network into a wireless one. Sure you can do that with my bridge, but its big and bulky and i’d never think of just carrying it around in order to extend a network. But the Airport Express is totally portable. And that my friend, is bad ass.

    Jon had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 6
  • Hadley; I don’t pause my radio. What Apple is marketing is a personal router and radio that requires 0 geek magic. Build a playlist, stream, listen to ANYTHING in the library. Just as the CD and tape did not kill radio, this product has a niche. I don’t think Apple wanted to enter the already populated market and compete with Slimp, TIVO, and Reko If one wishes to control, buy one of those products. Apple seeks the B&O crowd-simple and eligant; not the Swiss Army Knife folks.

    data masked had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 5
  • elegant (sigh)

    data masked had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 5
  • “Airport Express is merely a streaming device.”

    It is an 802.11g wireless bridge with an AirPort Extreme base station.

    It is an 802.11g access point for up to 10 computers.

    “Want to stream songs to multiple machines that are playing are different songs? “

    If by machines you mean computers then the other computers that you want to stream to can have iTunes installed and listen to any published play list.

    The AirPort Express allows you to stream to a set of powered speakers or a stereo without an additional computer.

    You are correct about the lack of a “remote” control.

    Tony T had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 19
  • I’ve got a really magnificent cd-player and an even magnificent amplifier to play music. The cd-player has 8 buttons and the amplifier two knobs. No remote. If I want to interrupt my music I just push the ‘pause’ button.

    I fail to see why a lack of a remote is ‘a problem’, unless you have it clipped to your arm so you can push a button whenever you feel like it.

    Walking to your remote, to your laptop or your audio equipment to lower volume is the same user experience.

    I think Airstream and most of all its implementation from the iTunes interface is really smart and a sure hit; and the remote will probably be announced soon.

    (and I still believe my cd-player has six buttons too many wink )

    Martijn had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 10
  • I think this is a great device.  Using my Sony-Ericsson T610 Bluetooth phone, a D-Link Bluetooth adapter and Salling Clicker, I would have full remote control of playing tracks.  I was looking for a way to go to 802.11g anyway. Good enough for me.

    kook had this to say on Jun 09, 2004
  • I see little if no benefit to this device.  Did we all forget how portable our iPod is?

    With a dock and a “Monster” cable we can create the exact same thing for alot less $$$$$$.  And if you want more control just add the “naviPod” by Ten Technologies and now you have a wireless remote control.  And you know what?  Still less $$$$$$, and there is no chance for a signal to be broken by a cordless phone or microwave.

    I think sometimes computer users as a whole quickly leap at things that look like a technological advancement, but then realize that there is no advantage at all.  I have a wireless network myself too.  I even have a wireless printer.  But I need a real benefit to bite on “no cords”.  Cords have value too, in their places.

    Once again Apple has made a sexy looking thing here.  But think first here before you buy in.

    JeffyC had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 18
  • JeffyC:

    I travel for business, a portable wireless base station is quite attractive. It’s a multipurpose device.

    Tony T had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 19
  • In addition to my MP3 and AAC files I listen to a lot of radio stations via iTunes.  I’d like to listen to them through various speakers throughout the house.  Can’t do that with iPod.

    But, you can do it with Airport Express with Airtunes!

    My 12” PowerBook is with me wherever I am in the house, so I don’t really have a need for a remote.  Besides, I LISTEN to my music… I’m not constantly punching pause, rewind, fast forward, etc.  I want to enjoy my music and radio stations.

    Airport Express with Airtunes is obviously a work in progress and will see many enhancements to come.  If consumers like Airport Express (and orders are already pouring in) then good for them.  Those who don’t see a need for it can continue in their wired and cluttered world.

    But, please, let those of us who know this is exactly what WE want enjoy it!

    DF in Boston had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 15
  • From what I’ve read, AirPort Express serves music in the iTunes library to the connected speakers.

    Question: will AP Express serve music from Safari or other internet browsers?

    My case: I am a Sirius subscriber and am allowed to listen to its channels via Safari. Will AP Express let me listen to Sirius from Safari?

    kram had this to say on Jun 09, 2004 Posts: 1
  • You raise some very good points about AirExpress. As a homeuser, I want what AE will provide, but sometimes I wonder about some Apple products that tend to be pricey but fall shart in terms of what they offer over similiar third party devices. That’s why I didn’t get Airport Extreme and got a Netgear instead.

    The points you raise make me think a little more critically about what type digital music router or streaming devise I will buy.

    amani had this to say on Jun 10, 2004 Posts: 1
  • “Question: will AP Express serve music from Safari or other internet browsers?”

    From what I have seen and read, only iTunes will stream to the speakers attached to the AirPort Express. SO if your iTunes is playing on the AE all other audio still comes out the built in sound system (Or what ever the setting is in System Preferences -> Sound)

    Tony T had this to say on Jun 10, 2004 Posts: 19
  • Tony T,

    It is good that this device will benefit you and your specific need.

    However, the point I was trying to make is that this device is a “static” technology.
    True however, it is small and handsom.  But, I hope you know you will pay twice the price for nothing new except saving some space in your laptop bag.

    And, do you realize that you will need one of these Airport Expresses for each room. Or, you have to plan on rewiring it from room to room, just like an iPod. (and last I checked I could buy 3 docks and cables for about the same price) So, once again, musically will this help you at home?  Not by my point of view.

    JeffyC had this to say on Jun 10, 2004 Posts: 18
  • JeffyC,

    It is good that you know another device that is plug-in simple, a 802.11g router/repeater (oh, and the Print Share thingy) and streams to my Dennon amp for $65USD. Please share and I’ll stand in line for that unnamed gizmo. Oh, and I only need one AX (as will most) because all of my systems have Airport and I only have one stereo.

    data masked had this to say on Jun 10, 2004 Posts: 5
  • dear data masked,

    If that is your REAL name.  The airport extreme is $129 according to Apple’s site.
    And we all know that if its $129 at Apple’s site, then its $129 everywhere.

    Almost every company that carries routers and access points has devices for video game systems called wireless bridges to accomplish the same thing.  The trick is, having Airtunes see it.  I don’t know yet, but I have a feeling that this might be exclusice to teh Airport Extreme.

    And again my point is that this “cute” device is nothing new, just “cuter”

    JeffyC had this to say on Jun 10, 2004 Posts: 18
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