Mac Tip #236/29-March-2006

As I write this Tip I’m listening to some music from an iTunes Party Shuffle playlist. That’s nothing very special in itself, but there’s a twist: the music’s being played on my Mac mini in the lounge and I’m sitting in the kitchen listening through a pair of speakers connected to an Airport Express. If I were in the lounge I could also hear the same music coming from the home theatre speakers. I control iTunes from my MacBook Pro on my lap.

Depending on what Mac you have and what stereo equipment you may own this may be something you’d like to do too. It’s not hard — it just involves plugging the right cables into the right places. Apple call it ‘Airtunes’.

For starters you need a Mac with an ‘Airport’ wireless card. Many modern Macs include this by default. A quick glance at the New Zealand Apple online store shows me that current models of iMac, iBook, Mac mini, MacBook Pro all include an Airport card. Other models generally take one as an optional extra.

Next you need a stereo or speaker set that accept an audio cable for input, and the cable itself. Many cheaper stereos don’t allow this, but many mid-range stereos do, so you just need to look on the back and see what you can do. The cable will have one plug at one end and two at the other end.

You need to have a recent version of iTunes on your Mac. If you install the regular software updates then you probably already have a suitable version.

Now you need an Airport Express. Plug an audio cable into the Airport Express and plug the other ends into the audio input ports on the stereo. Turn the stereo on and choose the setting for it to accept input from the cable you’ve connected.

Plug in the Aiport Express and turn on the power. Go to your Mac and open AirPort Setup Assistant from your Utilities folder. Click through the screens of the Assistant and after a couple of moments everything should be set up.

Now open iTunes and select some music or podcasts to play. From the pop-up at the bottom of the iTunes window choose which speakers to use. Press Play.

Relax. Enjoy.

There are fuller instructions and more information at Apple’s Airtunes page.

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