What, why and how
The iPod and its descendants have had a huge effect on the hi-fi industry. From the moment that Apple developed the well known ‘dock’ fitting for the iPod from the third generation onwards, the wider hi-fi industry has worked to accommodate the iPod in a way that no other third party device has ever really enjoyed.
Right from the start though, the various iPod docks in all their various shapes sizes (and prices) all had one slightly curious issue in common with one another. All of them required you to take your iPod and physically connect it to the docking station. This meant that you took a device renowned for the quality of its interface, put it somewhere you couldn’t interact with it anymore and made you control it with a small plastic remote. Viewed logically, this doesn’t seem like the best possible way of doing things.
It didn’t take anyone very long to realise that there had to be a better way. Instead of docking the iPod, why not pull the information off the iPod and send it to an amp and speakers wirelessly? This is simple enough to imagine but as the original iPod wasn’t (and still isn’t) a wireless capable product, the early attempts depended on attaching an additional dongle or connector to your iPod. This isn’t how Apple goes about things though so they began work on the system that we know as AirPlay.
The concept of AirPlay - wireless transmission of material from an Apple device - has in one shape or another, been around for longer than people think. The first method of wirelessly sending audio from your iTunes library to a supporting device was AirTunes which believe it or not debuted in 2004. AirTunes sent information from your iTunes library to a dedicated Apple receiver that could be connected to your hi-fi. This was pretty revolutionary stuff for 2004 but AirPlay which debuted in 2010 takes the process a step further.
First and most importantly, AirPlay covers the use of the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad as devices you can transmit from. Your computer doesn’t need to be powered on to make use of it and you can sit with that rather fabulous interface to hand and control your music with the Apple device itself. Secondly, the content that AirPlay can stream from your device has expanded dramatically. As well as your iTunes library, you can stream audio from a huge variety of apps on your iDevice directly to the receiver and as well as audio you can now send video as well if the receiving device supports it.
The third big improvement is the really important one. While AirTunes made transmitting audio to an existing system easier, AirPlay is the system. With a product like our new Minx Air, we can make an all-in-one speaker system that is the perfect size and shape for modern requirements and by dint of fitting it with AirPlay, once you have carried out the one time only setup procedure, you can place it completely out of the way if you need. Your iDevice becomes the source of the audio and the point of control for the Minx Air. What’s more, you can still send audio directly from iTunes on a Mac or PC if you need to. With no physical connection required, an AirPlay compatible device like Minx Air is completely independent of any other hardware you might have.
The other big benefit of AirPlay is that it supports more than one device. You can have multiple Minx Air units (or, we suppose, other AirPlay devices too!) and each device will show up as a selectable option when you press the AirPlay icon. This means that your iDevice becomes the central control point for a very effective multi-room system that has no wires and requires no changes to your home. You can then adjust the volume for these devices independently and have different AirPlay sources control different devices. Alternatively if you want to slide from one room to another dancing Risky Business style, you can select the option to have every device play Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock & Roll at once.
AirPlay realises the ideal of listening to your iDevice while still being able to use and interact with it (and with some Apple games becoming pretty much a worldwide religion, this is more important than it has ever been). You can send a huge variety of material to an AirPlay receiver and most importantly, the number of Apple devices that natively support AirPlay is huge so there is a good chance you already own one.
This convenience is not at the expense of quality either. When you establish a connection between an AirPlay source and AirPlay speakers, the encoding for the transmission is basically the same as the system used to encode Apple Lossless. The stream is capable of supporting a 44.1kHz (ie lossless audio) sampling rate. This means that AirPlay is capable of supporting a CD quality signal as well as compressed material.
In case you haven’t worked it out, we’re big fans of AirPlay. It solves the problem of docking your iDevice and at the same time introduces control and playback options that were unthinkable even a few years ago. We’ve carefully designed the Minx Air AirPlay speaker products to take full advantage of AirPlay (while naturally looking after people who aren’t quite so keen on Apple as well) and we think that the combination of our sonic knowhow and Apple’s carefully worked out brainchild will blow your socks off.