Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Apple's AirPlay.
Being able to send music and video wirelessly from iPhone or Apple TV or AirPort Express is brilliant and so beautifully implemented. I love the whole ecosystem. Mirroring Mac screen or iPad screen onto a large screen via Apple TV has saved my neck on many occasions and facilitated some excellent screen sharing writing and video editing collaborations.
The problem comes when it comes to the audio output because, let's face it, television speakers are generally pretty crap.
Unless you want to pay a lot of money for dedicated AirPlay speakers, Apple TV only has optical audio output. AirPort Express only has 3.5mm jack output. So what speakers do you connect your AirPlay device to?
When it comes to outputting it seems there are three choices: Surround sound, PC Speakers or the iPhone Dock.
Surround sound systems are increasingly turning into a full home 5.1 cinema setups that includes Blu-ray and massive feature speakers. I haven't found one yet that offers AirPlay yet. And few of those set ups include Bluetooth (for when you want to let someone play music without sharing your wifi password).
Something smaller with 2.1 speakers and a wireless sub-woofer would be ideal for a work setup.
The only other alternative is the AirPlay enabled dock. Most of the ones I've found don't actually allow you to dock your iPhone or iPod for playback now - instead they offer only a USB port for charging. So you're stuck with AirPlay only. A few of the AirPlays docks available offer Bluetooth as well but that's all. You can't plug in an iPod or any other device now.
Why can't one device have it all?
My bugbear is the lack of multimedia output convergence devices - or in other words speaker setups that do it all. Why do I have to choose between the ability to use the new wireless technologies as well as keeping the ability to use the old legacy methods? I know it costs companies to license AirPlay from Apple - fair enough, but seriously the cost of putting a 3.5mm jack input and optical and digital audio inputs has suddenly put the price up so high they can't afford to manufacture it?? And I've yet to see any that support Apple's new lightning connectors for the iPhone 5 or the iPad 4. Still. (What has audio output technology ground to a halt lately??) Updated: OK there are some out there, but few if any available in the UK yet.
So hey, Sony, Panasonic, Logitech, Phillips - how about it? Embrace the new AND keep the old. AirPlay is here to stay, but let's face it most of us still have PCs, DVD and video players, iPods with earphone sockets and 30-pin connectors that we'd like to plug in as well as airplay over wifi networks that are increasingly struggling under the bandwidth weight of streaming music, movies, downloads as well as airplay to speakers.
(And don't get me started on in-car audio setups, which are still lagging behind on the iPhone 5 in terms of Bluetooth compatibility and the lightning connector. Another bugbear!!)
Luckily today I found this link to help share my PC speaker system between PC and Apple's AirPort Express's 3.5mm outputs. Sometimes you have to go Old School to get the new tech to do what you want. Happy at last.
Geek rage over. For now ... 😉