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The Ill-Tempered Audiophool

Apple TV as a poor-man's Sonos system

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There are (at least) three ways one can use an Apple TV to play music:

(1) Airplay streaming from a computer, iPod, iPhone, etc. This works in pretty much the same way as airplay to an Airport Express, or some airplay-enabled speakers like the Zeppelin Air. The streaming is done close to real-time, with a player application (like iTunes, or the player software on an iPhone) controlling it. (Recent versions of OS X with the right hardware can do this from the operating system level, both for audio and video). Although it is potentially bit-perfect for 44.1 kHz lossless files with the Airport Express (but not for ATV, which then re-samples to 48kHz), in my experience it is not sufficiently robust, and it is plagued with annoying drop-outs.

(2) Buffered playback from the Apple TV itself. (This is what I called "zone player", probably erroniously). This relies on iTunes being open on a computer, so that it can act as a server for the music library (and video library )However, this is not real-time streaming, so it is more robust. Playback is controlled either from an iPod/iPhone/iPad running Apple's, or using the Apple TV video interface via a monitor connected via HDMI to the ATV box, along with the IR remote (or iOS

(3) Stand-alone streaming from Apple: Movies, TV shows and music purchased from Apple (and music made available from iTunes match) can be streamed from Apple's servers instead of your own computer.

In my experience, (2) and (3) work better than (1). Also, you can play something different on each of your Apple TVs simultaneously.

In my case, I have 3 ATV units. One feeds my TV near my main system (and I have attached it to the main system as well via optical out, but I very seldom use it for audio on the main system, since I have a mac mini as well). Another feeds my first-generation (non-Air) Zeppelin via optical in my bedroom. It is "headless", so I need to control it via iOS or stream to it via method (1). A third one is in my garage, which feeds video to a projector and audio to a cheap audio system, which I use when on my bike on a fluid trainer.

The main disadvantage compared to Sonos is that you still need an optical (or HDMI) DAC, amp and speakers. But that is also a feature that gives one more flexibility.


  1. wgscott's Avatar
    Swiping Bob Stern's reply to the above in another thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Stern View Post
    Thanks, Bill!

    Option (2) is of greatest interest to me. I discovered that Apple calls this Home Sharing.

    For the benefit of others:

    Home Sharing setup on Apple TV:
    Setting up Home Sharing for Apple TV (2nd generation and 3rd generation) - Apple Support

    iOS Remote with Home Sharing:
    Set up Remote app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch - Apple Support

    Home Sharing main support page:
    Home Sharing - Get Started - Apple Support
  2. maelob's Avatar
    i am using my airplay to stream Tidal from my ipad. really fun
  3. bobbmd's Avatar
    wg-Your system sounds a lot like mine-mac mini in one room with my main system. I am using amarra sQ then USB out to Schiit gungnir DAC and out to my main system streaming Qobuz and TIDAL both in HiFI lossless.
    I have an apple tv in another room hooked to hdtv with optical out from atv to that room's avr and 7.1 system-i can listen to itunes(my ripped cds on my mac mini and my playlists from MOG transferred to BeatsMusic) both via the apps on appletv.
    What I want to do is stream TIDAL and Qobuz from my mac mini to the appletv-boatheelmusic suggested AIRSERVER or AIRFOIL to do this and it worked with AIRSERVER but required a of 'fiddling' turning things on/off etc to get it to work-too time consuming and frustrating-I have both TIDAL and Qobuz apps on my iphone 6 with apple remote app-but I can't get it work and if I could wouldn't I be generating mucho dollars in charges from Verizon?
    Since you have outlined 'how to' so well any suggestions for a 'simple' straightforward way to stream TIDAL/Qobuz and if possible exactly how to stream them from my iphone thanks bobbmd
  4. wgscott's Avatar
    Verizon I assume is your cell-phone provider. If your cell phone is at home connected to your wireless router, streaming from your cell phone over wireless should create no charges. To test that, just turn off the cellular radio (put it in airplane mode and then turn the wireless back on) and if it still works for streaming, you are safe. I tend not to use streaming, (airplay and otherwise), because of frequent drop-outs, so I don't have any good suggestions. Sorry.