Until we solve this, I have to keep buying CDs....
November 25, 2011 7:52 PM   Subscribe

I'm technology speak impaired. Is there a wireless ... thing ... of some kind that we can somehow attach to our old (but terrific sound quality) stereo system so I can stream music to it from my phone or laptop?

So, yeah, I'm not techie by any means, but I'm not your mom either.

Here's what we have:
- An older Sony receiver, hooked to a very, very nice surround system. It was made before wireless became a "thing" but it works fine and has pretty stellar sound quality.
- Eight very nice speakers, distributed through two rooms
- The last of the non-HD Tivos (dual tuner) with separate Tivo branded wireless adapter.
- A blue-ray player that does have a wireless interface (which we've never used)
- A less-than-a-year old flatscreen TV (non HD - my eyesight is so bad that HD really is lost on me.)
- A Sony laptop with iTunes & the music on a robust external drive
- An iPhone 3GS

Currently, I can stream music from my laptop to the Tivo, and the Tivo plays it through the surround - fine. Except the new TV turns itself off when it's been "idle" for more than 30 minutes, and the Tivo hooks into the TV which then hooks into the receiver. So every 30 minutes or so I have to turn the TV back on.

What I'm hoping you can point me to is some kind of wireless... something ... that I can plug directly into the receiver so that I can play music directly through the sound system without having to involve the Tivo and/or turn on the TV.

Oh, and we also have a Roku, but I don't think that helps.

Is Airport Express the thing I want here? Something else? A complicating factor is that our wifi originates from upstairs, far away, and so can be a little dogy in the room where the stereo actually lives, so I'm always a little hesitant to add something else to the downstairs wireless mix.

Thoughts? Cheap thoughts?
posted by anastasiav to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
AppleTV allows you to stream music in an iTunes collection wirelessly.
posted by dfriedman at 7:53 PM on November 25, 2011

Airport Express is exactly what you want. That or an AppleTV - I use an AppleTV myself because it does a lot more than just bring my music into my receiver, but in your case the Express can also be set up to extend that dodgy wifi. Jack it into the receiver and you're good to go.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:56 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

The express would have to be hard wired into the receiver, correct? What kind of port would we need to have available to hook it up?

(Apple TV looks very nice but I don't need to add streaming video into our Roku/Tivo/Netflix mix right now.)
posted by anastasiav at 7:59 PM on November 25, 2011

The Squeezebox line of products is superior to Apple Express.
posted by mikeand1 at 8:03 PM on November 25, 2011

The express connects via a head phone (1/8th inch jack) to an RCA (red/white) cable to any receiver. It is the awesome, and has served my household for many years. If you have any spare channels on your receiver, that becomes the computer's wireless line in. I set mine as VCR, just cause that was the most absurd vestigial remnant of the previous technology.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 8:12 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Airport Express can output audio in either analog or Toslink optical formats. If your receiver supports it, Toslink will give you slightly better sound quality, but only marginally so. In either case the output from the Airport will be from a Miniplug port, so you'd want either a Miniplug-to-Toslink or Miniplug-to-RCA cable to connect to the receiver.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 8:19 PM on November 25, 2011

The Squeezebox line of products is superior to Apple Express.

Unless I miss something dramatically in that list, every single Squeezebox product is either A) $1200 or B) a speaker system itself. The OP has a perfectly good receiver, speakers, etc, and is just looking for a way to get their music into it.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:26 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have an airport express and it's really great. But since you already have a laptop you could just place it close to the receiver and use the same headphone to RCA plug that the Airport Express uses.

If you don't want to have the laptop attached to the receiver than I also recommend the Airport Express but you'll also want to get the free iPhone App that controls iTunes.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:34 PM on November 25, 2011

Squeezebox is more full-featured than Airport Express, but also much more expensive and much less plug-and-play.

You mention that your wireless signal is a bit iffy by the stereo. This is less related to your immediate problem, but may be worth looking into: does the airport express act as a wireless repeater? Anyone know?

Also, since you have a laptop, why not just run a cable (mini Jack to RCA) from the laptop's headphone jack to the receiver? :)
posted by TangoCharlie at 8:40 PM on November 25, 2011

"Unless I miss something dramatically in that list, every single Squeezebox product is either A) $1200 or B) a speaker system itself."

You miss something. The Squeezebox Touch is only $275. You can get the older models used for much less.
posted by mikeand1 at 8:44 PM on November 25, 2011

You can get a Squeezebox Classic on Ebay for around $125.
posted by mikeand1 at 8:46 PM on November 25, 2011

why not just run a cable (mini Jack to RCA) from the laptop's headphone jack to the receiver? :)

I really don't want to connect the laptop to the TV. I'd prefer to leave it at the desk so I can work on it while music is playing.
posted by anastasiav at 8:47 PM on November 25, 2011

Brand new Squeezebox Touch for $228.

It's worth the extra $100 over a used Classic. Much better DAC and internal electronics.

Yes, it is a little bit less user friendly than Apple Express, but it's better quality. And frankly, they've gotten a lot more user friendly in recent years, as the software improves.
posted by mikeand1 at 8:50 PM on November 25, 2011 [1 favorite]

You want an Airport Express. It is pretty painless to set up, will work well with your current arrangement, and Apple's audio gear is much less expensive than Squeezebox and Sonos.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:58 PM on November 25, 2011

Cheap thoughts? You can darn sure keep the TV from
turning itself off every half hour. That's a "sleep" setting, for people who want
the TV to turn itself off in the evening after they have dozed off in bed.
What is the make and model of your TV?
posted by the Real Dan at 8:59 PM on November 25, 2011

Get a Squeezebox if you have lots of money and irrationally hate Apple and don't want to use iTunes. Get an airport express if you use iTunes.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 9:00 PM on November 25, 2011 [2 favorites]

It sounds like you are looking for something like this where you plug one unit into your laptop, and the other into your stereo. (I've never used one, I just went looking based on your description.)
posted by fings at 9:04 PM on November 25, 2011

You can darn sure keep the TV from turning itself off every half hour.

I also have a five year old who gets bored and wanders off mid-movie. It's kind of six-of-one ... the auto off feature is sometimes useful, sometimes annoying. It only does it when it notes that the screen has been unchanged for half an hour (animated DVD menus will keep it from triggering, but just audio doesn't do it). It doesn't shut itself off in mid-movie like a sleep setting would.
posted by anastasiav at 9:07 PM on November 25, 2011

You could get this bluetooth audio receiver for $18. If your laptop doesn't have bluetooth, you can get an adapter very cheaply. Another option.

I have an older Airport Express and it's practically unusable in poor reception conditions.
posted by AlsoMike at 9:09 PM on November 25, 2011

"Get a Squeezebox if you have lots of money and irrationally hate Apple and don't want to use iTunes."

Just for the record, if this is a reference to me, I am a huge lover of Apple products. I have a Mac Pro, a Macbook Pro, a Macbook, an iPhone, and I've gone through more iPods than I care to count.

But the Squeezebox has superior electronics and sound. There's simply no debating this. And a Squeezebox Classic for $125 is less than $40 more than an Airport Express.
posted by mikeand1 at 9:15 PM on November 25, 2011

[okee... let's not derail into a debate between commenters about one product/company versus another please; just offer your suggestions and let the OP work out what she's interested in pursuing.]
posted by taz at 10:50 PM on November 25, 2011

I had a classic Squeezebox, and an Airport Express connected to my ten year old Sony receiver. The fundamental problem I had with the Squeezebox, was that it lived by the HiFi, and the display was too small to read from across the room. Whereas the Airport Express is driven from iTunes, so it's as large as my laptop display is. When we moved last, I didn't even bother re-wiring the Squeezebox.

I have friends who swear by it, but it just didn't work out for me.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:31 AM on November 26, 2011

Check out MP3Tunes. You can use your existing Roku box to stream music from iTunes using this application.
posted by sophist at 1:00 AM on November 26, 2011

The Airport Express will also stream audio from an iPhone, extend your wireless network, and act as a bridge if you have anything that needs an ethernet connection. The one I use to stream audio is also connected to a switch that has my consoles on it. I regularly stream NetFlix to the PS3 and audio to the HiFi at the same time. The main access point is only about 20ft and a wall away though. In my old apartment I had to run a cable.

Apparently you can connect an external hard drive to it as well, for a cheap server. I've not tried that with an Express though, and although I have a 1TB unit hanging off my Time Capsule, that only started working with a firmware update earlier this year. Before that it was just taunting me. Still can't get the 2TB drive that actually has my full collection on it to work though. Apple networking gear has a habit of working perfectly, except when it doesn't and then you're screwed.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 3:26 AM on November 26, 2011

I use an Airport Express for exactly what you are wanting to use it for. 5 minutes after it was out of the box, it was working; and it continues to work a year and a half later with no problems. So if you don't want to screw around with config and settings the AE is an excellent choice.
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Sockpuppetry at 4:06 PM on November 27, 2011

I just want to update that we got an Airport Express as recommended by everyone, but I hate it. Every time I want to use it, I end up spending twenty five minutes fiddling around with it because I am inevitably greeted with the phrase "Airport Utility was unable to find any Airport Wireless Devices" and I end up having to crawl behind the stereo to unplug and reboot it, which isn't exactly the ease of use I was looking for. When it works, it works great, but it hardly ever works.

If you have suggestions as to what I'm doing wrong, I'm open. The Express is in the living room and my laptop is on the kitchen table not 40 feet away. I truly feel like this is the biggest waste of money ever.
posted by anastasiav at 7:47 AM on April 7, 2012

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