Apple AirPlay 2: Does it change things for multi-room audio?


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From what I've read on airplay 2, it is believe that apple will have the ability to send audio from your iPhone/ipad to multiple speakers and have them play in sync. Now, this could be just a feature of the homepod, as clearly Apple wants multiple Homepods to play in sync. However, does this also mean that other airplay 2 compatable speakers will be able to play in sync? For example, your Homepod, Bose speaker, and Sonos can all play in sync. I've read some things suggesting that's the case.

This does somewhat make sense. Airplay 2 apparently requires compatible speakers to have a lot of memory available for buffering. If you want lots of unlike speakers to play in sync, having a big buffer would likely make that more easily accomplished, as I understand it. I don't have the right equipment to test this out personally, not even sure if there are enough airplay 2 compatible speakers that have been released to test it out.

Going on the assumption that this is true, how does that change things in the world of multi-room audio? If Apple 2 can create mutiroom audio using speakers from multiple brands, and do a decent job of it, does that impact how people shop for multi room audio? I don't know that it drives people to buy Homepods, but perhaps they opt to get a Bose instead of Sonos, for example, to add on to their existing system?

As well, does this motivate Amazon and Google to come up with their own multi-room, multi-brand audio protocol? This definitely is something that customers want. Customers have been asked why they can't group echos and sonos speakers together since Sonos went live with Alexa voice control. Does that eventually cause a shift in the way customers think about mutliroom audio. In the same way they think about using Amazon, Google, or Apple for voice control, will the think of the options for multiroom being Amazon, Google, or Apple as well?

Don't get me wrong, I don't see Airplay 2, or the theoretically other multi-room audio protocols, being superior to Sonos alone. However, name recognition and marketing matters, and the others have that advantage. I can see where people would go with Apple for example, even knowing that it's not as good, just because they like the name.

I'd also say that Sonos has a strong advantage still regarding options for music sources, options for voice control (coming soon), and HT audio. Sonos seems to be focusing mostly on voice control and HT. The 'works with Sonos' program that Onkyo is in, as well as the new product announcement in a couple days as a sign that Sonos is definitely looking at Home Theatre features as a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.

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21 replies

melvimbe

A number of years ago, we saw AirPrint from Apple and a number of printer manufacturers chose to add that print method to their printers. Their packaging came with the AirPrint logo.

Now we have AirPlay-2 and many manufacturers look like they are adding it to their speakers. I’m sure their packaging will eventually show an AirPlay-2 logo aswell.

The user expectation is that all speakers will work together and be 'selectable' in the iOS AirPlay dialog box.

There are lots of screenshots online already, where I have seen two devices selected at the same time in the new AirPlay dialog box, like an Apple HomePod and an Apple TV, for example. I appreciate those are the same manufacturer, but they are different hardware. So my money is on the fact that the user will be able to 'mix and match' speaker brands.

I think from a listening and cosmetic point of view though, I would personally stick to one particular brand... er ... Sonos is my choice, as it looks like all their old legacy speakers, Play:1/Play:3 etc. will be capable of playing AirPlay audio sources, via 'room grouping' options. This 'grouping' (Airplay) feature will probably put them way ahead of any of their competitors.

The only downside I am seeing presently, is that AirPlay 2 still looks like the audio plays via/thru the controller device and that device cannot therefore be taken away from the network whilst the music is playing, but I understand there is one exception to this rule and that is when Apple Music is sent to HomePod(s). In that instance, the audio goes direct from the Apple servers to the HomePod device and not via the controller.
I perhaps should also add these further remarks to my post above ...

That all the Sonos App's own (non AirPlay) built-in (numerous) music services, like Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Music, Tidal, Tune-in etc etc... and even the integrated Apple Music Service, each send their audio direct from their own respective online servers and stream it straight to the Sonos Speaker hardware and that audio-stream, is also not routed via the Sonos controller.

So that’s another BIG PLUS and reason to buy Sonos, I think. ...and I haven’t even mentioned about things like comparing speaker hardware prices yet !
[...] There are lots of screenshots online already, where I have seen two devices selected at the same time in the new AirPlay dialog box, like an Apple HomePod and an Apple TV, for example. I appreciate those are the same manufacturer, but they are different hardware. So my money is on the fact that the user will be able to 'mix and match' speaker brands. [...]
Apple are using Airplay2 also for grouping and stereo pairing. Otherwise there's no difference to Sonos' method of grouping; you can also group a Play:5 (1st Gen) and a Play:5 (2nd Gen) for instance.

Apple are using Airplay2 also for grouping and stereo pairing. Otherwise there's no difference to Sonos' method of grouping; you can also group a Play:5 (1st Gen) and a Play:5 (2nd Gen) for instance.

Yes exactly, that really reinforces the point too, that we should be able to 'mix and match' our devices. Can’t wait to see it in action.
Yes exactly, that really reinforces the point too, that we should be able to 'mix and match' our devices. Can’t wait to see it in action.
We'll see, if Sonos are going to introduce Airplay2 as a second/parallel method of grouping their speakers (what would be a fundamental requirement for such a scenario). I very much doubt it, though.
Smilja,

My thoughts are you will be able to Group Rooms in the Sonos App (or maybe via voice command ??) .. so it could be a Sonos One, together with a Play:3, for example, and in your iOS device AirPlay dialog list it will show as a speaker (same has HomePod does) and when you press 'play' the audio will come out of both grouped speakers ... that’s my guess.

I don’t think you will be able to do it though if the Sonos One speakers are part of a Home Theatre setup as you can’t currently unbond those and group them with other speakers.. well not very easily at the moment.

It’s all guesswork of course, but I am hoping I can Group my Apple TV with my Sonos One, I think that will be good if I can watch YouTube or Netflix on my iPad or Apple TV and the audio goes to my Sonos speakers in sync with the video ... we shall see.

I guess we will have to ensure we don’t set our expectations too high, as it is fairly new stuff and it looks like Apple initially has had some teething issues with it in recent months and had to delay the rollout.
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Yes exactly, that really reinforces the point too, that we should be able to 'mix and match' our devices. Can’t wait to see it in action.
We'll see, if Sonos are going to introduce Airplay2 as a second/parallel method of grouping their speakers (what would be a fundamental requirement for such a scenario). I very much doubt it, though.


I doubt they are going to advertise that as feature. First off you wouldn't be able to initiate an 'airplay grouping; from the Sonos app. Or at least, it would be very confusing if you were. Second, it would only be able to group the speakers that are compatible with airplay 2. Third, as has been pointed out, it's dependent on streaming from your phone. Overall, it's going to be an inferior method of grouping I'd say. I suppose they could advertise it as a way to group Sonos with other brands, but I don't know that they want to really advertise that, and Apple can do that advertising for them.

I believe that airplay 2 could end up being sort of a dud. It may not work all that well. If it does, it may not be something users get used to using to group speakers for multi-room. I do think it's going to be a big enough threat, that Amazon and Google will follow sit. Amazon's new speaker SDK may even allow you to do multiroom across multiple brand names as well. I wouldn't be surprised. I guess I'm saying that I don't think Airplay 2 itself is going to be that much of a game changer, but the competitors that trying and follow could change the market.

If the general consumer believes there is no difference between Sonos multi-room tech, and Apple (or whoever's multi-room) that is cheaper, than it could easily effect their buying choices. BTW, it's worth noting that airplay 2 only works on high end equipment. Right now, the Sonos One is the cheapest speaker or amp you can buy that is airplay 2 compatible.
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I don’t envisage for one minute, the grouping of different brands of speakers via the Sonos App... the Sonos grouping/pairing/bonding is unique, quick and simple.

I just see there being the 'extra layer' of grouping all brands of AirPlay devices together via the iOS dialog box (see screenshot I got from Google images).

It looks like a pair of AirPlay HomePod speakers grouped with another type of speaker ... this is what I’m hoping for.
Oh by the way, in that google image in my last post, I wonder what the 'office' bit is at the bottom of the iPhone window and the kitchen bit is at the top?? ... is this music playing in another two different rooms perhaps?

Why is one at the top and the other is below the main AirPlay dialog box. That has me a little confused, if anyone has any ideas about that.
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Why is one at the top and the other is below the main AirPlay dialog box. That has me a little confused, if anyone has any ideas about that.


Simply look like other rooms that are currently playing music but not in a multi room group. Why the ocon is dofferent I can’t speculate. That graphic looks like two rooms are already playing dofferent content in isolation and that the other 4 devices were in a group, but two have been deselected. I don’t yet have any AP2 capable devices to test. Maybe before this week is out we’ll get a Sonos update so can mess about and see how ot works.
My thoughts are you will be able to Group Rooms in the Sonos App (or maybe via voice command ??) .. so it could be a Sonos One, together with a Play:3, for example, and in your iOS device AirPlay dialog list it will show as a speaker (same has HomePod does) and when you press 'play' the audio will come out of both grouped speakers ... that’s my guess. [...]
I don't see Apple and Sonos playing in sync, but ...


It’s all guesswork of course, but I am hoping I can Group my Apple TV with my Sonos One, I think that will be good if I can watch YouTube or Netflix on my iPad or Apple TV and the audio goes to my Sonos speakers in sync with the video ... we shall see.
... then again, that has been already announced/advertised, if I remember correctly. How well this feature will work out remains to be seen.
Sonosjunkie,

I was just wondering why one was playing above and one was playing below the main dialog box... but I think I see and understand it now, it’s in alphabetical order by the main room name...

Kitchen
Living Room
Office

Do you really think Sonos will release AirPlay soon? It’s only just been ratified by Apple ... my thoughts were this would be weeks/months away yet!
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I actually wonder if the audio will be in sync with any video ?

It is mentioned that Airplay2 can have a large buffer so this could lead to large lip sync issues if using AirPlay2 speakers alongside video.

Will the device playing the video delay the image to keep in sync with the audio being sent to the speakers ?
I actually wonder if the audio will be in sync with any video ?

It is mentioned that Airplay2 can have a large buffer so this could lead to large lip sync issues if using AirPlay2 speakers alongside video.

Will the device playing the video delay the image to keep in sync with the audio being sent to the speakers ?

Yes indeed, it once seemed quite a challenge for developers to make 2 channel audio system sync, over wireless, across the same branded speakers... now the audio is expected to sync across different 'brands and models' and with the video output on Apple devices. It sounds like it has been achieved, but I’m also told that AirPlay-2 will actually support 5.1 surround sound too. That sounds/looks to me to really be pushing the boundaries, albeit we know that Sonos have already done a pretty good job with their own wireless Home Theatre system ...

It would be nice if Sonos can take the next step forward and get their new HT system to extend out to 7.1 surround sound over wireless. I would definitely be straight down the store to buy one of those... er... once I had installed more plug sockets in my living room, that is ?. I wonder what tomorrow's (June 6th) announcement will bring?
I don’t envisage for one minute, the grouping of different brands of speakers via the Sonos App... the Sonos grouping/pairing/bonding is unique, quick and simple. [...]
I didn't mean grouping via Airplay2 through the Sonos Controller, Airplay2 won't be available within the Controller anyway.
I don’t envisage for one minute, the grouping of different brands of speakers via the Sonos App... the Sonos grouping/pairing/bonding is unique, quick and simple. [...]
I didn't mean grouping via Airplay2 through the Sonos Controller, Airplay2 won't be available within the Controller anyway.

Smilja it wasn’t you that mentioned or hinted at that issue being in the Sonos App anyway, it was melvimbe who briefly touched upon that subject in his reply above. Just to quickly clear up that matter.
Smilja it wasn’t you that mentioned or hinted at that issue being in the Sonos App anyway, it was melvimbe who briefly touched upon that subject in his reply above. Just to quickly clear up that matter.
Yes, my fault. Keeping up is onerous on hot and sticky days. 😃
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I think an Apple Airplay2 compatible speaker will be able to play in sync with a Sonos Airplay2 compatible speaker. The big flaw to me though is the phone is still the coordinator in this case. With the phone connectivity and availability required. Where a Sonos grouping has one of the speakers as the coordinator and once playing initiated the phone (controller) is no longer needed. To me the Sonos method still spells reliability.
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Sonosjunkie,

....

Do you really think Sonos will release AirPlay soon? It’s only just been ratified by Apple ... my thoughts were this would be weeks/months away yet!


Sonos have announced commitment to it months ago, and more recently confirmed what hardware will be compatible as AP2 players, so they are certainly investigating it in depth already and I expect have been actively working with beta releases of iOS etc for quite a while. Further Apple has a list of early adopter vendors and a specific list of compatible 3rd party speakers. I don’t think Apple would go out on a limb and list specific models unless there was some certainty about imminent compatibility.

It would not surprise me at all if Sonos announce a software update to be available this week, if not by the end of the month, with their new speaker to be available for pre-order this week, shipping in a month or two.

I can’t see that they would have much more to do than perform final tests on the final Airplay release, fix a few bugs and then ship their update. Which would be days or weeks and not months after Apple’s release.

I could be wrong, but that’s how it ‘should’ work. We should know more in the next 24h. I doubt they’d have booked an event on the 6/6 unless they were aligning it with Apple’s release announcement and were relatively certain of their release schedule, otherwise they’d look amateurish 🆒
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I think an Apple Airplay2 compatible speaker will be able to play in sync with a Sonos Airplay2 compatible speaker. The big flaw to me though is the phone is still the coordinator in this case. With the phone connectivity and availability required. Where a Sonos grouping has one of the speakers as the coordinator and once playing initiated the phone (controller) is no longer needed. To me the Sonos method still spells reliability.

I assume this to be the case also, unless there’s a homepod in the mix which if the ‘initiator’ of the Airplay group might be able to act as a stream co-ordinator? Not surenif theybhave designed it like that, but sounds plausible. Also an AppleTV would worj sans Phone I hope. It does today via optical so can’t aee a difference via AP in terms of being Independent. Also won’t sonos be able to stream back to a non-Sonos AP2 speaker or is the feature one way only?

Personally, I don’t have much of an use case for AP2 other than using it to be able to ‘group’ a portable speaker in the bathroom with the Sonos in the bedroom. I’m hopingnit will help fill that hap in sonos’ range.
Actually, I quite like the idea that the iOS Sonos App itself, is given the little AirPlay icon on the 'Now Playing' screen, next to the Play/Pause button perhaps, so that the App can send it’s current playing audio across to AirPlay approved speakers. I wonder if that will ever happen, or if it would be stopped in it’s tracks by some kind of licensing issue?