In an unexpected tun of events, Apple has released a firmware update (version 7.8) for AirPort Express which brings AirPlay 2 support to the devices. Even though these devices were discontinued this April, Apple has made them even more useful by adding AirPlay 2 compatibility. Users can take advantage of the 3.5mm headphone jack in AirPort Express by plugging in their speakers and turning them into AirPlay 2 compatible wireless speakers.
AirPlay 2, an update to Apple’s popular audio output and streaming protocol, supports music streaming to multiple speakers. Apple had released AirPlay 2 for iOS 11.4, macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 and HomePod this year and also announced a number of third-party speakers that would support this protocol. You can setup multiple speakers, in different rooms, with AirPlay 2 support, and individually control music playback and volume, for each one of them.
Ever since Apple announced AirPlay 2, there were rumors that support for the updated protocol would be rolled out to AirPort Express. AirPort Express, now discontinued, is a WiFi base station which was the smallest and cheapest in Apple’s AirPort line-up. The Express version shipped with 3.5mm audio output, along with support for AirPlay, which allowed iOS devices and Macs to playback music to connected speakers. Even though AirPort Express is outdated now because it doesn’t support Gigabit Ethernet or the latest WiFi 802.11ac standard, it still remains a useful device to connect USB printers and speakers.
To update your AirPort Express to the latest firmware, open the AirPort Utility app on your iPhone or Mac, select it and when it shows you the firmware update screen, tap Download and Install. Once the upgrade is complete, open the Home app on your iPhone and tap Add Accessory. On this screen, tap on ‘Don’t have a code or can’t scan’ to add your AirPort Express. Give your speaker a name so you can easily output music to it, either via Control Center, or using Siri.