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Network Distributed Audio – Airfoil

By: Chip Bobbert II


We had an interesting use case come up.  A question was posed about being able to listen to multiple audios streams in the same room and be able to select between them.  The first thing that popped into my head was “Silent Disco”.  After a little research I rediscovered a product from my past called Airfoil.

Airfoil is a nifty little app.  Basically the server installs on a PC or Mac and sends the audio from any program or the system output itself to it’s client, Airfoil Speakers.  Speakers can be installed on just about any device including various mobile devices and windows systems.  The backend connection technology is AirPlay which has a considerable list or pro’s and con’s in an enterprise environment.

The nice thing about Airfoil over other iOS apps that can deliver audio via AirPlay is its ability to deliver to multiple devices simultaneously and keep them in sync.  The effect is sort of a broadcast.  The other nice thing is the capability of playing any software including the system audio mix, basically if it comes out of your speakers Airfoil will deliver it to Speakers, you’re no longer tied to an app.

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How It Works

It couldn’t be easier.  Basically go to Rogue Ameba’s site and install the software.  If you’re on a mobile device, you can go to the App Store or Play for Speakers.  Launch Airfoil, select the audio you wish to push out and you’re done!  The client then opens Speakers, they will be presented with a list of Airfoils to chose from (if there’s more than one).  They click “recieve”, at that’s it!  That easy!

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How Much Does It Cost?

Airfoil is $25, there is a 15% discount for education.  The Airfoil Speakers app is free!  So for $21.25 you could build a great distributed audio system in a classroom.

Did You Notice Any Limitations?

The only thing I saw in the software I would like to see improved is the latency.  There is a little lag, about .5 seconds.  This could be annoying in applications where you are sharing system audio from video for an application like hearing assistance.

Final Thoughts

In the consumer market this app may be useful for parties, or multi-zone distributed audio in a connected home.  In the enterprise this could be a great fit inside of a large conference room, exhibition hall, command center or other situation where multiple presentations are happening at the same time without physical dividers between people.  Basically, put in your headphones, grab the feed you want to listen to with Airfoil Speakers on your mobile.

It’s important to reiterate again, this is a Mac OR PC OR Mobile application, it’s truly cross platform.


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