Airport Express and Airfoil

We've had all sorts of digital music systems over the years. And they keep getting cheaper, simpler, and better.

We started over a decade ago with an over the top multi-room system that was built on Audio Request music servers and controlled by Crestron. We scrapped that system about five years ago (although I kept two of those music servers for each home we own). We moved to a Sonos based system. We still use that in the main rooms of the homes we own.

But my current favorite music system is an Airport Express connected to a simple and cheap amplifier and speakers. We use that in all of our kids' bedrooms and increasingly in other rooms in our homes like our guest rooms. Basically you bring your laptop and iTunes library and we provide the sound system. I like it very much.

But my main beef with the Airport Express is it is limited to iTunes. In the past couple weeks, two friends mentioned Airfoil to me. So yesterday I downloaded Airfoil to my laptop and gave it a whirl. Basically Airfoil intercepts any audio stream on your machine and sends it to the Airport Express.

This is the perfect freemium experience. I downloaded it and tested it by playing fredwilson.fm in my Chrome browser and it played flawlessly on the music system in our beach house. I've been wanting to have fredwilson.fm on our pool deck for years now. I've got it now. Sweet.

So of course I bought a five license bundle just now for $46. We'll have Airfoil on all of our laptops before the day is over.

Of course Apple should offer this feature built in on the Airport Express. There are a lot of things Apple should do. I've given up hoping or expecting them to do it. I'm just happy some crafty software engineers built the hack we all want. Thanks Airfoil.

When our oldest daughter came home from college this year, we had already moved into our new apartment. I showed her how the Airport Express worked in her new room. She said, "cool, how do I play last.fm radio on it." I didn't have a good answer for her. Now I do. That's progress and I'm really excited about it.