How to replace Airport Express?

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by 2ms, Jun 26, 2017.

  1. 2ms macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2002
    #1
    I have a 6 year old Airport Express that I use as my wifi router and also as my audio source since I have my stereo plugged into it and listen to everything over AirPlay.

    It's mostly still serving me well, but I would prefer something that offered more wireless range as well as the possibility to use newer wifi bands.

    I understand the Airport line is being discontinued, which is really disappointing and surprising because I would think Apple would want to do everything possible to continue to promote AirPlay and Apple Music.

    Anyone have any suggestions on what I can do to achieve the same functionality as provided by my old Airport Express but with greater range and speed? I do like to use the digital audio output but I suppose it isn't absolutely necessary.
     
  2. NorCalLights macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    #2
    You can use any router/wireless access point system you want, and then have your Airport Express join that network to provide the audio service to your stereo.

    I set an Eero system up at my parents' house, and then took their old Airport Express, connected it to the Eero network, and plugged it into their stereo.

    At my place, I have an all-Airport system, but I'm thinking about switching over to a mesh network. When I do that, I'll also have my old Airport Express connected to that mesh system.
     
  3. 2ms thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Nov 22, 2002
    #3
    Interesting idea. Does it not slow down your whole network to the speed of the Airport Express (single band 802.11n)?

    I also was hoping that something faster might have less lag when skipping around songs while using airplay. But perhaps no matter what you do the lag is always the same?
     
  4. techwarrior macrumors 6502

    techwarrior

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #4
    The Airport line is still being sold, and will be supported with FW updates for some time. Apple "re-assigned" the AP engineers to other products, didn't completely disband the effort apparently. I suspect that means we will someday see Airport come back as a component of other products, perhaps future Apple TV or Home Pods?

    The AirPort Extreme\Time Capsule has a much stronger signal, and supports dual band. If you like the AP line, consider this route. If you are pinching pennies, look for refurb units, Apple warrants them the same as new and does a great job of reconditioning items before selling them as refurbs.

    Most Wi-Fi routers these days are capable of supporting Airplay.

    AP Express can join virtually any network in one of three ways, as a router, as a client, and as an additional access point to extend the range. You know about router mode. As a client, the Wi-Fi (or Ethernet) connection to the main router connects the device to the network, and Airplay can be enabled to allow streaming to anything connected to the express. As an additional access point, it can use Ethernet (best), or Wi-Fi (ok) to connect to the network and then Create a Wi-Fi "hot spot" to allow client connections to hop on the network from that point. I have used expresses in all of these modes, connected to hotel and resort condo Ethernet and Wi-Fi networks in order to enable Airplay to AppleTV.

    If you are experiencing lags or skipping, it is likely not the Express itself, but radio interference in the area. Audio requires minimal bandwidth for streaming. Even Apple TV, which can stream HD video, only has a 100Mbps ethernet port, so the engineers obviously felt that was more than enough to handle streaming given 1Gbps ports are probably only pennies more to put in a device.

    Wi-Fi, particularly 2.4Ghz, is prone to interference from many wireless signals such as microwave ovens, radar, other Wi-Fi networks, wireless phones\keyboards\mice, USB3 devices, and over saturation of client connections. Moving to 5Ghz frequency often helps overcome many of these challenges, but range is shorter and many legacy devices are not capable of using 5Ghz, thus the dual band which enables devices to use either frequency. For streaming, you are often better off using Ethernet if possible, a mobile device can stream over Wi-Fi to Ethernet connected devices on the same LAN.
     
  5. NorCalLights macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2006
    #5
    Modern WiFi network hardware will allow simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5Ghz networks, so your 802.11n devices can live on their own 2.4GHz bands, and your newer 802.11ac devices will live on the 5Ghz band. Nothing will get slowed down, and it will all be transparent to you.

    If your sources (iPhone, Mac computer, etc...) are 802.11ac devices, and you can hardwire your Airport Express to your new router with an ethernet connection, you might see better streaming performance than you see now.
     
  6. 960design macrumors 68020

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    Apr 17, 2012
    Location:
    Destin, FL
    #6
    Someday, but not today. I just bought two Airport Extremes from Apple; even saw that they have refurbished models for $129, but instead picked them up for $179 each with my ed creds.
     
  7. drsox macrumors 65816

    drsox

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    #7
    Why not buy second AE and link it to the first by a LAN ?
    I'm keeping my AEs going as long as I can buy buying spares.
     
  8. 2ms thread starter macrumors 6502

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    Nov 22, 2002
    #8
    You mean to extend the range or what? Just wanted to clarify what the objective would be.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 30, 2017 ---
    Thank you for all the advice. Very helpful. Can you explain what exactly the difference is between the client mode and the additional access point mode? I would think they would both provide the same functionality except that second mode additionally provides more range and therefore basically is superior. What are the reasons to use the AE in client mode rather than as an additional access point?

    The second question I have regards the lag. The lag I am talking about is really just the delay between Apple Music command and playback. It's just a little annoying the when you change songs, change position within a song, etc, there is always a second or two of wait time. I'd prefer AirPlay was more responsive. Since my AE is so old, I thought maybe newer ones might be faster in that regard. I'm not actually having problems with loss of signal or anything like that. Do you know if there is a way to have AirPlay be more responsive?
     
  9. DMJG macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2008
    #9
    I have an AirPlay-compatible A/V receiver that is connected by Ethernet (via switch) to the iMac. There's no lag at all and there's no need anymore for the audio capabilities of my Airport Express.
     
  10. drsox, Jun 30, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017

    drsox macrumors 65816

    drsox

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    #10
    No, not to extend the range. In the opinion of this website (and me) ( : https://www.smallnetbuilder.com ) the best way to cover a difficult location with WiFi is to have multiple WiFi areas linked by a LAN. ( see this oldish but still true article : https://www.smallnetbuilder.com/bas...best-way-to-get-whole-house-wireless-coverage). In each area use a Wireless Access Point (WAP) connected by Ethernet cable or a Powerline connection. ( Modern Powerline - 1200Mbps - can provide 150+ Mbps LAN connections ). This is where an "old" AE comes in handy for use. Set up the "old" AE as a WAP - see Apple Help files for this - it's basically an AE with the router part turned off. In this config the AE is in Bridge Mode. IMO the days of the single BIG honking WiFi router are over. Either use a Mesh network (Orbi, Eero etc) or multiple local WiFi areas with Access Points.
     
  11. McRumour, Jun 30, 2017
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017

    McRumour macrumors member

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    Oct 6, 2013
    #11
    --- Post Merged, Jun 30, 2017 ---
    Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 2.14.13 pm.png I might be wrong - but I don't think your old Airport Express will be compatible with other manufacturer's Routers.
    But if you buy an Airport Extreme you can use your Express as either a wireless Extender or, as has already been suggested, as a separate access point (in which case it would be set to a different network).
    I've got 2 Extremes (both 802.11ac, one is my Router, the other is an Extender, connected wirelessly) and a 2nd gen Express is also connected (wirelessly) as a 2nd Extender. I just have one network.
    I average 235Mbps - wirelessly....and at the very worst, at far ends of house - on 2nd floor I average 185Mbps. And in all cases upstream speeds are ~23.5Mbps
    But all this is so individual so goes without saying: ymmv
    They look like this in Airport Utility (the Express is currently unplugged - thats why the dot beside it is an amber triangle, rather than a green circle).
     
  12. 2ms thread starter macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2002
    #12
    What is the difference between an extender and a WAP? Anyone have further advice on how to make AirPlay more responsive? I wonder if replacing my 2nd gen AE with a 3rd gen would reduce the delay in AirPlay. Thanks everyone for all your advice.
     
  13. Fishrrman macrumors G4

    Fishrrman

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2009
    #13
    Have you considered one of the new "home mesh" systems?
    There are numerous ones out there now, with many user reviews (see amazon).

    I seem to recall reading that some folks were able to connect the AE to the mesh, and then stream music from it (but can't confirm this, I don't have one myself).

    Might be worth investigating…
     
  14. drsox macrumors 65816

    drsox

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2011
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    Xhystos
    #14
    Extender "extends" a WiFi connection from another WiFi source ( e.g. take the signal from AE#1 and makes it usable further into the house (e.g.). WAP provides another WiFi network in different location and links back to the other WiFi networks by a LAN (WAP AE operates in Bridge Mode). LAN typically is Ethernet or PowerLine.

    Usually there is more lag in an extended connection than in a WAP connection. Also used to be that the system bandwidth was halved in an extended connection since the signal was transmitted twice (forewords to the extender and backwards to the source). This doesn't happen in a LAN connection. Of course if the WiFi connection has more than twice the bandwidth of the LAN connection then it doesn't matter - but the lag is still there.
     
  15. techwarrior macrumors 6502

    techwarrior

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2009
    Location:
    Colorado
    #15
    In client mode, the Express simply joins the network but doesn't offer Wi-Fi hotspot for client connections. As an Access Point, devices can connect to the Express in order to join the network. If all you want to do is provide an airplay bridge, client mode is sufficient and avoids over saturating Wi-Fi in the home.

    As an Wireless Access Point, you can extend the range of the Wi-Fi by placing the Express in an area where the main router signal is weak. Connecting additional access points by Ethernet preserves 100% of the radio to client connections and allows the Express to be placed far enough away from the router to avoid or minimize overlap.

    Delays or lags are usually not due to the number of hops (routers, access points, switches\hubs) the packets must traverse, but rather due to interference. If your ISP connection is solid and affords enough bandwidth to stream stuff from the internet, the local network should more than adequately handle getting the packets to the end devices. But, if there is too much contention on the network, lag will occur as devices compete for access to the Wi-Fi. Again, if 5Ghz is an option for the streaming, use it as it avoids a lot of the sources of interference that impact the 2.4Ghz frequency range.

    Wi-Fi is a particularly contentious medium for transmitting data. Each device in range will receive every packet being sent, then decide if it should be kept, passed on, or dropped. A device can only send and receive data when there is no other device doing so, and with a lot of devices competing for access, delays will tend to occur...this is when you perceive lag. Not only can neighboring WiFi interfere with yours, but 2.4Ghz wireless phones, keyboards, mice, even microwaves send out signals on these same frequencies. Generally, dumb devices like Microwaves use channels closer to mid-range (channel 6), so manually setting the channel on your 2.4Ghz Wi-Fi to 1 or 11 will often overcome many of the sources of interference. But, if other Wi-Fi routers\access points are using the same channels, you are back to contention.
     

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