Airplay 2: Everything you need to know!

HomePod (Image credit: iMore)

Apple just pushed out iOS 11.4, HomePod 11.4, and tvOS 11.4 with support for AirPlay 2. If you've got a HomePod (or two) you can finally take advantage of the upcoming features. If you're wondering how AirPlay 2 works with HomePod or with third-party Airplay-supported speakers, keep on reading.

What is AirPlay 2?

It's a new feature in iOS 11.4 that lets you send audio to multiple AirPlay speakers at once, from anywhere in iOS. This lets you assemble a multiroom audio system from any compatible speakers, and control it from iOS's AirPlay controls or inside third-party apps.

How does it know where your speakers are?

If you have any HomeKit devices, you're probably already using the Home app. Now you'll be able to add speakers to the rooms of your home, and then they'll show up in your iPhone or iPad's AirPlay controls as Living Room, Bedroom, Tree House, Man Cave, and so on.

Can I use AirPlay 2 with my Apple TV?

Yes, once you upgrade to tvOS 11.4, your Apple TV can send audio to speakers around your home as well. You could put your party playlist on the Apple TV's Music app, play it on the living room speakers plus out on the deck, and control it with the Apple TV remote or iOS app—or with Siri.

How do I pair a second HomePod using AirPlay 2?

Well, the first thing you'll need to do is make sure all of your HomePod speakers are updated to HomePod 11.4, which is the software update that includes AirPlay 2 support. You'll only see AirPod 11.4 after you've updated your connected iPhone to 11.4 or newer, and if you're hoping to sync up your dual HomePods to your Apple TV, you'll have to be running tvOS 11.4, so make sure all of your software is up to date.

How to update your HomePod software

After both speakers have been updated, open the details of one of the HomePods in the Home app and tap Create Stereo Pair to pair the two speakers together. Then select a second HomePod to connect them together.

You'll then be asked to identify which HomePod is on the left side of the room and which is on the right. Tap on each one to make sure they're playing the right channel. If they're backward, tap the orange swap button to switch them. Tap Back once you've confirmed their set up.

The two HomePods will now be in a group identified by which room they are in.

Do two HomePods in the same room mean true stereo?

Because each HomePod houses its own A8 processor chip, it will provide separate left and right audio channels for true stereo sound when both HomePods are in the same room. It's kind of like magic, except it's anything but magic because a lot of people worked very hard to make this a reality.

Syncing up is perfect. I can stand in any spot in the room and not even realize both HomePods are playing music, and I mean that in a good way. They both fill out the room perfectly without any overlap or lag. It's as if they are hardwired to my stereo.

How does multi-room music playing work?

If you are playing tunes through two different HomePods and they're not paired in a group, you can either ask Siri to control playback and it will trigger on both AirPods or you can control playback and volume (individually or together) from Control Center. When you pause audio, it stops in both rooms. When you play, it plays, with scalpel precision, the exact same moment in the track without even the slightest lag.

If you've grouped multiple HomePods in one "room," meaning they're synced to always play at the same time in the same room without the ability to separate what is being played, volume controls, and the like, and you move one of the grouped HomePods into a different room, you'll still be able to have audio play perfectly in sync, but you will only be able to trigger Siri commands or Control Center playback from one of the HomePods.

By default, this is the left HomePod, but you can switch the default to the right HomePod by long-pressing on the touchscreen on top. This is actually a very easy way to use Siri on a different HomePod if the two are grouped and you happen to want to take a different one into another room. Just long press on the touchscreen and then ask Siri anything. You can switch back by long-pressing the left HomePod touchscreen anytime you'd like.

Are there syncing issues with same-room HomePod 'stereo'?

Not even a little. Once you've paired your HomePods into a group and identified which is the left and which is the right, they're synced up and running like they are hardwired to your stereo or Apple TV. Whether you play, pause, fast forward or rewind, both speaker act in tandem with each without any hesitation every single time.

I tried a couple of different tests with Siri and Control Center to play content with grouped HomePods creating a stereo sound and they never failed me.

I've played audio tracks that play separate sounds between the right and left channels and can confirm that they are set up like a set of stereo speakers, not like two mono speakers playing the same thing at the same time.

Can AirPlay 2 make two HomePods a better Apple TV speaker experience?

As far as sound is concerned. Yes.

Having a single HomePod is fantastic and really fills a room. When connected to Apple TV, however, I sometimes have to turn up the audio to the max in order to hear a movie at what I would consider "loud."

Having two HomePods, both connected to my Apple TV, makes the audio really fill the room and doesn't require me to be at full volume in order to get a serious sound set up. Dual HomePods has definitely solved my volume issues.

As for connections issues...

I've had a single HomePod connected to my Apple TV since day one. It's my main use for HomePod. To my great annoyance, my HomePod disconnects from my Apple TV all of the time — like, nearly every day. Will having two HomePods fix that? Probably not, but I'm hoping that HomePod 11.4's software update includes secret stability support to fix the problem. I haven't been using the dual HomePod connection long enough to know for sure if it's fixed or not. I'll let you know when it's been a few days.

Does AirPlay 2 work with AirPort Express?

Yes! As of August 29, Apple has added AirPlay 2 support for AirPort Express! Make sure you've updated your firmward to v. 7.8. Once you update and plug in any audio system, it'll join the list of available sources. Then it's just a matter of invoking Siri, or tapping the interface, to tell it to play.

Does AirPlay 2 work with Sonos (or other speakers)?

Sonos does support AirPlay 2 on four of its speakers: Sonos One, Sonos Beam, Sonos PlayBase, and the second-generation Play:5. As for other third-party speaker companies, support has been rolling out throughout the year.

Libratone has also added support for its current line of Zipp speakers, as well as their upcoming second-generation Zipp and Zipp Mini.

Apple's AirPlay support page lists the following speakers (in addition to HomePod) that either have or will receive an update to support AirPlay 2:

  • Apple HomePod
  • Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A6
  • Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A9 (2nd gen.)
  • Bang & Olufsen Beoplay A9 (3rd gen.)
  • Bang & Olufsen Beoplay M3
  • Bang & Olufsen Beoplay M5
  • Bang & Olufsen Beosound 1 (1st gen.)
  • Bang & Olufsen Beosound 1 (2nd gen.)
  • Bang & Olufsen Beosound 2 (1st gen.)
  • Bang & Olufsen Beosound 2 (2nd gen.)
  • Bang & Olufsen Beosound 35
  • Bang & Olufsen Beosound Core
  • Bang & Olufsen Beosound Edge
  • Bang & Olufsen Beosound Essence (2nd gen.)
  • Bang & Olufsen Beovision Eclipse
  • Bluesound PULSE 2i
  • Bluesound PULSE FLEX 2i
  • Bluesound PULSE MINI 2i
  • Bluesound PULSE SOUNDBAR 2i
  • Bose Home Speaker 500
  • Bose Soundbar 500
  • Bose Soundbar 700
  • Bowers & Wilkins Formation Bar (Coming soon)
  • Bowers & Wilkins Formation Wedge (Coming soon)
  • Denon HEOS HomeCinema HS2
  • Devialet Phantom (Coming soon)
  • KEF LSX (Coming soon)
  • Libratone ZIPP
  • Libratone ZIPP 2
  • Libratone ZIPP Mini
  • Libratone ZIPP Mini 2
  • Mu-so
  • Naim Mu-so, 2nd Generation (Coming soon)
  • Mu-so Qb
  • Naim Mu-so Qb. 2nd Generation (Coming soon)
  • Naim ND 555 (Announced)
  • Sonos Amp (Coming soon)
  • Sonos Beam
  • Sonos One
  • Sonos Play:5
  • Sonos Playbase
  • Teenage Engineering OD-11 (Coming soon)

Companies are still announcing support for AirPlay. We update this list regularly

Any more questions?

Do you have any questions about AirPlay 2? Let me know and I'll find out everything I can for you.

Updated April 2019: Updated with additional speakers with AirPlay support.

Lory Gil

Lory is a renaissance woman, writing news, reviews, and how-to guides for iMore. She also fancies herself a bit of a rock star in her town and spends too much time reading comic books.  If she's not typing away at her keyboard, you can probably find her at Disneyland or watching Star Wars (or both).