Under The Microscope

Send Audio From iOS to Multiple Speakers With Airfoil

With the latest versions of iOS, it’s possible to send audio directly from an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad out to AirPlay devices like an Apple TV or AirPort Express. You can now beam music directly from most apps out to a stereo or TV and that’s very cool. However, if you’ve used this functionality, you know it has one big drawback – it can’t send to multiple outputs! After many requests for help with this, I’ve written up a great workaround for this shortcoming. Using Airfoil and Airfoil Speakers, it’s possible to send audio from iOS to multiple outputs.

Due to Apple’s restrictions, we can’t do anything directly in iOS to provide this functionality. The AirPlay picker in iOS (seen below) will only allow you to select one audio output, and we can’t improve that directly. But with a simple two-step process, we can work around it to send audio to multiple devices.

Instead of sending from iOS to multiple outputs, we’ll send from iOS to a Mac or PC running Airfoil Speakers1, then use Airfoil running on that same machine to send to multiple outputs.

The audio flow

Audio flows from the iOS device to the computer, via Airfoil Speakers. It’s then captured by Airfoil and sent out to multiple outputs.

Need a quick walkthrough? Let’s go:

Step 1: Send from iOS to your computer

First up, be sure you’ve got the latest versions of Airfoil and Airfoil Speakers installed on your Mac or PC. Then, launch both applications on the same machine. On the iOS device, tap the AirPlay icon in the audio app you’re using. The Airfoil Speakers instance you just launched will appear as an output option, and you can choose it. Below, we’re sending from an iPhone to Airfoil Speakers running on a MacBook Air:

Sending from Music.app to Airfoil Speakers on the Mac

And here, we see Airfoil Speakers on the MacBook Air, receiving the audio stream from the iPhone:

Receiving with Airfoil Speakers on the Mac

Step 2: Send from your Mac or PC to all your audio outputs

With the audio flowing from the iOS device to our Mac, we’re halfway to sending that audio to multiple outputs. The feat is ultimately accomplished with the help of Airfoil. In Airfoil, simply select Airfoil Speakers as your audio source, then transmit to any outputs you like. Below, you can see that the audio originally from the iPhone is being pulled from Airfoil Speakers and sent out to an Apple TV and an AirPort Express:

Sending via Airfoil

Now, the audio from the iPhone is being heard throughout the house, via multiple audio outputs. Nice!

Enjoy

By sending audio from iOS to your Mac or PC running Airfoil Speakers, then capturing Airfoil Speakers with Airfoil, and broadcasting it out, you can send audio from one iOS device out to multiple speakers via AirPlay. Happy listening!


Footnotes:

1. Don’t remember Airfoil Speakers? It’s the free companion to Airfoil, which lets you turn any computer into an audio receiver for Airfoil. Airfoil Speakers is part of the Airfoil download, but you can also download stand-alone versions here

5 Responses to “Send Audio From iOS to Multiple Speakers With Airfoil”

  1. wesco says:

    nice workaround!

  2. Daniel says:

    Nice trick – presumably this adds some additional latency though?

  3. Paul Kafasis says:

    Daniel: Right – you’ll get double latency, so instead of ~2 seconds, it’ll be about ~4 seconds. Not ideal, but a minor issue, really.

  4. Bengt says:

    Finally a workaround for this annoying drawback of AirPlay!

  5. John says:

    I’ve been using air server app to do this with Airfoil, only to realize I had airfoil speakers the whole time.


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