Under The Microscope

What’s New in Airfoil Speakers for Mac

As you’ve probably heard, we just released Airfoil 4, a major update. Airfoil is our tool to send any audio anywhere in your home — to other computers, iOS devices, even Airport Expresses and Apple TVs.

Airfoil Speakers is the free companion app that fulfills the “other computers” part of that promise. It turns any PC or Mac into a receiver that Airfoil can transmit audio to. I’ve been working on version 4 of Airfoil Speakers for the Mac for the past several months, so I wanted to give you a tour of the new features in this exciting release.

Reverse Connect

In Airfoil 3, in order to start sending audio to Airfoil Speakers, you had to trudge over to the computer running Airfoil and hit the Send button. With Airfoil 4, trudge no longer: Airfoil Speakers shows a list of machines running Airfoil on your network. To start receiving audio from one, just click Receive next to its name. And that’s not all: if a supported source1 is selected in Airfoil’s source list, you’ll even see the name of the song or video it’s playing before you connect.

Airfoil Speakers window showing some available audio sources
Create office radio stations, with everyone running Airfoil.
If you get tired of your own music, just tune into someone else’s!

Once connected, you can just as easily stop receiving: just click the cleverly-named Stop button.

Remote Control

The ability to control the audio source remotely from Airfoil Speakers has long been a requested feature, and with Airfoil 4, we’re happy to announce that it’s here. When receiving audio from a supported application,2 the bottom of the Airfoil Speakers window will expand to reveal three Remote Control buttons:

Airfoil Speakers window showing remote control buttons

Simply click to play, pause, or change tracks.

There’s one intricacy, though: because Airfoil uses Apple’s AirPlay audio streaming protocol, all audio is buffered for approximately two seconds before it’s heard. When you click a remote control button, the computer on which the audio is playing makes the change immediately, but it takes about two seconds before you can hear the result through Airfoil Speakers. To make this delay less confusing, we fill in the gap by showing a spinner:

Remote control spinner

You can still click the buttons while the spinner is spinning — to advance quickly through several iTunes tracks, for instance — and the spinner will remain showing until all of your commands have completed.

By the way, if you’re running Airfoil in an office or public network and want to prevent others from connecting to or controling your stream, you can disable both Reverse Connect and Remote Control from Airfoil’s Preferences window.

Track Titles and Artwork

As mentioned above, when possible, Airfoil Speakers now shows the title and/or artist of the currently playing song or video for each Airfoil it finds on the network. When you’re actually listening, Airfoil Speakers will also now display a miniature version of the associated artwork if available:

Example of album art

Right now, we’re getting artwork from both iTunes and Pulsar.

Remote Control, Track Titles, and Album Art all operate via AppleScript with compatible applications. We hope to add more applications in the future, by working with the developers of frequently streamed apps. Unfortunately, it’s not currently possible to control or pull information from web-based audio sources like Pandora.

New Visualizer

Finally, we’ve completely revamped Airfoil Speakers’s spectrum visualizer as part of its interface overhaul. We try to accommodate a wide range of personal stylistic choices here at Rogue Amoeba, and that’s why you can now make your visualizer any of the colors of the rainbow — or all of them! Just click.

All the different visualizer colors

Those are the big new features in Airfoil Speakers 4. We hope you’ll enjoy it — download today!

The Future?

This update brings in almost everything we’ve ever wanted in Airfoil Speakers for Mac. However, there’s still lots to do — we want to have this same functionality in other versions of Airfoil Speakers, including Airfoil Speakers for Windows and Airfoil Speakers Touch on iOS devices. Stay tuned for that in 2011.


Footnotes:

1. Supported sources for metadata are:

  • iTunes
  • Pulsar
  • Airfoil Video Player
  • QuickTime Player
  • RealPlayer

If there’s another app you’d like to see supported, let us know.

2. Supported sources for remote control are:

  • iTunes
  • Pulsar
  • VLC
  • QuickTime Player
  • RealPlayer

Again, if there’s another app you’d like to see supported, let us know.

3 Responses to “What’s New in Airfoil Speakers for Mac”

  1. Dave Klein says:

    Good stuff. One thing that I continue to find myself using VNC for is selecting/changing my source and speakers. A fantastic add-on would to be able to do this through an iOS application. While my VNC (iTeliport) works for this it would be great to have a simple application to achieve this that runs on you iPod,Touch or iPad.

    I have a MacMini that serves my music with very little music being on my iDevices. I continue to rely on AirFoil because not all my listening/music resides in iTunes. I’d have to say that my largest use of AirFoil is for PandoraOne.

    I’m sure everyone has there own particular set ups and methods for enjoying their media. I just find myself wanting to use my iPod Touch for control and simplifying that process would be nice. Thanks again for a wonderful product!


  2. Paul Kafasis says:

    Dave Klein: Happy we can help. We’d love to provide remote control for more applications – the first step is getting controls on iOS at all! After that, we can see about adding more sources.

    While VNC is very nice, I can’t say having a VNC client inside of Airfoil Speakers Touch is likely to happen.


  3. Dave Klein says:

    Not so much a VNC client for control of desktop but only those applications you’ve set up within AirFoil perhaps. Having the ability to selected sources and destinations would be fantastic, at least in the way I enjoy my music. Thanks again for your great products.


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