Apple just released new versions of iOS, HomePod and tvOS that support AirPlay 2, a huge update that lets you play music from your iPhone on multiple devices in multiple rooms. Here’s how it all works.

We tested this feature in HTG HQ and we are really impressed. We played music on HomePod and Apple TV at the same time, playing through the TV’s speakers, and everything remained in perfect sync. The music filled the room perfectly despite being played on two completely different devices at the same time.

So what exactly is AirPlay and why is version 2 better?

Built into your iPhone, iPad, or Mac is the ability to play audio (or video) from a device in your hand to another device that supports it. So if you’re watching a video on your iPhone and want to play it on your TV, you can use AirPlay to play it on the big screen, as long as you have an Apple TV connected. This also works for music playback, you can send music from your iPhone to your TV, HomePod, or AirPlay-enabled speaker.

The problem, for so long, is that you could only stream music to one device at a time, which was a huge limitation, especially since Sonos has had multi-room audio for years, and Alexa recently added it to their smart speakers. So if you want to stream music in your home from your iPhone, it was really difficult.

AirPlay 2 adds the ability to stream music from your iPhone to multiple speakers or devices in any number of rooms in your home. As long as everything is connected to the same Wi-Fi network and supports AirPlay 2, you can stream across devices. So if you have a HomePod in your kitchen and an Apple TV connected in your living room and bedroom, you can play music in all those rooms at the same time with just a tap.

What devices support AirPlay 2?

This all sounds great, but if you don’t have compatible hardware, it won’t help you much. If you want to stream to multiple devices, here are the devices that actually support AirPlay 2:

  • iPhone and iPad on iOS 11.4 (here’s how to check and update it)
  • iTunes on macOS or Windows
  • Apple TV — works with at least tvOS version 11.4 (here’s how to check and update it)
  • HomePod — Works with at least HomePod 11.4 (here’s how to check and update it)
  • Any third party speaker who has listed support for it. This includes Beats, Beoplay, BeoSound, BeoVision, Bose, Bowers & Wilkins, Denon, Marantz, Naim, Polk and select Sonos speakers. You can check out the full list of speakers who have announced support on Apple’s website, but you’ll have to check with the manufacturer to be sure.

It’s worth noting that iPhones and iPads can be used as controllers, not as speakers. Which makes sense, of course.

How to play music on multiple compatible devices

Playing music across multiple devices, even if they are in multiple rooms, couldn’t be easier. Just open the Control Center on your iPhone and press and hold the Music button to open it.

Once you open that, click on the AirPlay icon to select the speaker output, and if all your devices are updated to the latest version, you will see circles next to the devices to choose from. You’ll notice in this screenshot that my Apple TV 2 doesn’t have a circle because I haven’t updated that device to 11.4 yet.

Once you have selected multiple devices, you can adjust the volume levels individually for each device. You may have to hit the Play button again, but otherwise, it’s as simple as playing audio across multiple rooms.

From iTunes on your macOS or Windows

You can’t use AirPlay 2 from anywhere on your Mac to stream to multiple speakers (yet), but you can do it from iTunes very easily if you’re using the most recent version of iTunes — check the App Store to see if there’s an update If you are using Windows, please make sure you are using the latest version of iTunes.

If you’re sure you’re on the latest version, just start playing music and click the AirPlay icon. You can select multiple devices, volume levels, and play music on your Mac, HomePod, Apple TV, or other compatible devices at the same time.

How to Enable Stereo Support for Multiple HomePods

If you have multiple HomePods in the same room, you don’t have to manually select both HomePods at the same time every time you want to play music in the room. AirPlay 2 now supports their stereo pair setup, which makes them look like one speaker on your iPhone or other output device and play music on both of them.

What’s more, when you set them up, HomePods will automatically split the audio into left and right, and play properly on two speakers in stereo.

To set this up, open the Home app on your iPhone and then press and hold the button on your Homepod, select Details and you will see the settings for the HomePod.

Once you have opened the settings screen, you should see an option to create a stereo pair. Click on this and follow the instructions to select multiple HomePods and pair them. You will also be asked to choose which one is right and left, and you can easily swap them.

Once paired together as one speaker, they will appear in your list as one option and can be used just like any HomePod, but the audio will sync in stereo between them.

AirPlay usually requires your iPhone to be present

This is probably obvious, but it’s worth mentioning that if you play music from your iPhone and use AirPlay to play it everywhere in your house… it actually plays from your iPhone. So if your iPhone crashes or needs to be restarted, or you just need to get out of the house, the music will stop playing. It will also stop playing if you choose to say open a video game.

The only time this isn’t the case is when you used Siri on your HomePod to start playing music that doesn’t require your iPhone or any other device as it plays directly on your HomePod.

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