AirPort Express Replacement Options

Are you still using an Apple AirPort Express to send audio to some speakers in your home? If so, you should develop your plan to replace it since Apple discontinued the AirPort Express in 2018 and provided the last significant upgrade to it in 2012.

The AirPort Express was a unique product since it included an audio jack.  The Airport Express is the only wireless router that I know of that includes this sort of audio output capability. Thus you can’t find a direct replacement for the Airport Express. Instead, you’ll need to setup new equipment that gives you similar capabilities.

A new wireless router and a HomePod

If your Airport Express both creates your wireless network and also plugs into some speakers then you’ll need to replace both your Express  and your speakers. You could setup a new wireless router to replace the Express and replace your current speakers with AirPlay capable speakers. AirPlay is a technology developed by Apple which lets Macs, iPhones and iPads send audio, video and photos to AirPlay-compatible speakers, TVs and other entertainment system.  I’m not going to focus on wireless routers in this article, but there are many wireless router models to chose from. I often recommend the Eero Pro wireless router which I discuss in this other article.

Many companies make AirPlay speakers, but Apple would like you to buy one or their own devices such as the HomePod or HomePod mini and connect them to the wireless network created by your new wireless router. If you are torn between the two HomePod models check out AppleInsider’s comparison of the HomePod and HomePod Mini.

Many other companies sell AirPlay speakers such as Sonos. Regardless of whose AirPlay speakers you buy, make sure you buy one that support AirPlay 2, which Apple introduced in 2018. One of the key features of AirPlay 2 is the ability to send music from your Mac, iPhone, or iPad to multiple speakers located in different rooms of your home. Through Apple’s Home app you can group speakers together so you can play different music on different speakers in different rooms. This allows AirPlay to behave like a multi-room audio system such as those made popular by Sonos. Sonos offers a slew of AirPlay 2 speakers including the One SL, the battery operated Move, which is rated for both indoor and outdoor use, and others. To help you pick a suitable AirPlay 2 speaker check out these comparisons and recommendations from TechRadar, iMore and the Sound Guys.

If your Airport Express does not create your wireless network then you don’t need to buy a new wireless router. Instead, you could simply buy one or more HomePods.

Other Considerations

If you want to continue to use your exiting speakers, you might be able to plug them into a receiver. You could buy an AirPlay 2 compatible AV receiver. To learn more about this option check out the AV receivers recommendations provided by the NY Times’ tech reviewers at Wirecutter.

Alternatively, If you can connect your existing speakers to an existing AV receiver then you might be able to find an AirPlay 2 adapter that plugs into your current AV receiver so you can access your speakers via your Mac, iPhone or iPad. I have no experience with these AirPlay 2 adapters, but Belkin offers the SoundForm Connect.

[Note: If you have other AirPort devices in your home, you might be interested in reading my articles about replacing your AirPort and options for replacing an Airport Time Capsule.]

3 Comments

  1. The article title is “AirPort Express Replacement Options”. Apple speakers are not replacements for Airport Express. ‘third party replacements’ could be, but you don’t give any suggestions as to what they might be.

    Thanks

      • You’re correct, no direct replacement is offered since nobody else sells a product with the same capabilities as the AirPort Express. Instead, one may need to replace both their Express and speakers or replace the Express and find another way to connect their current speakers to their wireless network. Tim

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