A classmate of Z’s mentioned that the iOS 4.2 update was a worthy upgrade specifically for its ability to stream audio to Airport Express Base Stations (from your iDevice). Of course I didn’t really believe him, you know, because I already have a Mac Mini server and I can stream via iTunes from my laptop.
Sure enough, after I updated to 4.2 on the iPod Touch I’ve enjoying the streaming feature, though it depends on your setup. My old amp, a late 70’s Denon PMA-850 started blowing fuses and I was bequeathed a functioning 90’s Denon AVR-610 (I believe the rear channel outputs are bad but using “bypass pre” the main L+R channels sound good). I’ve been slow to build the LM4780 Chipamp and it was terrible not having music in the living room. Per wireless, we have an older Time Capsule that isn’t dual band (I keep it at 5GHz 802.11n) so I have an 802.11g/n Airport Express on 2.4GHz bridged to give my iPod touch wireless access and “AirTunes”.
But how does it sound? Well it works like a champ. Initially I tried using the digital optical out of the AE and I was disappointed with sync and jitter issues. It sounds pretty good, but being streamed wirelessly (.mp3, compressed AAC) from the iPod Touch over 802.11g doesn’t sound nearly as good as lossless audio from the Mac Mini into the DAC and the receiver (100% wire). However, the convenience factor of being able to pick and choose music from the iPod Touch without having to deal with the server/player is huge. The Mini or a dedicated audio server (or using Amazon S3 for cloud based music storage) gives you a much greater capacity, but again it’s the convenience factor; I appreciate that I don’t have to turn on the Mini. The Denon AVR-610 has an IR remote so once I click ‘power’, bingo bango, I’ve got music.
Compared to using iTunes (or something like Sonos or Logitech’s Slim Server) you can only stream from one iOS device to one AE Base Station at a time. And unlike Sonos you cannot have different music streams going to different rooms of the house at once. Within iTunes, when you select multiple “AirPlay” channels each room hears identical streams.
Being a “free” upgrade (to 3rd & 4th gen iPod touches and newer iPhones) iOS 4.2 is an easy recommendation, especially for those who own AE Base Stations connected to their stereos.