I love listening to Pandora but don’t like the way Pandora sucks up the CPU on my laptop especially when I am using Google Chrome. I often use my iPhone to listen even when sitting at my desk, but I also don’t always want to use my headphones. A dock is nice but then I cannot use my iPhone. I want it all! Lucky for me and you there is a simple and relatively inexpensive solution. Buy an AirPort Express for $99. An AirPort Express is a device sold by Apple for playing iTunes through a remote stereo and some other neat features like setting up a remote printer or to extend your wifi network. The setup is pretty easy if you choose the right options. You have to install the AirPort Utility software to connect to the AirPort Express in order to configure it. The software found the AirPort Express without any problem and I answered the questions to extend my wifi. I figured why not extend the wifi, it could help boost the signal in other parts of the house. Unfortunately after the reboot the AirPort Express it did not restart and the AirPort Utility software could not detect it. I tried a reset of the AirPort Express and that did not work. The instructions say to press the reset button for 1 second, but later on on I figured out it was more like 30 seconds to do a reset. I am not sure if a reboot of my laptop was required or if the AirPort Express just took a long time to sort itself out with the bad settings. But the utility software does make temporary changes the AirPort on your laptop to get things going. A reboot of my laptop and the AirPort Express was discoverable again. A second attempt also failed and I was convinced I had a dud device. On the third attempt I decided to do a manual setup to see diagnostic information. When I selected the “extend the wifi network” option it said that my router was not compatible. This was the main issue and why the express setup did not work. It should have given an error during the express setup and told me do a manual install. I did do a manual install and chose “join the network” instead . The manual install does require a few more steps, but soon enough the AirPort Express had a nice green glowing led which indicated all was well. (After the working manual install I did reset the AirPort Express to the default settings and ran the express setup and chose the “join a network” option and had no problems setting the device up in under 5 minutes.) The next step was to test from my laptop. I fired up iTunes and selected the remote speaker. The AirPlay icon for the remote speakers is on the bottom right of the iTunes status bar. Sweet music!
The final test was playing Pandora from the iPhone. You do need to have iOS 4.2.1 for AirPlay from your iPhone or iPad for this to work. Start Pandora and once again on the bottom right of the interface is the same AirPlay icon. Select the remote speaker and away you go. I can now play Pandora through the remote speaker and still have my iPhone in my hand. As an added bonus you can also control the volume from your iPhone.
To play Pandora from your Mac or Windows machine you will need to buy some more software from Rogue Amoeba called AirFoil $25. AirFoil will allow you to play any sounds from you laptop onto the remote speaker. Another option is buy PandoraJam $15 which is a small interface for playing Pandora but also allows you to direct the music through the remote speakers.
When using AirPlay from your laptop you can choose multiple speakers, so you could have multiple devices throughout your home and play music through all of them simultaneously. Unfortunately from iOS devices you can only play through a single device at a time. Maybe this will change later.