Airport Express: Extending your network (and stream iTunes from your NAS)

I was running my N-wireless network for months through my Belkin N1 router without a problem. The router is located in my office, connecting to an iBurst desktop modem and was connecting via a Gigabit connection to my PS3. As more people have moved into our estate, interference has now prevented to consistently push Wifi through the remainder of the house.

I had to get a quick fix in the shape of the Airport Extreme:

The Airport Extreme is a full fledged base-station and features as a modem-router (no firewall though), wireless repeater (WDS) and a wireless bridge. I connected my Gigabit cable to the Airport Express and placed the AEX in bridge mode. This will allow me to extend my current wireless network throughout the house and all wireless devices will seamlessly connect to the strongest base-station. This works pretty seamless.

I believe that the Airport Express (going at R 870,00) is the world’s smallest 802.11n-based mobile base station. It is plugged directly into the wall for wireless Internet connectivity and USB printing at home. The AirPort Express also features AirTunes, which works with iTunes to give users a simple and inexpensive way to wirelessly stream iTunes music from a PC or Mac to any room in the house.

The setup is pretty simple: You connect your Ethernet cable and plug the Airport Express straight into a wall-socket (no other cables needed). Apple’s Airport Utility allows you to quickly configure all aspects of the device (it even goes as far as automatically downloading the firmware and prompting you to install it). Although the AEX does not have a firewall (hence still the requirement for the Belkin N1), it does allow MAC-address control where you are able to restrict network access for certain periods (nice way to lock down the internet access for your kids – :)).

The base-station includes a built-in combination digital and analog audio connector allowing users to connect to a home stereo or powered speakers. iTunes automatically detects remote speakers and displays them in a simple pop-up list for you to select. Once the remote speakers are selected, AirTunes wirelessly streams iTunes music from the computer to the AirPort Express base station.

To get the best quality in sound, you will need to get a Toslink to Mini Toslink Optical cable (you can get this at any good Hifi store such as DionWired or Digital Experience in Fourways Crossing):

If you hate cables you will be able to spread a number of Airport Express through your house as wireless repeaters and be able to stream music even to the most remote location in your mansion 😉

As of writing I have also received feedback from Synology that their devices with the latest firmware will seamlessly stream to the AEX (and I did mention that you can stream to more than one AEX – yes?):

Several people have commented, that streaming iTunes to the Airport Express is problematic and sound is choppy – I honestly do not have this issue and can stream 320kbps encoded music to the Soundbar without loss of quality. I guess people experience issues if they have interference on their Wifi-network. The Airport express is certainly a device to recommend.