This firmware update is quite significant as it adds support for AirPlay 2 and the Home app. In other words, you can now plug speakers to a dusty AirPort Express and turn them into wireless speakers for your home sound system.
The AirPort Express was a pretty basic home router. It hasn’t been updated since 2012, which means that it’s nowhere near as performant as today’s cheap routers. It only supports 802.11n while everybody has moved on to 802.11ac.
Its Ethernet ports are limited to 100 Mbps. So if you have fiber internet, the AirPort Express is not a good solution as it caps your internet connection to 100 Mbps.
But the AirPort Express also has an audio jack — something that you can’t find in many Apple products these days. Today’s update makes this audio jack relevant again, as it’s a cheap way to get started with AirPlay 2.
After updating the device with the AirPort Utility app on your Mac or iOS device, you can launch the Home app and add the router as a new Home accessory. After that, you’ll find the AirPort Express in your AirPlay speaker list.
Apple recently released AirPlay 2, an update to its audio and video protocol. With AirPlay 2, you can stream music from your Apple devices to multiple speakers at once. On your phone, you can control the volume of each speaker individually and play the same song across your home.
While Sonos, Bose and other speaker manufacturers are updating their devices to support AirPlay 2, chances are many devices won’t get an update. The AirPort Express update can help you go through this transition.