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I got an Airport Express to use to wirelessly extend my existing Airport Extreme (which is plugged into my cable modem). I'm also using the Airport Express to send music to the stereo. Unfortunately I'm getting audio dropouts.

How do I track these down? Could I save the Express some work by running an ethernet cable between the two units? Are there any other settings that specifically affect Airtunes?

  • It might help to know more detail about the "dropouts". How long are they, and how often do they occur? If you reboot your computer and start nothing but iTunes, does it still happen? (If so, that would pretty much rule out computer performance and AirPort traffic issues.) – Austin May 6 '11 at 0:11
  • Also, try running Airfoil (free demo): rogueamoeba.com/airfoil/mac It can connect and stream music to your Airport Express from any app. Try it with audio from various apps on your computer (e.g. iTunes, web browser, perhaps another media player like VLC) and let us know the results. – Austin May 6 '11 at 0:15
  • @Austin - Rebooting iTunes doesn't help, neither does rebooting the Airport Express. The dropouts are short gaps in audio, maybe a second long. I think the audio keeps playing while it's silent, not sure. (Also see the comments on your answer below.) – Neil Fein May 6 '11 at 2:31
  • Airfoil - Gonna try that, but for other reasons; I can mix audio to multiple speakers that way without unhooking my Firewire audio interface. – Neil Fein May 6 '11 at 2:52
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I had this problem several months ago and was able to solve it by disabling the built-in iTunes equalizer. Just uncheck the "On" box.

Not guaranteed to work for you since there are so many factors that could be affecting it, but it worked for me. Hope it helps!

iTunes Equalizer menu

iTunes Equalizer window

EDIT: A couple more notes... I have a pre-N Airport Express (circa 2008) wirelessly "attached" to a Time Capsule base station (essentially an Airport Extreme with a HDD built-in). Before, when I was having this problem, I had my Express extending my wireless network. During the course of correcting this problem, I changed it to simply join my network and NOT extend it. I'm not sure if this contributed to the solution, but I just wanted to mention it in case it turns out to be significant.

  • Thanks; that's really strange, but I'll try it. – Neil Fein May 5 '11 at 22:26
  • Sorry to say, this didn't solve my problem. – Neil Fein May 5 '11 at 23:38
  • @Neil Fein I'm sorry to hear that. This was one problem that had me frustrated for months before I finally fixed it. There are just too many variables to troubleshoot it easily. Hopefully someone else here can come to your aid. – Austin May 6 '11 at 0:07
  • We get network dropouts from time to time, this may be just another symptom. Oddly enough, I think they happen more often when the weather's warmer, leading me to believe it's a hardware issue somewhere along the line. – Neil Fein May 6 '11 at 2:25
  • The EQ solution might well help somebody else. I've reset my Airport Express to join the network; I'll give it a day and see if it helps any, then report back. – Neil Fein May 6 '11 at 2:28
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The real problem is the protocol between the Mac/iTunes and AirTunes. For some reason known only to Apple there is very little buffering in the AirTunes and any interruptions at all will cause the input buffer on the AirTunes to be emptied. The answer is to minimise interruption to the flow of data to the AirTunes device:

  1. Avoid WiFi anywhere in the setup.

  2. Connect iTunes Mac to your router/hub as well as the AirTunes both via Ethernet cable.

  3. Only have iTunes on your mac running, close Chrome, Word, etc.

  4. By all means COMPLAIN TO APPLE, this product is a disgrace

I have 3 different generation airtunes running on various networks and ALL exhibit this problem. I have tried every "fix" documented on the various forums. I am an IT professional.

Out of desperation, I also tried using an Apple TV connected to a DAC via optical cable. Guess what? Same problem!

0

Running Apple Maintenance seems to have taken care of the problem, at least for the time being. From the info text for v.3.8:

About Maintenance

A simple Automator Action fused with AppleScript aimed at keeping your Mac running healthy.

Features include:

  • List item
  • Repair Permissions
  • Verify Preferences
  • Update Prebindings
  • Periodic Clean-up
  • Clean Cache
  • Update Locate, Whatis, LaunchServices Databases
  • Rebuild Spotlight Index
  • Force Empty Trash Tiger users please use Maintenance 3.7 which is bundled with 3.8

What’s New in this Version

  • New Action: Rebuild Spotlight Index
  • New Action: Force Empty Trash

If the dropouts return and running the program doesn't take care of the problem, will de-select this as the answer.

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I bit of a work-around. But Airfoil is the best $25 I've spent, when it comes to streaming audio with the Airport express. And you're not limited to just airtunes. it's amazing. try it. I've never had any problems in more than three years of use.

  • Have you had a situation where AirPlay was dropping frames yet Airfoil wasn't? My understanding is that it uses the same functionality on iOS so if you have network problems it won't somehow fix that despite it working well to expand the devices with which AirPlay interoperates. – bmike Dec 18 '12 at 19:15
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It looks like you have solved your networking issue, but to answer the question clearly - AirPlay will work over any network connection.

Wired connections are far less susceptible to interference, packet loss and pauses - so if you can't get a reliable wireless network, running a physical cable is a sure fire way to ensure you have a solid network and airplay video / audio has enough bandwidth and low delay to play seamlessly.

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