I know Apple likes us to think everything works by magic, but...

To use Airplay one needs Airport Express. To backup wirelessly one needs Time Capsule. There is, in particular, no way to Airplay music through Time Capsule, as one can do with Airport Express. I hope there is a better reason for this than selling these two devices. (Note also that the 4th-gen AppleTV + Time Capsule are also not a satisfactory solution for those whose HiFi lacks HDMI.)

My question is: if one has both Airport Express and Time Capsule, what are the terms of their co-existence? Does one, for instance, get to choose which of the two is the wifi router? If one chooses Time Capsule, would Airport Express be using the same band (2.4GHz? 5GHz?) for transferring the music? Is the quality of Airplay affected if one is using the bandwidth to capacity?

2 Answers 2


You just extend the network created by one of the two devices. I.e. you start with the Time Capsule, making it create the WiFi. The AirPort Express then gets configured to just extend this network. If you've setup the Time Capsule to use the 5GHz band then yes, the Express will use that too.

It's effectively just one WiFi network (or two, if you count the 2.4GHz fallback for older/mobile devices) powered by both stations. All devices connected to that network have access to both stations and they will always get connected to the base station which is nearest. Here's this setting in the AirPort Utility:

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When setting up a new network with the AirPort Utility you will be asked for this, so it's really easy and happens in two clicks/taps.

Apple also has a good support article on this: Wi-Fi base stations: Setting up and configuring an extended wireless network

  • That makes it clear. Thanks... I have a quick sequel. Suppose a brand X wifi router is already set up (X is other than Apple). Can Airport Express then still extend a "foreign" wifi network? Is there any reason why Airplay would be any different than on an Apple-only setup?
    – Calaf
    Jun 29, 2012 at 5:20
  • Theoretically AirPlay with the Express still works if it's part of a network created by a non-Apple router. The tricky part: "extend" here really means a proprietary technology made by Apple, so this easy configuration only works between Apple hardware. But you should be able to use an older technology called WDS for that, here's a good guide. Jun 29, 2012 at 5:30

They both work together quite well. You can connect them with a wired ethernet cable, wirelessly with the express or the time capsule being a client of the other, or they can both share the network and let all the rest of the clients connect to either of them.

Both now do simultaneous dual band networks. This also includes a guest VLAN in addition to the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz channels for your private use. Older clients can connect on the 2.4 GHz as well as more distant clients that need to get through several walls where at your fast more modern clients that can run the 5 GHz range get much better transmit rates.

  • oh right, I always forget about the cable solution :-) Jun 29, 2012 at 7:12
  • Now you know my secret to joyful large wireless networks. A fast interconnect that is out of band so you don't have all the WiFi radio latency added.
    – bmike
    Jun 29, 2012 at 14:17

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