I have the following setup:

  • iMac (2013) with iTunes (11) and Home Sharing enabled
  • Apple TV (3rd gen) with Home Sharing enabled, no HDMI connected only optical digital out to my DAC
  • iPhone 4 with Apple Remote app
  • All devices are on the same wireless network (Jensen Air:Link something, might be replaced soon)

The problem: I connect to the Apple TV with the Remote app on the iPhone. After a short period, I can access my music library (located on the iMac) and play songs from it. It will play fine for a song (or two), and then it just stops.

(Remote app will typically display the song after the one that was just played, as if it was playing (the pause symbol is displayed) but there will be no "progress" indicator. Pressing pause does not have an effect. Skipping back/forth will change the song title/icon in Remote app, but nothing is played. After clicking around in Remote app, trying to restart the playback, sometimes playback starts again, sometimes the app terminates (I haven't found any patterns for what works here yet, it seems somewhat random). After restarting the Remote app and/or playing around in it for a while, I can make the playback restart, but it stops again and the process repeats.)

I've read about various ports that need to be opened in the firewall etc., but I don't think any of these apply, as everything works fine for a while. AirPlay to the same Apple TV also works (for a while). There's no firewall enabled between any of the devices on the local wifi network.

I'm starting to think this could be a problem with the Apple TV running without a TV/screen connected on the HDMI port, and that some kind of "screen blanker" or power save mode is triggered.

Now, the questions: Does anyone know how to make the Apple TV run problem-free in headless mode (no TV/screen)? Is this even supported? Or would I be better off buying an AirPort Express and connect that to the DAC?

  • Could you please post your solution as an answer below and accept it? This makes it easier for futures visitors to find answers.
    – nohillside
    Commented Nov 3, 2013 at 19:40
  • 1
    @patrix Makes sense. Done.
    – Harald K
    Commented Nov 4, 2013 at 9:22

2 Answers 2


I suspect your problem is the network, not the devices. The queue used when controlling the AppleTV from an iOS device is different from the queue on the native Music app (to see this yourself, note the empty queue in the AppleTV music app when you start music from your iPhone).

So, you have two dependent links (at some frequency, not necessarily constant):

  1. iPhone to AppleTV, to update the queue, provide new information, etc.
  2. AppleTV to iMac, to retrieve requested files

Can you monitor the network links on these devices using your WAPs diagnostics features? Or, perhaps more usefully, using Wireshark or the like to promiscuously capture the conversations? I'm willing to bet there's some severance going on.

Regarding running the AppleTV headless, I'm certain that's not the anticipated use of the device, but I'm not aware of any specific problems this could cause, unless it expects video signal via HDMI to keep alive, which you could test easily enough.

Hopefully, this is somewhat helpful in considering your problem. Good luck!

  • Thanks! I'll try to monitor the network traffic when I get home. But could you elaborate a little on why you suspect the network? What kind of problems should I look for?
    – Harald K
    Commented Aug 19, 2013 at 15:13

I was never able to get this working reliably, so I gave up and bought an AirPort Express.

At first, it had many of the same issues when used as an AirPlay device only, connected to the old WiFi setup. When I instead connected it as a WiFi access point and replaced the old WiFi, I got rid of the issues and now it seems to work fine. As a bonus, the music now sounds much better (using the original 16 bit 44.1 kHz signal, not the sloppy upscaled 24 bit 48 kHz from the Apple TV). :-)

So, I guess the bottom line is that my old wireless router was not up to the task for some reason, and if you want reliable AirPlay, the safest is to try before you buy, or stick with Apples products.

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