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Old 09-27-2012, 07:00 PM   #1
enjoiful
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Default Tutorial: iPhone Airplay In Car via Airport Express

Hey fellow Subaru/music lovers,

If you've ever used Apple Airplay around your house to wirelessly control music from your iPod/iPhone/iPad then you know how useful this feature can be. I wanted to have this functionality in my WRX so I modified an Airport Express to run off the car battery. Check out below for step by step instructions. It's pretty easy if you're semi handy with electronics. The mod will work with any car, as long as there is a 3.5mm audio input port.

What's cool about having Airplay in your car is that all of your travel companions can wirelessly play music without having to go through any annoying and tedious bluetooth pairing, or passing around an auxiliary cable. However, note that Airplay is only useful if you're using iOS devices.

Finished application:
The Airport Express is being powered via USB. The AE audio output is being fed into the center console's 3.5mm auxiliary jack.




I set up the AE as "Dan's WRX". Now whoever is in my car can easily stream their music!



Step by step:
Gotta buy an Airport Express. The 2nd gen will work, but the 3rd gen boots up way faster. I went with the latest (3rd) gen.



Here's the AE opened up. The bottom pops off somewhat easily when using a screwdriver to pry from the corners.



Here's all of the boards removed from the AE, which are very easy to remove.



With the power supply board removed from the AE, it can be supplied with any 3.3V DC power supply.



I made a custom voltage converter from spare electronic boards that I had handy. My custom board, we'll call it the Green Board, accepts a male USB cable and converts the USB 5VDC into 3.3VDC using a DC-DC converter/regulator (LDO). There are tons of these on the market and it would be very easy to find one for cheap. In fact, you could buy a 12V-3.3V DC converter that could plug into your car cigarette lighter if needed.



I took Green Board and superglued it to the AE. I removed the female wall plug in the AE, which left a nice hole for the USB cable to fit through.



Here's the finished AE, with the case put back on and the hole enlarged so that it can fit a USB cable.

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Last edited by enjoiful; 05-13-2013 at 03:49 PM.
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Old 09-27-2012, 07:04 PM   #2
garudatwo
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None of the pics are working, though I am interested in how this works
EDIT:
working now
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Old 09-27-2012, 07:05 PM   #3
enjoiful
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And lastly, here's my first WRX. Awesome car!

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Old 09-27-2012, 07:09 PM   #4
enjoiful
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Alternately, you could power the AE from a DC-AC inverter that plugs into the 12V cigarette lighter, but as an EE it seems inefficient to take 12VDC, convert it to 120VAC, only then to have the Airport Express convert it back down to 3.3VDC. Also, inverters can be expensive!

Last edited by enjoiful; 09-27-2012 at 07:20 PM.
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Old 09-27-2012, 07:24 PM   #5
mike9mw
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Really cool write up and idea. I found this extremely interesting I just wish I could do this in my 06
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Old 09-29-2012, 01:05 PM   #6
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Default Are you able to still use data on your phone?

I thought about doing in this in the past also. I assume you are connecting to the Airport via Wifi to be able to use Airplay. While are you connected, are you able to use your phone for data, or does it time out on everything since the Airport is not connected to the internet?

Nice write up!
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Old 09-30-2012, 02:03 AM   #7
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you cant use any droid os with this though can you? about how much was the cost and are you willing to make a "greenBoard" for people?
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Old 10-01-2012, 11:14 AM   #8
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Sweet project! As another EE I can really appreciate this

Now... just do this again but with an Apple TV, then take the video output to your head unit as an auxiliary video input device, and it'll show your song information and album art on your dashboard too.

You can use Airfoil (software from Rogue Amoeba) to stream audio to an Airport Express from a Windows or Mac PC.

The doubleTwist app will (apparently) let you do some Airplay streaming from Android devices, but I haven't tried it out.
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Old 10-01-2012, 03:44 PM   #9
enjoiful
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WRXNItUp View Post
I thought about doing in this in the past also. I assume you are connecting to the Airport via Wifi to be able to use Airplay. While are you connected, are you able to use your phone for data, or does it time out on everything since the Airport is not connected to the internet?

Nice write up!
Good question. You're right -- guests must login to the WiFi network before Airplay works. This is a quick and painless step though since I don't require a password.

Also good observation with the cellular data question. As it stands, iOS always prioritizes WiFi connections over Cellular. Since the AE doesn't have access to the internet, your iDevice will be useless at accessing the internet... unless you change the AE's settings. I plugged the AE into my computer and messed around with the router settings and made sure it didn't have an internet gateway address. This works great and it allows Airplay to co-exist with cellular data requests. I'll post a screen shot later with the router settings I used. It's an easy, but necessary step.

Last edited by enjoiful; 10-01-2012 at 06:28 PM.
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Old 10-01-2012, 04:53 PM   #10
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Very neat -- but wouldn't a2dp be cleaner and easier?
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Old 10-01-2012, 06:27 PM   #11
enjoiful
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Quote:
Originally Posted by a32guy View Post
Very neat -- but wouldn't a2dp be cleaner and easier?
Perhaps, although my stock head unit only allows one BT device to be paired at a time. This isn't helpful when travel companions are present. BT Pairing is usually tedious and cumbersome (and can only be done while the car is not moving). Airplay is super easy to use for anyone with an iDevice -- simply attach to the car's WiFi network, and Airplay instantly becomes enabled.

I haven't used Bluetooth systems that allow simultaneous device pairing so I can't comment on how functional they are. Any number of users can be simultaneously connected to an Airplay network. The Airpot Express will play music from the last device that requests attention, which is a seamless way to stream music between multiple users (as long as your friends aren't overriding music choices all the time).

Still, it's a great system for long or short car rides. There might be an equivalent Bluetooth system out there, but I haven't used it or seen it yet. I do think AE's "pairing" procedure is superior to any Bluetooth pairing. Although, all of this is only true if your passengers have iDevices.

It is worth nothing however that A2DP systems can send commands back to devices (e.g. skip song). This can't be done with the AE. All actions have to be performed on the iDevice.

Last edited by enjoiful; 10-01-2012 at 06:39 PM.
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Old 10-02-2012, 03:39 PM   #12
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Pretty cool mod - I can definitely appreciate it as an EE myself. However, if you're connected to the access point in your car, won't the phone try to use that to get data instead of using the cellular antenna? That would mean you couldn't get any data on your phone while connected to the AP. This would make something like streaming Pandora or Songza impossible.
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Old 10-02-2012, 03:59 PM   #13
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why not just bluetooth your iphone...what are the advantages of having a airboy thing?
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Old 10-02-2012, 04:39 PM   #14
enjoiful
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shortpersonbk View Post
why not just bluetooth your iphone...what are the advantages of having a airboy thing?
Answered above. Short answer -- Airplay kicks ass at pairing. Everyone in the car can be attached to the Airport Express and can play music whenever they see fit. BT paring can be a pain in the butt and only works with one device at a time. Whoever hops in my car can easily stream music to my speakers via Airplay. This has been great for long car trips.


Quote:
Originally Posted by jehymel View Post
Pretty cool mod - I can definitely appreciate it as an EE myself. However, if you're connected to the access point in your car, won't the phone try to use that to get data instead of using the cellular antenna? That would mean you couldn't get any data on your phone while connected to the AP. This would make something like streaming Pandora or Songza impossible.
Also answered above. I set the Airport express to not look for an internet gateway. Any device that connects to the AE will use Cellular data instead of funneling data requests through the AP.
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Old 12-19-2012, 09:16 AM   #15
brandonraw
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Default A few questions...

1) How much heat is being produced in your center console? I assume it would be less than a stock AE since you removed the power supply.

2) How long does it take for the network to become available after you start your car?

3) Does this method work seamlessly like Bluetooth does? Whereas you pair and set it up once then all your sound from videos, games, music, and all apps gets streamed, or is it done only on an individual basis like when you launch a video, you then have to touch the airplay button and select the airport as the device each time?

I'm interested in doing this because I would like the uncompressed sound quality that Bluetooth cannot offer.

Thanks

Last edited by brandonraw; 12-19-2012 at 10:58 AM. Reason: added third question
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Old 12-19-2012, 12:32 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brandonraw View Post
3) Does this method work seamlessly like Bluetooth does? Whereas you pair and set it up once then all your sound from videos, games, music, and all apps gets streamed, or is it done only on an individual basis like when you launch a video, you then have to touch the airplay button and select the airport as the device each time?
Every time you connect to a network with an AirPlay device, a symbol appears next to your play/pause controls that lets you select the output device. As long as the connection to the AirPlay device is maintained (WiFi doesn't drop out), your iOS device will continue to play to it. When the connection drops, it will redirect to headphones or internal audio, and continue to play there until the AirPlay device becomes available and you manually pick it again.

As of iOS 5 (the newest on my iPod Touch 3rd gen) each app must allow you to redirect the audio on its own, it's not system-wide. This is actually a benefit, because music can go to your stereo while game sounds stay on your device. (They may have added device-wide audio redirection to AirPlay on iOS 6, but I might just be thinking of OS X 10.8.)
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Old 12-22-2012, 01:07 AM   #17
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Sick job!
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Old 01-19-2013, 12:25 PM   #18
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Default AE settings

Hey, great idea, I'm trying to do the same but I'm having trouble with the AE settings. Can you please update your post with that screenshot you mentioned??? Thanks!
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Old 01-21-2013, 03:07 AM   #19
basictheory
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Could I splice into the 110V outlet instead of doing the USB conversion?

Last edited by basictheory; 01-21-2013 at 10:33 PM.
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Old 02-20-2013, 11:17 PM   #20
enjoiful
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Hey all, sorry being AFK for so long. Glad to see people are interested in doing this! Here's some responses to un-answered questions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by brandonraw View Post
1) How much heat is being produced in your center console? I assume it would be less than a stock AE since you removed the power supply.

2) How long does it take for the network to become available after you start your car?

1). Negligible heat. Most of the heat generated by a stock AE is from the 120VAC-3.3V DC conversion.

2). The latest AE boots up in ~45-50 seconds. The older generations take about 90-120 seconds.


Quote:
Originally Posted by basictheory View Post
Could I splice into the 110V outlet instead of doing the USB conversion?
If your 110V AC outlet has a normal 2 or 3-pronged plug, you can just plug in your AE into it without any of the above modifications.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kaigoss69 View Post
Hey, great idea, I'm trying to do the same but I'm having trouble with the AE settings. Can you please update your post with that screenshot you mentioned??? Thanks!
Definitely. I'll edit this thread in the next couple of days (maybe a week as I'm out of country at the moment) with the settings I used to enable simultaneous cellular data while attached to the AE.

Let me know if there's any other questions. I'll monitor this thread for the next week.
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Old 02-23-2013, 01:59 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enjoiful View Post
If your 110V AC outlet has a normal 2 or 3-pronged plug, you can just plug in your AE into it without any of the above modifications.
Oh, for sure. I was trying to think of a way to avoid modifying an AE and retain usage of the outlet without a power cable always plugged in there. Hmm.
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Old 03-16-2013, 04:17 PM   #22
u3b3rg33k
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Quote:
Originally Posted by enjoiful View Post
Good question. You're right -- guests must login to the WiFi network before Airplay works. This is a quick and painless step though since I don't require a password.

Also good observation with the cellular data question. As it stands, iOS always prioritizes WiFi connections over Cellular. Since the AE doesn't have access to the internet, your iDevice will be useless at accessing the internet... unless you change the AE's settings. I plugged the AE into my computer and messed around with the router settings and made sure it didn't have an internet gateway address. This works great and it allows Airplay to co-exist with cellular data requests. I'll post a screen shot later with the router settings I used. It's an easy, but necessary step.
Quote:
Originally Posted by jehymel View Post
Pretty cool mod - I can definitely appreciate it as an EE myself. However, if you're connected to the access point in your car, won't the phone try to use that to get data instead of using the cellular antenna? That would mean you couldn't get any data on your phone while connected to the AP. This would make something like streaming Pandora or Songza impossible.
Quote:
Originally Posted by enjoiful View Post
Answered above. Short answer -- Airplay kicks ass at pairing. Everyone in the car can be attached to the Airport Express and can play music whenever they see fit. BT paring can be a pain in the butt and only works with one device at a time. Whoever hops in my car can easily stream music to my speakers via Airplay. This has been great for long car trips.




Also answered above. I set the Airport express to not look for an internet gateway. Any device that connects to the AE will use Cellular data instead of funneling data requests through the AP.

The only trick I've been able to get to work (for keeping cell data functional) is manually setting an IP and subnet on the iPhone and leaving the router IP blank.

I'd love to know how you got it to work from the airport side - that would make guests in the car happier (that screenshot you mentioned would be cool).

Also, IIRC, airplay is lossless, and A2DP does have compression, which means, in theory, AirPlay will always yield better quality. That said, I've seen (heard) some well implemented A2DP head units that sound fantastic.
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Old 03-18-2013, 12:56 AM   #23
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Great writeup! I plan on doing this with my Pioneer X9310BT (Canadian STi Sport-Tech) and an Apple TV for airplay. It has the same power requirements, and I found this simple DC controller which should do the trick, and possible even fit where the stock PS would be in the ATV.

Amazon.com: LM2596 DC-DC Buck Converter Step Down Module Power Supply Output 1.23V-30V: Car ElectronicsAmazon.com: LM2596 DC-DC Buck Converter Step Down Module Power Supply Output 1.23V-30V: Car Electronics

I plan on hiding this inside the dash and wiring it to the deck via HDMI to composite cables. After that it's figuring out the software as I would like to do this without an internet connection... Worst case scenario you can set up a personal hotspot and it will work.

Last edited by caughtanSTi; 03-18-2013 at 01:02 AM.
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Old 03-18-2013, 10:59 AM   #24
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Anyway to get the pictures back on here?
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Old 04-16-2013, 07:11 PM   #25
enjoiful
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Quote:
Originally Posted by u3b3rg33k View Post
Also, IIRC, airplay is lossless, and A2DP does have compression, which means, in theory, AirPlay will always yield better quality. That said, I've seen (heard) some well implemented A2DP head units that sound fantastic.
You very well might be correct, but I can't notice a difference in sound quality when I use A2DP vs Airplay in my WRX. I've definitely tried to do a listening test between them, but I couldn't notice anything. To be fair though, the stock sound system in my 2012 WRX is unimpressive, to say the least.

Actually, I use my bluetooth pairing for day to day listening because I can control my iPhone from my steering wheel. I leave the Airplay to be used by guests with iDevices.

OK, OK, sorry for the lack of screen shot. Let me see what I can do in the next few days!
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