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Auris Skye adds AirPlay and DLNA to 30-pin speaker docks (hands-on)

Who says you can't teach an old dock new tricks? This little dongle adds wireless capabilities, though some of them are glitchy.

The Auris Skye adds AirPlay to any 30-pin speaker dock. Its DLNA capabilities are a little iffy, though.
The Auris Skye adds AirPlay to any 30-pin speaker dock. Its DLNA capabilities are a little iffy, though. Auris

If you've been vested in the iDevice ecosystem for a while, you probably own a speaker dock that has a 30-pin connector -- one that is now incompatible with your current-generation iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. Those newfangled Lightning ports make docking out of the question.

So, what happens to that perfectly good speaker? Craigslist? Garage sale? Landfill?! (Horrors.) If it's a higher-end speaker that you want to keep using, consider giving it a wireless makeover. The Auris Skye is a small receiver that endows 30-pin speaker docks with AirPlay, DLNA, and Wi-Fi Direct capabilities.

If that sounds familiar, you might be thinking of the Dolry HiFi Stone, a similiar product. But the Skye promises at least two advantages over the Stone, including versatility and price.

About the size of a matchbook, the Skye slips onto the 30-pin connector, which powers the receiver. From there you run through a pairing process via the Auris Skye app, after which your speaker appears as an AirPlay device -- easy-peasy.

Well, in theory. I had trouble with my initial AirPlay pairing, as the app (which was and still is in beta) kept asking me for my Wi-Fi network password, even though it doesn't have one. What's more, I found it difficult to see the tiny status LED atop the Skye, which isn't very bright (perhaps because it's emanating from a tiny hole). Ultimately I had to reset the unit by inserting a paperclip into that hole. Thankfully, after that the Skye setup went smoothly, and I was able to stream tunes from both my iPhone and iTunes on my PC.

Unfortunately, I had problems getting the gizmo to work with DLNA sources. Windows Media Player (in Windows 8) could detect the Skye, but any attempts to play music resulted in error messages about media compatibility. (I was testing with ordinary MP3 files.) Likewise, I tried several Android apps that offer DLNA features, including 2Player 1.0, BubbleUPnP, and Streambels. The results, respectively, were total failure to play; sporadic playback; and the same error as Windows Media Player. Auris recommends using iTunes (and AirPlay) if you want to stream music from your PC and could offer no remedies for the issues I encountered.

Your mileage may vary, but if you're purchasing the Skye expressly for use as a DLNA receiver, I would advise against it.

But as an AirPlay receiver, it works quite well. And there are a couple advantages to choosing this over, say, a Bluetooth receiver that plugs into your speaker's line-in jack. For one thing, audio fidelity: Bluetooth relies on compression to transmit audio, while AirPlay does not. For another, range: While Bluetooth has an effective range of about 30 feet, AirPlay keeps the music playing so long as both your device and your receiver are within range of your router. That means you can easily move between rooms without the music cutting out.

The Skye is available now for preorder, with an expected ship date of January 2014. (Backers of the original Kickstarter project can expect theirs next month.) The price is set at $73.99, though you can get two for a slight discount of $139.98.

Your thoughts? Would you like being able to convert an old speaker dock to AirPlay? If so, is this a reasonable price to make that happen?