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Apple introduces AirPlay 2 with multiroom support

Apple is taking on Sonos with its latest foray into Wi-Fi music, AirPlay 2, which now comes with multiroom support.

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Ty Pendlebury Editor
Ty Pendlebury is a journalism graduate of RMIT Melbourne, and has worked at CNET since 2006. He lives in New York City where he writes about streaming and home audio.
Expertise Ty has worked for radio, print, and online publications, and has been writing about home entertainment since 2004. He majored in Cinema Studies when studying at RMIT. He is an avid record collector and streaming music enthusiast. Credentials
  • Ty was nominated for Best New Journalist at the Australian IT Journalism awards, but he has only ever won one thing. As a youth, he was awarded a free session for the photography studio at a local supermarket.
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Apple's head of software Craig Federighi announces the successor to the AirPlay system, which already lets you stream CD-quality music over Wi-Fi.

Apple/Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury/CNET

Apple has unveiled its latest Wi-Fi protocol, called AirPlay 2, at its WWDC conference in San Jose. AirPlay 2 will be compatible with new speakers and third-party apps. 

The company also revealed its much-rumored smart speaker, the HomePod

Apple said that it is partnering with companies such as Bang and Olufsen, Bose, Beats (which it owns), Polk, Denon, Bowers and Wilkins, Definitive Technology, Devialet, Naim and Bluesound to bring AirPlay 2 to market.

It won't only be Apple apps such as  HomeKit  and Music that will be able to take advantage of the new features, as Federighi said that "third-party audio apps will be able to get in on the multiroom audio fun".

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Apple is working with over a dozen manufacturers to bring AirPlay 2 to market.

James Martin/CNET

Based on one of the screens the company showed on stage, AirPlay users will be able to select from a list of rooms and group them. At the moment AirPlay is only one-to-one from your phone, though serving to multiple devices is possible with a Mac and/or third-party software. This new capability will bring it in line with competing systems such as Play-Fi, Chromecast Audio and Sonos. 

It's as yet unknown if AirPlay 2 is capable of working on existing equipment or if it requires new gear, though the presence of Play-Fi-supporting companies such as Polk and others such as Devialet means that it may be backwards compatible. 

Apple didn't respond immediately to CNET's request for comment.

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