Five ways to improve your Apple Music listening experience

You wouldn't dare listen to music solely through the speakers on your iPhone or iPad, would you?

Dan Graziano Associate Editor / How To
Dan Graziano is an associate editor for CNET. His work has appeared on BGR, Fox News, Fox Business, and Yahoo News, among other publications. When he isn't tinkering with the latest gadgets and gizmos, he can be found enjoying the sights and sounds of New York City.
Dan Graziano
5 min read

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Apple Music has finally arrived on iPhones, iPads, Windows computers and Macs. And it debuts with a 3-month free trial, so you can try it without spending a penny. (Not seeing it on your device? Here's how to get it.)

But it's important to note that you don't need to be limited to your Apple Music listening on the tiny internal speakers on those devices. So we've rounded up all of the ways you can enjoy the service with far better sound quality.

Two important caveats: yes, much of what follows will be old hat for experienced techies -- but there are plenty of newbies who don't know "Bluetooth" means more than an earpiece. And all of the tips listed below will work for nearly any audio source from an iPhone, iPad and Mac -- and likely from a Windows PC, too -- whether you're listening to Apple Music, Spotify or anything else.

Upgrade your headphones

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We'll start with the obvious: good old-fashioned headphones. The EarPods that Apple includes with the iPhone are nothing special, so a headphone is mandatory. CNET has plenty of favorite headphones ranging from under $20 to over $400. Be sure to choose a pair with a built-in microphone (most, but not all, modern headphones now have the option) so they can double as a phone headset. Stick with wired headphones for the best possible fidelity and no battery charging concerns, but note that plenty of great wireless Bluetooth headphones are available, many for less than $120 or so.

See CNET's favorite headphones

Connect to your home stereo

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Let's face it, the speakers on the iPhone and iPad are fine for casual listening, but that's about it. Like most internal laptop speakers, they aren't the loudest speakers out there and certainly not the clearest. But there's an easy fix: just connect a patch cable from your device's headphone jack to any "auxiliary input" jack on any stereo, AV receiver, TV, sound bar, speaker system or boom box. If you don't have one, you can pick one up at most drugstores for under $10 -- just be sure to check if you're connecting it to a 3.5mm minijack or the red-and-white analog jacks found on larger home electronics.

Stream to a wireless Bluetooth speaker or stereo

Bluetooth is a wireless audio standard that makes it fairly easy to stream any type of audio from smartphones, tablets, and computers to speakers and headphones without any cables whatsoever. It's been around for quite some time, but the latest Bluetooth products generally sound better, are easier to use and are far more affordable than earlier models.

All iPhones, iPads, Macs, current iPod Touch models, and many (but not all) PCs are Bluetooth enabled, so you just need to buy a compatible speaker, headphone or home audio product -- of which there are now hundreds, if not thousands, of models to choose from.

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If you purchased a sound bar or AV receiver in the past few years, it may already have Bluetooth built-in; if not, there's an affordable workaround (see below). But the quickest, easiest and most portable solution is to buy a portable Bluetooth speaker. They range in price from $30 to $300 and beyond, and are available from a range of familiar brands including Bose, Sony, Beats, Logitech/Ultimate Ears, Monster and Amazon.

To "pair" your iPhone or iPad with a Bluetooth device, go to Settings, select Bluetooth and turn it on (if it isn't already). On the speaker, stereo or headphones, ensure that it's in pairing mode. This can often be done by pressing and holding the power button on a portable speaker, but it's different for every device and it's best to check the owner's manual.

Once the speaker or headphones are in pairing mode, it should show up in the Bluetooth settings. Simply select it from the list to connect. Any music you play on your iPhone or iPad will then be audible.

See CNET's favorite Bluetooth speakers

See CNET's favorite wireless Bluetooth headphones

See CNET's favorite cheap wireless Bluetooth headphones

Add Bluetooth to nearly any old stereo

Own an older sound bar, stereo, AV receiver or powered speaker system that doesn't have Bluetooth built-in? Not a problem. Companies like Sony, Belkin and Logitech have Bluetooth adapters that will act as a bridge between your existing speaker and your iPhone or iPad. All of these adapters, which will run you about $40 in the US, will work with any speaker or audio product that has with a standard analog RCA or 3.5mm audio input. Just hook it up, flip to that input and connect via Bluetooth as described above.

Watch this: Add Bluetooth streaming to any speaker

Use Apple TV (or an AirPlay-enabled device)

While an Apple Music app won't officially arrive on the Apple TV until later this year, there is still a way to listen to your favorite songs through the set top box. Apple Music supports AirPlay, which lets you stream the service from your iPhone or iPad -- or from the iTunes app running on a Mac or Windows PC. To use this feature, make sure both the source device and Apple TV are connected to the same wireless network.

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On the iPhone or iPad, swipe up to open the quick settings menu, click AirPlay, select the Apple TV and click Done. Then all you have to do is open the Apple Music or any other streaming app and hit play. Your favorite songs will now play through the speakers on your TV.

If that sounds like Bluetooth, that's because it is very similar. But the difference here is that it utilizes Wi-Fi instead, which generally offers better sound quality.

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It's also important to note that Apple TV isn't the only AirPlay-enabled device. You can also use it to stream music to the Apple AirPort Express router and connect a pair of speakers or amplifier. And many AV receivers and some wireless speakers also have AirPlay support built-in -- though many of them support Bluetooth as well.

More options coming soon

Apple and Sonos have confirmed that Apple Music support will be added to the wireless speakers before the end of 2015. Sonos speakers do not support Bluetooth or AirPlay, but they already offer built-in support for nearly all other major music services, including Spotify, Pandora, Sirius XM, Google, Amazon, Rdio and about a dozen others.

Apple Music is also slated to arrive on Android devices later this year.