HomeKit and Airplay 2: Some older AirPlay speakers can definitely be upgraded, Libratone reveals

Apple Home-powered AirPlay 2 adds iOS multi-room but can all AirPlay 1 speakers be upgraded and will AirPlay 1 support continue?

As usual, at WWDC 17 Apple raced through its Apple Home announcements in slightly less time than it takes to connect to Apple Home and do anything useful.

What we did catch was that Apple is introducing a new version of its generally excellent AirPlay wireless/multi-room audio system.

AirPlay 2 speakers can be controlled via Siri voice control and from the Apple Home app. The other significant difference appears to be that multi-room is now supported from iOS, where before it was only possible from iTunes on a Mac or PC. 

What was clear was that AirPlay 2 will be added to Apple TV, which many people, including me, have plugged into a standard hi-fi or active speaker. Since Apple spelled that out but didn't add, "And this will also happen with all existing AirPlay speakers," it's probably safe to say that won't be happening.

However, we do know that Libratone speakers can and will be upgraded to AirPlay 2. The fact it's announced that today, ahead of anyone else suggests it has 'favoured partner' status, as a long-standing seller in the Apple Store (and a maker of excellent speakers, to be fair).  

Hopefully iOS Remote and non-mobile control of the millions of other existing AirPlay speakers will be maintained alongside AirPlay 2-compatible devices.

It's hard to feel 100% confident that will be the case, though. 

Apple has a long and rich history of cultivating third-party markets for audio accessories, and then brutally slaying then, from speaker docks with the old connector to certain Bluetooth DACs to anything with a 3.5mm jack.

Sometimes, the price of progress is the cost of buying a new AirPlay 2 speaker.

Duncan Bell

Duncan is the former lifestyle editor of T3 and has been writing about tech for almost 15 years. He has covered everything from smartphones to headphones, TV to AC and air fryers to the movies of James Bond and obscure anime. His current brief is everything to do with the home and kitchen, which is good because he is an excellent cook, if he says so himself. He also covers cycling and ebikes – like over-using italics, this is another passion of his. In his long and varied lifestyle-tech career he is one of the few people to have been a fitness editor despite being unfit and a cars editor for not one but two websites, despite being unable to drive. He also has about 400 vacuum cleaners, and is possibly the UK's leading expert on cordless vacuum cleaners, despite being decidedly messy. A cricket fan for over 30 years, he also recently become T3's cricket editor, writing about how to stream obscure T20 tournaments, and turning out some typically no-nonsense opinions on the world's top teams and players.

Before T3, Duncan was a music and film reviewer, worked for a magazine about gambling that employed a surprisingly large number of convicted criminals, and then a magazine called Bizarre that was essentially like a cross between Reddit and DeviantArt, before the invention of the internet. There was also a lengthy period where he essentially wrote all of T3 magazine every month for about 3 years. 

A broadcaster, raconteur and public speaker, Duncan used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with telling people, "I used to be on the TV, you know."