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 Bell

Duncan has been writing about tech for over a decade and has seen more than any man should see, tech-wise. He used to be on telly loads, but an unfortunate incident put a stop to that, so he now largely contents himself with taking selfies and going up to complete strangers and saying, "I use to be on the TV, you know." He is widely regarded as the best-dressed man ever to work for T3, but accepts that is not saying much.