Adding AirPlay 2 to iPod HiFi

Old speakers + Old hardware = new fun!

It’s February 2006. Steve Jobs, wearing his iconic Levi’s and black turtleneck, reveals the latest product in the iPod lineup:

The iPod Hi-Fi was released to the public on February 28, 2006 and discontinued 554 days later. It would take another ten years before Apple sold a new speaker, the HomePod, in 2017.

Seventeen years ago, an Apple speaker wouldn’t have interested me. However, in 2023, with my newfound fondness for audio projects based around Apple’s AirPlay 2 protocol, I was definitely interested.

iPod Hi-Fi

It ticked so many boxes. Rare hardware from an iconic brand, check. No proprietary cables, check. No need for software updates, check. Plays audio via 3.5mm jack, check. Can be powered using 6 D batteries, what.

Clearly, I had to get my hands on one. Facebook Marketplace to the rescue.

With a free (broken) iPod, score!

A little yellowed, a little dusty, but nothing a good wipedown wouldn’t fix. Now, in order to get it playing nicely with my other speakers, I’ll need to connect that 3.5mm input to something that supports AirPlay 2. I could easily set up moOde on a Pi, connect a USB DAC and get the job done. But, since this was an Apple speaker, I wanted to set it up in an Apple way.

AirPort Express

Rewind to June 2012, Apple releases the confusingly named AirPort Express 802.11n (2nd Generation). It’s actually the 3rd AirPort Express but the second wireless-n version, hence the name.

Six years later, the AirPort line was discontinued by Apple and they left the wireless router/access point market. Posthumously, a software update was released that dragged the 2012 device all the way to today, supporting AirPlay 2 and Apple Home integration.

Here’s how to set it up (like I did, over ethernet):

Connecting the Two

Both support optical and and analogue audio connections via their combo jacks so I had to choose between the two. Ken Rockwell really liked the DAC in the AirPort Express so I guess a standard 3.5mm analogue audio cable will suffice.


With the combination of iPod Hi-Fi and AirPort Express, this becomes a unique first-party Apple AirPlay 2 setup. The sound quality can’t really compete with my primary Table Speakers and Subwoofer combo but it doesn’t really have to. It’s a nice party speaker that adds a welcome punchy bassline when grouped with others in the home.

The Future

I’d love to try adding tweeters and then use an iPod dock adapter to connect a Pi but that will require me buying another iPod HiFi…

If you have any questions/would like to share your experience with Apple audio and networking devices, leave a reply below. To receive an email when I publish a post, subscribe here.

(Featured image remixed from this photo)

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