If you have Spotify, you need Airfoil
Like many of you, I eagerly awaited the arrival of Spotify to the US. However once I got it, I suddenly found myself wondering what I was going to do with it. For those unfamiliar with the service, basically Spotify gives you free, ad-supported access to just about any song you can think of. Free, that is, on your computer. There’s an iPhone app which, for a monthly fee of $10 will, allow you full access to the service while on the go. However, being a cheapskate, I’m still not quite ready to fork over $120 a year for Spotify, especially with the new iTunes iCloud service coming out in a month or two for only $25 a year.
Still, Spotify is a pretty slick tool to have in your musical arsenal, and if you don’t mind sitting through an ad every 7 songs or so, it can be a great way to discover new (and old) music. In fact, the only REAL draw back to the free version available for your computer is you have to listen to it on your computer. And odds are you don’t have your home computer hooked up to your best set of house speakers, and even if you’re running Spotify off a more mobile laptop computer, you still would probably rather sit on your couch, untethered, while surfing for tunes, right? That’s where Rogue Amoeba’s Airfoil ($25) comes in.
Airfoil is a small, unobtrusive app that works with your home network to stream ANY audio source from your computer to your Apple TV or Airport Express. It can also stream audio from one Mac to another using Rogue Amoeba’s free Airfoil Speakers for Mac and to your iOS device (iPad, iPod, iPhone) using their free Aifoil Speakers touch app. These apps basically turn any Mac or iOS device on your network into a “speaker”, meaning you can hook them to your speaker system of choice if you do not have an Apple TV or Airport Express handy to stream to. You can also control the playback of most of the apps Airfoil streams your iPhone, thus giving you a remote control for Spotify that you can walk around your house with.
I have actually found the streaming in Spotify to work better than iTunes’ built-in streaming, at least on my home network. For some reason AirTunes usually craps out during prolonged streaming sessions, but thus far Airfoil has proven rock solid.
Setup is a breeze, in that there really isn’t any. Upon launch, Airfoil will show you a list of all the available “speakers”, real or virtual, on your network. Simply select the sources you wish to stream to (you can select multiple sources) and you’re good to go.
Airfoil has proven to be rock solid in the streaming department, and thus far the only problem I’ve run into is that in order to stream audio from a source, Airfoil will usually first request that you quit and relaunch the app. So if you have iTunes open and wish to stream it, you will need to first quit the app, and then launch Airfoil, and then choose iTunes from the source list. Not a big problem, obviously, and it doesn’t take long to get used to launching apps from within Airfoil, but initially I thought it would annoy me.
I honestly can’t think of many other features I wish Airfoil had, and I’m sure you’ll find a ton of other uses besides simply streaming Spotify. For example, you can stream DVDs, Safari, YouTube, VLC… anything. Given that Spotify is free, $25 for an extremely versatile and well thought out app like Airfoil is a no brainer, and makes the app 1000 times more enjoyable.