I recently got the opportunity to play with Rogue Amoeba‘s latest offering, Airfoil. For those of you unfamiliar with Rogue Amoeba, they specialize in audio-based applications for OS X. (I’ve been a long-time user of Audio Hijack Pro and LineIn) Definitely check them out if you’re an audiophile of any sort.
Airfoil takes the idea of Apple’s AirTunes to the next level by allowing you to stream audio from any source (program) on your Apple Computer to remote speakers using an AirPort Express. You’re no longer bound to iTunes when it comes to utilizing your home stereo for audio from your Mac.
The interface is simple and clean and requires no more than a moment of observation before the controls are clear. I popped open Windows Media Player, selected it, and hit TRANSMIT. Then I hit play on the audio file I’d opened in WMP. After a slight delay, my music was playing through my stereo speakers loud and clear. (make a note to check the Airfoil Preferences and mute the local computer speakers when transmitting)
Next I popped open Firefox and set it as Airfoil’s source. I loaded up a Strongbad Email (because my 3 year old is a huge Strongbad fan) and let it run. Here’s where I ran into the downside of Airfoil. The slight delay between actually starting the source audio and the time it starts playing on your remote speakers is a couple seconds which is enough to ruin any sync between the video you may be watching.
There’s no setting in Airfoil to freeze the video until audio catches up on the remote speakers – and there really couldn’t be, as Airfoil only handles audio, and not any random program’s potential video output. I couldn’t figure a good way to freeze the video myself either, as it would pause the streamed audio each time as well, putting me back where I started.
So ultimately, if you’re an iTunes hater (for whatever reason…), and prefer some other jukebox program to handle your music library and listening, then check Airfoil out. It does a fantastic job of streaming audio from anything on your computer to your AirPort Express. However, if you dream of watching movies on your 17″ Powerbook, backed-up by your stereo’s surround sound system, keep dreaming. There doesn’t seem to be a viable way of making the 2 work together…for now at least. (I’m not quite techie or learned enough to determine whether Tiger’s Core Video and Core Image will have any bearing on this issue. Please sound off if you’ve got further insight that escapes me!)
l0ne was good enough to point out that the Airfoil Manual says to utilize MPlayer’s a/v offset to eliminate the sync issue with video & audio. So if you’re trying to use Airfoil for video purposes, use MPlayer.