Ever since I bought an Apple TV, I’ve been enjoying using Apple’s AirPlay feature to stream music wirelessly to my home theatre from my iPhone. However, for about a year now I’ve wished that I could AirPlay music to my kitchen, where my wife and I spend a lot of time cooking, cleaning and entertaining.
Enter the Griffin Twenty. Recently Griffin Technology released a device called the “Twenty”. In short, it is an amplifier that uses an Apple Airport Express and connected speakers to deliver the exact functionality that I was looking for. However, at $99 USD + shipping + the purchase of speakers and the Airport Express itself, this idea was getting a bit pricey.
So then I started getting creative and doing some research to see if there was a cheaper alternative to the Griffin Twenty. It turns out there is, and here’s the route I went:
Even though both Apple TV and Airport Express can AirPlay to a sound receiver, the Apple TV is a bit overkill, because I just wanted music. I also didn’t need the latest release of AE because functionally, it’s essentially the same as the previous revision of the same product. Oddly enough, the Griffin Twenty is designed (cosmetically) to work with the previous version of AE as well.
That being said, I headed to the Apple Refurb Store and scooped up a refurbished Airport Express for $69 CAD and free shipping.
I could have used any speakers that were available to me, but seeing as I had no speakers lying around, I decided to shop for new ones. Then it dawned on me: “How cool would it be to have in-ceiling speakers?!”
I searched on Amazon and read some reviews, and finally convinced myself that I should buy a pair of OSD Audio IW540 In-Wall Speakers. These little puppies will sit flush to the ceiling, they’re fully paintable, and for the non-audiophile, they sound amazing. They set me back $60 CAD.
Finally, I needed to find a suitable replacement for the Griffin Twenty itself. ie: A small and simple amplifier that would take input from the Airport Express and then power my OSD speakers. I read and learned about Class-T amplifiers. The most important part to me was the small design and incredible sound of Class-T.
So back to Amazon I went and purchased the Lepai 2020A+ Class-T amplifier (with power supply). If you have any doubts about the power and quality of this amplifier, you definitely don’t have to take my word for it. Just head over to YouTube and search for “Lepai” to see the plethora of good reviews on this product. The best part is, it costs only $30! Take that Griffin!
The full monty
All said and done, for the entire setup, I spent $160 total. I installed the speakers into my kitchen ceiling and fished the speaker wires down to my basement where I have the Airport Express and Lepai 2020A+ amplifier. I configured the AE to have the name “Kitchen” and now when I want to play music in my kitchen, I can just AirPlay right from my iPhone to the speakers.
As for audio quality, I’m pretty picky about sound, and they sound really good to me – nice and crisp with a lot of bass, thanks to the cavities provided by ceiling joists. I haven’t turned the volume of the Lepai above 50% and controlling the volume right from my phone would allow me to make it loud enough for even the rowdiest of parties.
I’ve had this set up for about a month now, and I’m loving it. My daughter enjoys having after-work dance parties in the kitchen and I often stream Songza playlists to the speakers at meal time. Throw my new Pebble into this equation and now I feel like I’ve just taken a trip to the future in a wireless, musical time-machine.