Prevent AirPlay from Dropping Out

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AirPlay is usually a reliable technology for beaming audio and video to Apple TV. This article covers how to prevent AirPlay from dropping out.

Listening to music should be a pleasurable experience. Unfortunately, with the new Apple TV, this isn’t always the case. I bought my first Apple TV, a second generation model, in the summer of 2011. Back then, Apple TV didn’t have an App Store and it only had a handful of “channels”. For early adopters, AirPlay was a necessity.

After a few good years with my Apple TV 2, it became clear that Apple was neglecting this model. Although they just recently ended support for the device, it was the victim of neglect only a few years after release. AirPlay was rock solid, but my Apple TV 2 would reboot itself randomly. This happened a few times a night, usually in the middle of a program. Researching the issue, it seemed like a common problem, but Apple did nothing about it. I eventually gave up and decided to buy a new Apple TV 4.

Excitement for my new Apple TV diminished quickly, due to the unreliability of AirPlay. The first night I used the device, I noticed that AirPlay would drop out, usually if I walked in between my AirPort Extreme WiFi router and Apple TV. This never happened with my previous Apple TV. Both units were placed in the same location. They both used the same WiFi router.

Research uncovered the fact that Apple “overhauled” AirPlay in order to reduce initial latency. I did notice that there was no lag when starting an AirPlay stream. Unfortunately, this seems to have come at the cost of reliability. Apple seems to have reduced latency by decreasing the buffer size. This means that any disturbance in the data stream will result in audio cutting out. Listening to music became agitating. It was no longer a pleasurable experience.

After over a year of experimentation, I discovered a few ways to improve AirPlay reliability. Although you can’t completely eliminate AirPlay dropouts, you can prevent them. You don’t have to implement all of these suggestions to improve AirPlay reliability. This article assumes that you have a basic knowledge of how to use AirPlay.

Close Apps and Restart Apple TV Before an AirPlay Session

At its core, tvOS is the same as iOS. The core tvOS operating system is remarkably stable and responsive. Unfortunately, there are problems at higher levels of the operating system. Let’s face it — Apple isn’t putting their best and brightest engineers to work on Apple TV.

I’ve found that closing all tvOS apps and restarting Apple TV improves the reliability of AirPlay streaming. The theory is that some tvOS apps are operating in the background and some of these processes are not cleaned up when the app is closed. I suspect that Apple’s own iTunes apps are the chief culprit. AirPlay reliability seems to be compromised after using the iTunes Movies and TV Shows apps. They may have additional hooks into tvOS that third-party developers can’t take advantage of. Perhaps they are polling Apple’s servers excessively. Whatever the cause, there’s no denying the correlation.

You can close all apps by double clicking the Home button (looks like a TV) and flicking each app up using an upward motion on the Touch surface. Next, go to Settings > System and click on Restart. It only takes 30 seconds for Apple TV to restart, which minimizes the inconvenience. You can also restart Apple TV by holding down the Home and Menu buttons simultaneously for 6 seconds (until the light flashes rapidly). Release both buttons as soon as the light starts to flash. next page →

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