Preventing AirPlay Crashes

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If you play a lot of music and do so on your computer, even if you shut down the display, you will use a fair amount of electricity. Saving electricity not only saves you money, but is better for the environment. I strongly recommend transferring the current music (or video) you want to listen to from your computer-based iTunes library to your iOS device. Your iOS device uses a fraction of the electricity of a computer, especially a Mac Pro. This is easily done by dragging and dropping the music from your iTunes library, onto your iPad or iPhone. If you are having problems with iTunes wi-fi sync, please refer to this how-to guide.

5. Set auto-lock to “never” on your iOS device (iPad or iPhone). I have noticed that I usually get a crash shortly after my iPad’s screen goes dark automatically. Perhaps there is a bug in AirPlay caused by some power-saving feature. I don’t have this problem when I lock the device by clicking the “hold” button (on the side of the device).

6. Always make a playlist. I recommend this, even if you are just listening to one album. It will enable you to enjoy a seamless music experience. I often start listening to one album, and want to listen to another. With a playlist, I just add it to the end or anywhere in between. Maybe I don’t want to hear a certain song. With a playlist, I just remove the song. I often regret not making a playlist but never regret making one. It takes a few seconds, and makes for a better listening and user experience.

7. Make sure your Apple TV is up-to-date. Usually, Apple TV will prompt you when a system update has been released. However, it doesn’t hurt to check once in a while. You may have missed it, or perhaps someone else in your household saw the message and skipped the update. It could also be an issue on Apple’s side. You can check for system updates by going to settings → general → update software from the Apple TV home menu. Usually updates are improvements. The update immediately after iOS 5.0 was released was a disaster, however.

8. Restore your Apple TV. This may sound drastic, and it is, but not that hard to do. There really isn’t anything stored on your Apple TV, except maybe what’s in the buffer. You don’t need to back up any files or worry about losing anything, so it’s not too bad. Check out Apple’s knowledge base article on how to do this… Restoring will work if something was corrupted on your Apple TV. It can happen…

9. Reboot everything. I mean everything — even your wireless router. Shut down your components in the following order: Apple TV (put it to sleep and then unplug it), computer, any iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch), and your wi-fi router. Wait a few seconds, and then boot them up in the reverse order (wi-fi router, iOS device, computer, plug in Apple TV).

10. Play your music directly on Apple TV. With the 5.2 upgrade, Apple added the ability to directly play iTunes purchases without an iTunes Match subscription. With 5.2.1, this feature is pretty solid. This will only allow you to play iTunes purchases. You need to subscribe to iTunes Match to play music you have imported into iTunes. Simply click on the Music icon on the home screen and navigate the menus to access your iTunes music. The audio quality isn’t amazing. The bass seems hyped and the quality seems like it is less than 256 kbps AAC. It’s good for short sessions. The user interface is decent, allowing one to manage playback with the Up Next list.

I offer these suggestions for those who still have problems after restarting Apple TV. For me, restarting Apple TV works 100% of the time. As long as I remember to do this before I start a music-listening session, everything works fine. If I forget, the worst thing that happens is Apple TV crashes, reboots itself, and I miss about 5-10 seconds of music and the album art no longer shows up. I have never had to restore or do a ecosystem-wide reboot.

These are a few tips for having a better AirPlay experience. I hope it helps. I have noticed the crashes tend to center around playing music from my iPad or Mac. It is Apple TV that crashes. The iPad and Mac still seem unaffected. I have very few crashes when playing video, be it from the iPad, iTunes on my Mac, Hulu, AirParrot, or Netflix. This bugginess all seems to center around playing music from iTunes or Music. Too bad I listen to a lot of music. Sometimes you’re just better off turning on the radio. My Sony HD radio sounds great and never fails.

Got any tips for using AirPlay? Leave a comment… I may add it to this post.

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8 comments

  1. Helpful info thanks. I have simar crashes as you’ve described. Mine have happened primarily with mirroring games and safari. I think it is due to the auto lock. And perhaps due to multiplayer web based games. These seem to last just a few minutes before crashing.

    1. I have had a lot of luck with the Amazon Cloud Player. It has rock solid AirPlay support. Much better than the Music app included with iOS. But I usually listen to music with an Amphony wireless audio transmitter, from my Mac to my stereo, using the Apple Remote (the new version is amazing, works very well with iTunes 11). This never crashes, because it doesn’t use Apple TV at all!

      I agree — the auto lock seems to coincide with crashes. I also think the audio progress bar when playing music with the Music app via AirPlay is also buggy and causes crashes. The Amazon Cloud Player does not use this, but does show the album art and track info. My hunch is that Amazon disabled it because it causes crashes.

      Glad you found the info helpful. Please feel free to share this site on any social networks. The more hits, the better!

  2. If these problems persist, Apple TV s a WASTE OF MONEY ad time! I hope Apple fixes this soon, otherwise many people are getting scammed. Nothing like having the music turn off when entertaining people for a dinner party! Bad press for Apple. Is this one of the issues with their crumbling stock value?

    1. I know what you mean. Still, I don’t think my Apple TV was a waste. As a cord-cutter, I use it every day. To put it in perspective, my Internet connection is far more vexing than my Apple TV. I believe AirPlay has improved with the latest releases of both Apple TV and iOS. I haven’t had a crash yet. That said, for quick music sessions, I use the Music “channel” on Apple TV. With the last release, they let you play all of your iTunes music, without an iTunes Match subscription. That’s cool. I think this is a sign of Tim Cook’s leadership and generosity towards the customer. I don’t think Jobs would have done that. But when I really want to listen to music, I fire up my Mac and use a wireless audio transmitter. I use the Remote app on my iPad to control it all. It all integrates very well with iTunes 11. I really dig the “Up Next” queue and how they really improved the workflow of ad hoc music playback.

      I also have to say, I have never had Apple TV crash on me when playing a video. I will occasionally rent or buy iTunes movies or TV shows on my iPad. Playing these over AirPlay is flawless and the picture quality is perfect HD with a high frame rate. The quality is as good as Blu-Ray, but Apple TV is more reliable. There’s been quite a few times I rented Blu-Ray discs, and they have some minute flaw that ruins playback. My Blu-Ray player also crashes from time to time. It’s a 2nd generation Sony. I paid $500 for it. That was a waste. I haven’t used it in over a year. I think I played maybe 50 Blu-Ray discs on it. Yep — $10 per disc played.

      So yeah, Apple TV is annoying, but I don’t think it is indicative of overall Apple quality. The Apple TV team is not staffed with their top engineers. It was Steve Jobs’ hobby. They never charged that much for the product. Compared to my Sony Blu-Ray player (I think Blu-Ray was a bad idea, as does both Apple and Microsoft) it’s not bad. My Internet connection tends to cause the most problems with Apple TV.

      There was a span, when iOS 5 came out and Apple TV released an update, where the product was horribly buggy. That’s when I started this site — out of outrage. As you can see, I’ve calmed down a bit, as Apple TV has improved. It’s not perfect. Macs are near-perfect. iPhone and iPads are pretty darn tight. Apple TV? Meh… When you put it in perspective, though, it’s still slightly better quality than most consumer electronics…

      I think Apple’s stock decline has to do more with where they are in the product cycle. They have nothing new right now. Their competitors and critics are having a field day. I have little doubt that Apple will release new, revolutionary products. People will be camping out to buy the next Apple gadget.

  3. Thanks for a fantastic site – you have helped me in many ways.
    In the last month or so, I´ve experienced an issue while playing music on IOS7.1 (iPhone 5S) on apple TV gen2? Out of the blue it restarts a song while playing, and do it again and again. Until it after a few minutes disconnect airplay – I can connect immediately after, but its a real pain. The same occurs once in a while when playing the YouTube app. I’ve searched everywhere for a solution. Hope you can help! All device is updated 🙂

    //Brian

    1. It seems like a regressive bug. Sometimes when Apple (or any other vendor) releases a patch, they can introduce some new bugs. The best you can do is upgrade when the new patches come out and hope they fix it. Sometimes restarting your Apple TV, iPhone, or even just the Music app can help. I also find that using another music player, like the Amazon Cloud Player, can sometimes work better. Just a year ago, I was using Amazon Cloud Player to play music over AirPlay because it didn’t crash and had access to all of my music — iTunes purchases and music that I sync’d to my device. I didn’t buy music from Amazon, but just used their app.

      I really don’t use AirPlay that much anymore. I find that playing music directly on Apple TV seems to be more stable. Of course, without iTunes Match, you can only play your iTunes purchases directly on Apple TV.

      The best music experience is playing music on my Mac and beaming it to my stereo using an Amphony wireless transmitter. It is high quality and always works well. I use the remote app to control playback on my Mac. That said, it is usually easier to just play my iTunes purchases directly on Apple TV, or use iTunes Radio.

      Good luck. iOS 7.1.1 is out now and Apple TV has a new update. Hopefully these will fix your issues. I am currently evaluating both updates for an upcoming review.

  4. I have mixed feelings about my AppleTV. If I had more invested in it than the $80 price tag I’d be incensed, but I can throw it away without too much angst. Initially I bought it about 2 years ago to replace a Logitech Squeezebox to stream music. I had nothing but problems with the Squeezebox, it was buggy and Logitech lost interest in fixing it. I am a 100% mac household, iMac, 2 x iPads, 2 x iPhones, an iTouch. So I figured I’d pick up an Apple TV and save myself some setup… Apple seems to have figured out networking their devices, it is pretty idiot proof.

    I don’t use it to stream music (or video), because I am sick to death of losing the streaming connection. I can’t play any type of music for more than a few minutes without it disconnecting. I usually have to restart the AppleTV to get it going again. Every few months I try it again to see if it’s working any better, and after an hour or so that old urge returns to throw the Apple TV against the wall.

    Movies played from my computer are jerky, there are freezes while it buffers, etc. It doesn’t disconnect, but it might as well.

    I tried using Internet Radio on natively on the AppleTV, but it’s no better than streaming from my computer.

    Wireless issue, you say? Read on:

    Netflix, on the other hand, works FLAWLESSLY on it. It will play hour after hour, day after day, never EVER has a problem. There is a Wii sitting right next to the AppleTV that has zero problems with connectivity. I can pick a youtube video on my MacBook Pro and play it in HD full screen. I play it via Airplay on the AppleTV and I’m back to jerky at best, lost connection and a restart at worst.

    I’ve tried using wired ethernet connections for my sources (can’t make the AppleTV wired without about a 200′ run of Cat6 cable which I do not have) and it makes no difference… this thing just does not want to stream anything but Netflix.

    I have 50Gb internet (tested and I am getting that speed downloading), wireless N router / cable modem (Cisco branded, not Linksys)

    1. That’s an interesting and unfortunate experience. I only had problems with Apple TV around the iOS 5.0 release. AirPlay was hopelessly buggy. I have a very slow Internet connection. I’m lucky to get 6 Mbps. I don’t have problems with AirPlay or streaming from any of the Apple TV channels. Apple TV has been my sole source of video entertainment since I ditched cable about three years ago. The only time I have problems is when my ISP is slow or down. I use my Apple TV about 1-6 hours a day for the past three years.

      Try turning off “send data to Apple”. There have been a few complaints that this telemetry actually causes playback to stutter and connections to drop. You can turn this off by going to Settings > General > Send Data to Apple. This is the first thing I did when I bought Apple TV, because reviewers were complaining about this.

      It could also be a defective unit. Another possibility is that some ISPs limit streaming, especially after you go over a certain threshold. They have worked out special deals with Netflix to make sure it streams well. So much for net neutrality! You can verify this by testing streaming from the same source. So, for example, if Hulu Plus isn’t working well on Apple TV, try it on a Mac.

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