Do It Yourself Silent Disco – Update 1

with 5 Comments

Airport Extreme Base StationYesterday I had the opportunity to do some more testing with the Silent Disco broadcast system. This time around I was only trying to gauge the distance capability of the system. Using the AirPort Extreme base station connected to the MacBook Pro via ethernet I setup the broadcast station on my second level porch. Again, the router was not connected to a modem or internet service provider.

I initiated playback through the Airfoil speaker application on both the MacBook and an iPhone. I connected headphones to the iPhone and started walking away from broadcasting station. I was able to go nearly one full city block away from the base station and maintain music without drops. I estimate this distance at around 300 feet. It is important to note that this was with little to no obstruction in the sight-line between me and the base station. Signal dropped dramatically at the one city block distance. Additionally, as the number of obstructions between me and the base station increased there was a noticeable sound performance loss. This was true for connection and sound quality. The obstructions consisted of buildings, both brick and wood. However, obstructions like this are are not something you would typically encounter on a dance floor.

Diagram of AirPort Express.
The AirPort Express base station only needs to be powered via the supplied adapter and then plugged into a computer via one of the LAN ports. This diagram illustrates a bridged network, where the AirPort Express on the far right would extend signal range of the network.

This test also highlights the potential gains that might be experienced from locating the AirPort Extreme base station at a high elevation relative to the dance surface. Mounting your Airport Extreme a few feet over the crowd (12 to 15 feet off the ground) should increase signal strength for all users and assure that the entire area experiences good signal strength.

As the system continues to function as planned, the next test will be to host more users.

This content has been appended to the original artcile which can be found here.

5 Responses

  1. […] Update 1 –¬† […]

  2. Dan Roscigno
    | Reply

    Hi Chris,
    Have you tried your system out with a party? How did it work with people joining in and listening? I was at FireFly last year and had a good time at their headphone disco, and want to do something similar at a family reunion this year.

    Take care,

    • Chris
      | Reply

      Hi Dan,

      I used it with 10 or more devices just fine. That said, you better check to see if all the software is even still available. I published the article nearly four years ago. Plenty of things could have changed since then.

      – Chris

  3. Chris
    | Reply

    Hi Chris, great project.

    A question regarding the latency of the system: At what stage is the 3 sec latency introduced to the system? Using airplay normally, there is a lag in starting or cutting off a feed, but the latency is low enough to watch a video and keep the audio in sync. If the macbook were outputting a video, and the audio accessed via your setup, would there be a sync problem?


    • Chris
      | Reply

      Hi Chris,

      I’ll be honest, I am not sure. It could be with the AirFoil setup, not the built in Airplay function of mobile devices. At the time of this article Airplay did not function to the extent it does now. I know there have been several revisions of the codecs and various specs of the system. Keep in mind I published this article more than four years ago now. Unfortunately I don’t have the time or motivation to revise or update the article despite it’s continued popularity. I do think a wifi based system has loads of potential still given the purveyance and saturation of smart phones into the general public. Also, given the newer generation AC type systems and gigabyte throughput routers now on the market the basic premise of my system is now stronger than ever. Somebody should take my research and produce a continuation of it.


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