Been looking for a way to sling audio from VOX desktop playing local files to my hifi across the room. Had to be cheap but simple, reliable, and at least lossless (hi res optional). After a lot of YouTubing different approaches, I stumbled on a post about a recent firmware update for Apple’s old discontinued Airport Express’ that enables support for AirPlay 2. I had two old ones in a closet and had no idea that AirPlay streams lossless (no hi-res, though).
Fiddled a bit with outdated El Cap instructions to no avail (they don’t work on Big Sur), but Andy740’s reply to this MacRumors forum post provided the key:
“I have my AirPort Express (Gen 1, model A1264) working with Big Sur. In AirPort Utility, I got it working by connecting it to the mac via ethernet cable during the setup. It shows up in AirPort Utility (under Other Wi-Fi Devices, Ethernet) and I set it up to join an existing network. I then upgraded the firmware to 7.8.1 which I perhaps shouldn’t have, and disconnected the Ethernet cable. Then it should show up in AirPort Utility under Other Wi-Fi Devices, WiFi). It’s on the network now and works, but I’ve had unusually unstable WiFi after I connected it (this may be unrelated or could be due to the new firmware or it could be that the Express disrupts the network somehow)”
Hooked up the ethernet and they showed right up in Big Sur’s Airport Utility. Updated the firmware, logged them into the my wifi it’s working flawlessly. I’m amazed.
Next step will be verifying that the miniTosLink out (hidden in the audio out jack) still works, then adding a DAC between the Express and the hifi.