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Everyone says how DLNA and AirPlay are similar things. As far as I understood, this is simply not true - AirPlay lets an audio stream travel wirelessly to an AirPlay "receiver" which reproduces it, while DLNA has a "player" fetch and playback a piece of audio content residing on "server" side. In short, AirPlay is your wireless equivalent of an audio cable (apart from the endpoints, obviously), while DLNA is more like a wireless media center solution.

If I am not making myself clear:

An instance of Spotify for iPhone, or even Spotify on a Mac with AirFoil software, will happily transmit the audio stream over air to AirPort Express router connected to a pair of speakers. There are no "files" involved, it does not matter to AirPlay what is actually transmitted - it's a stream. This comes to importance because most often we will have Spotify in turn live stream its content, without having any kind of music collection (disregarding the offline playlists feature). With DLNA, it's more like a DLNA player "browses" a DLNA "server" and plays back an item, if it can decode it, that is.

My question is - can DLNA do what AirPlay does?

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DLNA and Airplay are two different standards. Only Apple has the ability to implement Airplay support. DLNA is an open standard. –  Ramhound Aug 27 '12 at 19:09
    
@Ramhound I am afraid you have missed the point of my question entirely, unfortunately. It matters little to me whether DLNA and AirPlay are (obviously) different standards and what the restrictions are on implementing AirPlay. What I want to know is whether DLNA can do what AirPlay does, as illustrated above. Thanks. –  amn Aug 27 '12 at 19:27
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2 Answers

As I understand it, you say you are able to stream content (from your phone) to the Airport Express, and have it output to an amplifier. (Music in your phone -> APEX -> amp -> speakers)

DLNA can do this too. My phone is DLNA compatible, so if I had a media player (Eg : Asus O!play) connected to my amplifier, then I can stream music to the amplifier through the media player. (Music in my phone -> O!Play -> amp -> speakers)

The advantage of DLNA is that if the content is on a device on the network (Network Attached Storage, Computer, another media player, etc) that is DLNA compatible, I could stream that content to the media player and out the amplifier. (NAS/PC/O!Play/etc -> O!Play -> amp -> speakers, controlled by DLNA phone)

The Apple ecosystem can also do the above, but the source on the network must be iTunes. (iTunes -> APEX -> amp -> speakers, phone controls iTunes)

DLNA can also stream content from the network to the phone. (NAS/PC/O!Play/etc -> phone (listen on headphones?))

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The way I understood it, however, is that with DLNA you have to initiate the playback from the media center. You cannot control a DLNA player through your phone, it's more like that you browse your phones content on your DLNA screen and hit play there. Am I correct? AirPlay however is like a "sink" - you send your audio there from your AirPlay source device, that's it - sound comes out from the speakers connected to an AirPlay target device. –  amn Nov 3 '12 at 12:12
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It is possible to stream from a device to a dlna receiver. I can send a video using my iphone and http://www.imediashare.tv/ to my samsung.

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