Tech Talk: Griffin Twenty – bring your old non-powered speakers into the AirPlay age

Posted on January 25, 2013
Griffin Twenty with an Apple Airport Express connected

Photo – Griffin: Griffin Twenty with an Apple Airport Express connected

If I told you that for less than a hundred bucks you could hook up your old Cerwin Vega or Bose non-powered speakers so you could play content from your iOS devices would you be interested?

I was, and the Griffin Twenty is the $99.99 answer to that conundrum.

OK, maybe I wasn’t entirely right – to connect your old speakers to the Twenty and play them via AirPlay on your wireless network you’ll also need an Apple Airport Express. That costs another $100 or so, but if you already have one, then you’re listening to your music through those expensive, powerful speakers you though you’d never hear again.

Sure, ther are other ways to accomplish the same thing, but the Griffin Twenty is surely the most elegant and simple way I’ve come across to date.

Griffin Twenty with an Apple Airport Express connected

Photo – Griffin: Griffin Twenty with an Apple Airport Express connected

To set the Twenty up you only need to do a few things. Connect the right and left speaker to the Twenty via the terminals on the back, making sure they’re connected properly. Then plug the Airport Express into the top of the Twenty – you might need to reset your Airport Express – but I didn’t. Then plug the TOSLINK (optical) cable into the back of the Twenty and the 3.5mm pin into the back of the Airport Express. Turn everything on and select some music on your iOS device, then select your Airport Express and Bob’s your uncle. Bob may not be your uncle, but you’ll be listening to music on your speakers!

Setting up with the new Airport Express works very much the same way only you plug the power cord into a wall socket instead of the Twenty.

I’ve got a pair of outdoor Bose speakers that I love, but I haven’t used them since I got rid of my old amp. The Griffin Twenty and AirPlay now make these terrific speakers useful again and I couldn’t be happier.

The Griffin Twenty is available trough their online store. There are a number of retailers across Canada who carry Griffin products, but the Twenty isn’t necessarily available at all of them – you can check the retailers list (just mouse over Canada on the map to see Canadian retailers).

This is a great product. It opens up a whole new way of doing things like viewing movies on an iPad, for instance. Watch the movie on the iPad and listen to the audio on that great pair of non-powered speakers you had lying around.

Griffin says that the Twenty is designed to work with the original Airport Express, but it works not only with the new Airport Express, but, “any digital audio source”.  Frankly, I’m not 100% sure what that exactly means, but I do know it works with both versions of the Airport Express because I tested it with both.

Griffin Twenty with an Apple Airport Express connected

Photo – Griffin: Griffin Twenty with an Apple Airport Express connected

TECH SPECS: Amplifier: Class D Stereo Amplifier: TI PurePath™; Input: S/PDIF optical, TOSLINK connector (included); Sensitivity: 0.34 dBFS for 20 watts (volume control set to max)

Speaker Output: Power: 20 watts per channel into 8 ohms @ 0.08% THD, both channels driven; Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz, +0, -0.34 dB; Signal-to-Noise ratio: 95 dB; Crosstalk: -71 dB

Subwoofer Output: Left + Right sub-bass audio; Autoswitching when powered subwoofer is detected; Power: Line-level output (2 V rms at 0 dBFS input); High-Pass Filter: 80 Hz 2nd order Linkwitz-Riley applied to L+R channels; Low-Pass Filter: 80 Hz 2nd order Linkwitz-Riley applied to subwoofer output; AC Power: 100 to 240 VAC @ 50/60 Hz.

PROS: Decent price (if you have the Airport Express already); easy setup; revives old speakers.

CONS: You need an Airport Express, so that doubles the price; not easily available in Canada yet.

TO SUM IT UP:  The $99.99USD Griffin Twenty is a great bit of technology that resurrects old or even new non-powered speakers and lets you use AirPlay and your wireless network to listen to these speakers. Brilliant.

Murray Hill is lead tech writer at You can reach Murray by email at or on Twitter at @MurrayDHill

About Murray Hill

Murray Hill has been a freelance columnist appearing regularly in some of the most prominent Canadian newspapers since 1974. He began writing about technology over twenty-four years ago and he still maintains the belief that there's a gadget or gizmo for every situation and application. His fascination with technology and gadgets has endured for over fifty years, and has led to many familial discussions about the the difference between the words "need" and "want" when referring to tech. Based in Saskatoon, connect with Murray at: Author's Note: I write a column on a single product, rather than comparing products. I do this because what I write is my personal opinion on a particular product. Sometimes I get something sent to me automatically, but mostly I ask manufacturers for a particular product to review. I usually have these products for a period of a few weeks to a few months, then they are returned. I get to keep some products - usually the ones that would cost more to ship back than they are worth - and most of those items get given away. I do get an honorarium from Communicatto for writing, but get no compensation from manufacturers or the firms representing them - so nobody buys my opinion! I also try to use photos and graphics provided, mostly because I'm a terrible photographer!

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