Jump to content
IGNORED

An easy way to get and improve multi-channel with a Mac - mini-to-TOSLINK


Recommended Posts

If you have a Mac, you already know that it works with stereo by default with a mini jack as headphones/audio out.

 

Therefore, one way you can get surround with a Mac-based system is to get a multi-channel USB audio card. This has an internal DAC which processes the digital stream from the USB connection and then does the D/A.

 

For example, my sound card, an old USB 1 M-Audio FastTrack Pro has a mode in its driver, where you can set it to output on 4 RCA channels at 48kHz/24-bit, which is done by changing the settings in the driver to use both Outputs 1 & 2 and Outputs 3 & 4.

 

You can then go into Utilities -> Audio-MIDI, double-click on the card or your own device and set it to multi-channel and continue to set it up from there.

 

This is fine to play with and also do internal cross-overs within the Mac (that's for another time!).

 

On the other hand, if you want a proper 5.1 reproduction, then you would immediately think of replacing your sound card with one which has 6 outputs.

 

However, there is a more affordable way to do this digitally if your Mac supports it and if you already have an AVR or amplifier which has Optical INs and has 5.1 outputs like mine does.

 

In this setup, you'll be using your AVR/amp's internal DAC.

 

What is required are the two following things:

 

1. You need an iMac, Mac Mini or Macbook Pro which has a hidden optical output within the seemingly normal analog mini audio/headphone out. It is not really hidden in the sense that you need to go out of your way to access it, no. More in the sense that if you just look at the audio/headphones out, it mostly looks like a normal analog out. The existence of a combined digital/analog output is actually documented in your Mac literature. Check this first.

 

2. You need a mini-to-TOSLink cable

 

Connect the cable between the Mac's mini to your AVR/Amp's Optical In.

 

Use a DVD rip or something which has a digital encoded multi-channel track like a movie with DTS Mater-Audio or something similar, play it with VLC and ensure you're using your Mac's digital output [built-in output (Encoded Audio)] then check with Utilities->Audio-MIDI that your Mac's output is in the "Format" = Encoded Digital Audio when playing.

 

Ensure your AVR/AMP is set to receive the digital channel.

 

Enjoy a very good, enhanced multi-channel sound this way, for audio and movies too.

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

Link to comment
Why not just use the HDMI?

 

If you have a more modern AVR than mine, go for it.

 

My iMac is using one port to HDMI on the HDTV, but the Panasonic doesn't have HDMI in (it's fairly old).

 

It's old, but good, so I don't mind the lack of HDMI, which can sometimes bring its own set of issues (a recent Marantz DAC comes to mind, where they took the decision after feedback from Engineers not to bundle video capabilities to it and make it an AVR).

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

Link to comment

Yep, the only thing is that with HDMI also dealing with video processing in a full-blown AVR, SQ may suffer in some cases. So just getting a new cable isn't exactly getting a whole set of new gadgets, just one single inter-connect.

 

This said, initially I was a little miffed that we don't yet have HDMI input, but at least we have the optical ins.

 

We're looking to get an AVR and this will most probably coincide with a new 4K TV. We are looking forward to it, but are in no hurry, the technology will stabilise in the meantime and we'll also hopefully get more readily available content.

 

Always good to read Stereophile and Audiostream, keep it up!

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

Link to comment

Added an optical cable for the Apple TV to the amp today.

 

I also tried the cable with the TV while the Blu-Ray feeds it via HDMI but my amp for some reason doesn't see the DTS and DTS Master-Audio from that setup. If our Blu-Ray player had an optical out, I could have tested it directly, but no dice.

 

Tried the optical cable with Netflix on the Apple TV, but saw some odd things going on, probably the amp receiving a normal stereo channel and just extrapolating a pseudo surround from that (just two rectangle signifying active speakers were on).

 

It turns out you need to go into the Apple TV Sound settings, and set the Dolby Digital to 'On' and not 'Auto'.

 

Auto here for Apple, somehow means 'use the thing which is not Dolby when both formats exist'. Counter-intuitive as hell.

 

Now the amp properly shows the full surround in effect. Tested it on two movies, just the initial moments: Superman (the Cavill one) and Pacific Rim, and the sound is now huge!

 

So, Netflix on Apple TV is going to be thoroughly, immensely fun.

Dedicated Line DSD/DXD | Audirvana+ | iFi iDSD Nano | SET Tube Amp | Totem Mites

Surround: VLC | M-Audio FastTrack Pro | Mac Opt | Panasonic SA-HE100 | Logitech Z623

DIY: SET Tube Amp | Low-Noise Linear Regulated Power Supply | USB, Power, Speaker Cables | Speaker Stands | Acoustic Panels

Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×
×
  • Create New...