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Mac mini for music AND movies?


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Greetings all,

 

Here is my setup:

 

Mac mini (Late 2014)

  • via toslink > Audioengine D1 DAC > Onkyo TX-NR646 receiver
  • via HDMI > TV

 

I would prefer instead to run the HDMI to the receiver too, but it causes a conflict resulting in no audio, when the Mac's audio output is set to the toslink. Does anyone have a solution or alternate setup that doesn't require the moving of cables when switching between music and movies?

 

It is my understanding that the toslink won't transmit some surround audio formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio, that are coming from Netflix, HBO GO, Vudu, etc.

 

Music is by far the most important part of this for me, but it'd be nice to be able to get the very best of both.

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Does toslink > Audioengine D1 DAC > Onkyo TX-NR646 receiver really give you better sound than simply HDMI > Onkyo TX-NR646 receiver? (I would be surprised.) If not, just use the HDMI to the receiver for everything.

 

If it does, use HDMI to the receiver as your default audio out, and use a player that allows you to select the output (like Audirvana) to use the non-default optical.

 

(I thought Netflix, etc, only used compressed multi-channel, which optical can handle. I use HDMI to my TV, optical to my receiver, and USB to my 2-channel DAC/Amp.)

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Thanks for the response! Are you suggesting that HDMI is a better route for music, or is it the quality of my receiver and DAC that is in question? Or something else? I thought that optical was hands down the best output for a music source from a computer.

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I don't have anything against optical, but a lot of folks here seem to think it is hands down the worst (digital) output for a music source from a computer.

 

Assuming it is no better or worse than HDMI, then you have to ask if bypassing the DAC in your receiver is adding anything. Just do some experiments and see if you can hear any differences, one way or the other. My guess is you won't.

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Thanks for the response! Are you suggesting that HDMI is a better route for music, or is it the quality of my receiver and DAC that is in question? Or something else? I thought that optical was hands down the best output for a music source from a computer.

 

Just to keep a distinction between optical s/pdif using a toslink cable and optical LAN. Optical cuts additional noise from computer components which is great, but they are two separate approaches.

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I thought setting the default audio source (HDMI or Toslink) was a function of Audio Midi. Are you checking the Audio Midi utility? I'd stick with Toslink for music if that is your priority. I find that my DAC using USB stays as the source unless my TV is on and then it switches to HDMI.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Greetings all,

 

Here is my setup:

 

Mac mini (Late 2014)

  • via toslink > Audioengine D1 DAC > Onkyo TX-NR646 receiver
  • via HDMI > TV

 

I would prefer instead to run the HDMI to the receiver too, but it causes a conflict resulting in no audio, when the Mac's audio output is set to the toslink. Does anyone have a solution or alternate setup that doesn't require the moving of cables when switching between music and movies?

 

It is my understanding that the toslink won't transmit some surround audio formats like Dolby TrueHD or DTS HD Master Audio, that are coming from Netflix, HBO GO, Vudu, etc.

 

Music is by far the most important part of this for me, but it'd be nice to be able to get the very best of both.

 

Hi. I may be mistaken, but I didn't think Mac Mini 2014 has toslink. Are you sure you don't mean USB?

 

As to your second point, I'm not sure how your Onkyo works with regard to matching inputs, but with my Anthem preamp, I can set up my inputs by mixing and matching different video and audio inputs. So, for example, I have it set so that when I have HDMI input, I get video from the HDMI but audio from my DAC or turntable. But I can also have the audio set to HDMI, which would require changing settings in Midi preferences as well. That way I can use the display and app on the Mini but hear better audio through my PS Audio DAC vis USB. Best of both worlds! So if, your Onkyo will do a similar input mixing, all you would need to do is keep your cables in place and config your input on the Onkyo and select your output on Midi preferences. Just a thought. And tolink doesn't transmit dolby, etc.

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Oh, you have the default audio set to HDMI, and since your receiver always holds the HDMI connection to the Mac up - the audio always tries to go out the HDMI.

 

One (relatively) easy way to deal with this is to use an audiophile player for your music that allows you to override the default setting and take exclusive control of the audio output device. Just set that to your optical output and Bob's your uncle.

 

The TX-NR646 is no slouch in the sound department either, so you could just always use HDMI for music and allow the NR646 to take care of things. That works well too.

 

Alternatively, you could stream the music to the TX-NR646 from the Mac using either J. River with upnp, or (if it supports Airplay) with iTunes or any other music player that allows you to select an airplay output device.

 

There are lots of ways to get around this, though I think the first one is the simplest way to go. I suggest experimenting a bit to see if you really resonate with one method over another. ;)

Anyone who considers protocol unimportant has never dealt with a cat DAC.

Robert A. Heinlein

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  • 2 weeks later...
Does toslink > Audioengine D1 DAC > Onkyo TX-NR646 receiver really give you better sound than simply HDMI > Onkyo TX-NR646 receiver? (I would be surprised.)

 

After taking a look at the specs of my receiver's built-in DAC, I have indeed wasted time and money on an external DAC.

 

I'm still on the fence regarding optical vs. HDMI but I'm leaning towards the brighter sound that HDMI is bringing in my setup.

 

And, I am now using the audio midi setup to control the audio output. Thanks all for the words of wisdom.

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