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Is there a good way to split audio signal? Maybe via the DAC?


EatMoreCarrots
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Ok, so I have a Mac Mini. The audio is hooked up to my stereo straight from the headphone jack for the time being (I'm still DAC shopping) and the video is hooked up to my plasma, via HDMI, for a monitor (for when I need one).

 

Everything was dandy until my girlfriend and I discovered the side affect of having a computer in the link - internet TV on the big screen (Hulu, Joost etc.). Now, I am wondering if there is a smart way to split the audio signal from my Mac Mini to both my stereo and my TV so that I can listen to all my music through my stereo as well as watch web TV through my TV's internal speakers (it seems like a giant waste to have to use my big tube amps just to watch web TV).

 

Is there even a good way to do what I am thinking? Here are some of my ideas -

 

(1) My first thought was to just get a Y cable out of the Mac Mini's headphone jack but I figure the direct link from the TV to my Pre this solution would create might introduce some serious ground loop noise and possibly severe signal degradation. Since I don't even have a DAC yet, maybe a little degradation is no big deal - its not like I've got excellent quality sound straight out of the Mac Mini jack anyway. But then what about once I get a DAC?

 

(2) Another idea - regarding my DAC search, I could consider only those with two sets of audio outs - one to the TV and one to the Stereo. Would that work? This way I would also have the TV / Stereo option for other digital sources plugged into the DAC, like a Blue Ray. I guess my concern here is the lack of DAC's that meet this criteria. I figure there is probably a reason - maybe it is a bad design idea and splitting the signal is going to reduce quality no matter what?

 

(3) Lastly, I was thinking that maybe after I get a DAC... any USB or Firewire DAC... I could do USB or Firewire from my Mac Mini to the DAC to the Stereo, and then still come out of the Mac Mini headphone jack to the TV. The problem I foresee with this is having to go into the MIDI settings and flip back and forth between the two audio outputs. Am I right? Is there a way to turn on and leave on multiple outputs in the Mac OS?

 

Any advice is appreciated as I am sure I am not the first person to have encountered this dilemma! Thanks.

 

EatMoreCarrots[br]Home: Mac Mini & Drobo > Still shopping for DAC > Rogue Audio 99 Pre & M180 Mono\'s > B&W 803D\'s[br]Work: 13\" aluminum MacBook & iTunes > Dared MP5 USB tube integrated > Grado SR225\'s

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Some tvs have an audio out that you could route to your system. Its more or less like a "Y" adapter or pass through. I guess that could be a temp solution until you find your dac.

 

Jesus R

www.sonore.us

 

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Hey Jesus - Good point about the TV audio out. I thought about it after seeing your post, but that would require me to have the TV on at all times to listen to music.

 

It seems like the best way to do this would be to use the two analog outs on the DAC. Usually DACs with two have balanced and unbalanced. I don't have any balanced connections though so I have to use some XLR > RCA adaptors. I'm sure those exist, right?

 

My question is this, on DACs with both balanced and unbalanced audio outs, are both output sets always on / active? Or does using one override the other putting me back at square one?

 

Given this criteria, and that I'd like a DAC with no volume control, does anyone have a DAC recommendation? I'll likely be using the USB from my Mac Mini - I want a DAC whose USB implementation will accept all wordlength / sample rates that my Mac Mini is capable of putting out. Which DACs will and won't do this?

 

EatMoreCarrots[br]Home: Mac Mini & Drobo > Still shopping for DAC > Rogue Audio 99 Pre & M180 Mono\'s > B&W 803D\'s[br]Work: 13\" aluminum MacBook & iTunes > Dared MP5 USB tube integrated > Grado SR225\'s

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I'm not 100% sure on this, but Apple OS X and Core Audio allow you to "create" a virtual Aggregated device - I think with this you can set the computer to output the same audio to two devices, e.g. internal soundcard and FireWire connected DAC.

 

I've never tried this so can't comment on quality - and you'll have to investigate a bit more yourself how to do it.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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1) Some tape loops in pre-amps work when the amp is off. You could route the signal to the pre then to the tv.

 

2) What price range are you thinking of for your dac? The only high quality solutions that offer all the wordlength/ sample

rates are firewire or PCI. These range in price from less expensive to very expensive.

 

3) None of the major USB dacs (Ayre, Wavelength, Empirical, Bryston, etc.) will do USB at 24/192.

 

4) XLR to RCA adapters are widely available even in cable form. In my experience, both outputs on a dac are active.

 

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Hey Mr. C -

 

Thanks for mentioning the tape out option. I hadn't thought of that. I'll check tonight to see if those work on my pre without the unit having to be on. I'm not going to get my hopes up though.

 

As for DACs, I'm really open as for price range - I'm willing to wait and save a bit longer for the right one. And I do appreciate the note that none of the major USB DACs will do USB at 24/192. I knew USB was limiting in some cases, but I didn't realize it was all cases. However, I am also limited by my Mac Mini - I understand that Mac Mini's only output up to a certain resolution regardless of optical, Firewire or USB. SO, so long as my DAC choice doesn't further limit my resolution potential, I'm ok.

 

Does anyone know the max resultion you can get out of a Max Mini? Which USB DACs will accept (through the USB) at least what the Mac Mini can put out?

 

EatMoreCarrots[br]Home: Mac Mini & Drobo > Still shopping for DAC > Rogue Audio 99 Pre & M180 Mono\'s > B&W 803D\'s[br]Work: 13\" aluminum MacBook & iTunes > Dared MP5 USB tube integrated > Grado SR225\'s

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Am I missing something? EDIT: OOPS, looks like I Was missing something, and should have 'found' it before posting. I missed the part about not wanting to listen via the big rig. Yikes!

Those must be come good speakers in your plasma. :)

 

This seems like a job for the preamp, rather than insist that a DAC have two sets of outputs.

 

Or maybe you just get a DAC that you run the audio through (for critical listening), but continue to rely on the Mac built-in output to route to the TV? If a DAC is not connected, the Mac will auto revert to built-in output (IME).

 

OTOH, my DAC has two sets of outputs, so maybe not much of a request after all?

 

clay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I'm fairly certain that the Mac Mini (OS wise) will output whatever sample rate the software will playback. The limitation you may be thinking of is the optical output is limited to 24/96 in OSX.

 

The two dacs that have made quite an impression on the Pro audio community are the Metric Halo ULN-8 as well as the Prism Orpheous. Both are reputed to be excellent and both connect via firewire which will handle 24/192. If you want to consider dacs with "legacy" inputs (non-usb/firewire) then you might look at the Berkeley Alpha Dac as well as the Pacific Microsonics Model Two. Both require a box that will convert PCI/USB/Firewire (pick your poison) to AES or SPDIF.

 

Those are some of the top offerings, but there are plenty others less expensive and more expensive.

 

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I remember reading on these boards that Mac Mini's were difficult to get high rest audio out of - I didn't catch that it was only regarding the optical output. Thanks for pointing that out.

 

As for the signal split, I my tape loop will not pass through signal while the pre is off. I could add / upgrade to an optional HT bypass... but it sounds like the best option would be to just run the Mac Mini headphone jack to my TV for general internet television... and then do the Firewire or USB to my Stereo.

 

Eloise mentioned something interesting:

"I'm not 100% sure on this, but Apple OS X and Core Audio allow you to "create" a virtual Aggregated device - I think with this you can set the computer to output the same audio to two devices, e.g. internal soundcard and FireWire connected DAC."

 

I'll give this a try but I think that even if this didn't work out so well, flipping the audio output in the OS would still give better results than looking for a solution in my DAC or pre-amp.

 

Thanks you guys.

 

 

EatMoreCarrots[br]Home: Mac Mini & Drobo > Still shopping for DAC > Rogue Audio 99 Pre & M180 Mono\'s > B&W 803D\'s[br]Work: 13\" aluminum MacBook & iTunes > Dared MP5 USB tube integrated > Grado SR225\'s

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I decided to get an apogee duo since firewire dacs on the mini seem to be the best way to go (though USB can be OK as well if you don't have need for the 24 bit 82 or 96 khz audio resolution).

 

So, I will have the same problem: 1 pair of outputs, but I want to send them to 2 systems.

 

I was wondering if it'll change the sound to use a high end y-adapter coming out of the dac to route the audio to both my music studio and my stereo.

 

Or, can you run the headphone out of the dac into a stereo?

 

Bruce

 

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