10 posts / 0 new
Last post
feeex's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: 28/02/2011 - 12:32
Posts: 8
Mac Mini connections

Hi guys,

We have a Mac Mini and are using it as a media server. It feeds audio and video out through USB into an Onkyo SR308 amp and then into some Monitor Audio RS6 speakers. The sound is decent but I'm never blown away in the way that I expected I should be. CD's are ripped as Apple Lossless files.

My question is, would things improve if I connected in a different way. I gather that the Onkyo amp has a built in DAC but would it make sense to send audio signals to an external DAC and/or amp and then to the speakers for listening to music at higher quality? If I were to do this, how does the video signal get transferred?

As you can probably guess, this is all quite new to me. The days of two channel audio were far more simple. I suppose I'm looking for advice on the most effective way of displaying video and listening to audio from a Mac Mini. I don't mind spending money to improve things!

Thanks in advance

 

ID.'s picture
Offline
Last seen: 4 hours 50 min ago
Joined: 22/02/2010 - 13:12
Posts: 1513
RE: Mac Mini connections

I'm pretty sure that by using USB (most likely HDMI as the receiver doesn't appear to have a USB connection, unless I've missed one on the front panel) you are sending a digital signal to the receiver's DAC. I couldn't say whether using a different connection would make a difference. I don't think there's anything to stop you from sending video by HDMI and music by optical connection.

You might want to keep in mind that it is a budget receiver, so may not be able to provide the sound quality you expect. There may also be settings you can use to optimize the receiver's 2 channel playback.

Stuff.

feeex's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: 28/02/2011 - 12:32
Posts: 8
RE: Mac Mini connections

Thanks ID.

I know that the receiver is pretty low end and will be swapping it out fairly soon but I wanted to check that I had my connections running correctly first. You're right, I am using HDMI to send both video and audio, not USB as I mentioned, so will splitting them have a positive effect?

I suppose my confusion is around being able to split the audio and video. From your comments, it's ok to send the two signals separately. If so, would the best option be to use the AV receiver for video connectivity and buy a new two channel amp for audio. We don't plan on having anything other than two channel sound.

I think I'm still confused! 

MajorFubar's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 week 6 days ago
Joined: 03/03/2010 - 00:01
Posts: 3556
RE: Mac Mini connections

As ID implied, I think you mean HDMI not USB. The sound-quality of lossless rips sent by HDMI to the Onkyo amp will be determined initially by the SQ of the DAC in the amp. If you're happy with the sound of your CDP plugged into the analogue inputs of the same amp, then it's a fair assumption you just don't like the sound of the Onkyo's DAC.

professorhat's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 week 6 hours ago
Joined: 28/12/2007 - 11:34
Posts: 11026
RE: Mac Mini connections

So you know, you can quite simply send sound via optical and video via HDMI from a Mac Mini (it's set in the System Preferences). This would allow you to send sound via optical to an external DAC.

If you're only having two channel sound, I'd recommend buying a stereo amp + external DAC (or a stereo amp with a built in DAC) rather than going for a new AV receiver. The only benefit you might be getting from the AV receiver is the ability to plug lots of sources into it via HDMI and then having a single HDMI cable to your TV. If you're not doing this, a stereo amp would definitely be better for your needs as more money is going into the things you need. You can then just run the HDMI from the Mac Mini direct to your TV.

The owls are not what they seem...

feeex's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: 28/02/2011 - 12:32
Posts: 8
RE: Mac Mini connections

Thanks everyone, this has been a great help.

We only have two inputs to the AV receiver, Mac Mini and cable TV. We want to run all sound through the MA speakers so I assume we will also need to take an audio out signal from the cable TV box. Video can go via HDMI in the same way as the Mac Mini. The AV receiver will then just be switching the video signals, the stereo amp would have to switch the audio signals. We use a Harmony One remote so programming would be fairly simple.

I really appreciate your response guys.

Thanks.

professorhat's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 week 6 hours ago
Joined: 28/12/2007 - 11:34
Posts: 11026
RE: Mac Mini connections

No problem - probably worth just re-iterating if you're going for a stereo amplifier, in order to get the best sound from your Mini Mac, you'll need to either get one which has a DAC built in (which is quite rare even these days), or you'll need to get an external DAC to perform the digital conversion from the optical out to an analogue signal. DACs come in various prices, so would recommend reading a few reviews and going for a few auditions!

You could run an analgoue output from your Mini Mac direct in to any stereo amplifier using a standard 3.5mm to RCA phono cable, but this won't give you the best results.

The owls are not what they seem...

feeex's picture
Offline
Last seen: 1 year 1 month ago
Joined: 28/02/2011 - 12:32
Posts: 8
RE: Mac Mini connections

Thanks again.

So I'm thinking something along the lines of a Cyrus amp (possibly integrated DAC) and/or possibly the Arcam rDAC. That should shift things up a few gears!

Overdose's picture
Offline
Last seen: 5 hours 49 min ago
Joined: 08/02/2008 - 18:23
Posts: 3570
RE: Mac Mini connections

Before spending any more money, have you read through the user manuals to make sure that all the settings are as they should be?

Also, you could try using the Mac mini optical output into the receiver to see if that makes a difference. As suggested before, this can be set up in Settings and Utilities > Audio MIDI Setup on the Mac.

sirclive's picture
Offline
Last seen: 11 months 3 weeks ago
Joined: 09/08/2013 - 20:32
Posts: 5
RE: Mac Mini connections

For the hell of it try analog out. It sounds very good on my system ive got an old g4 no digital out

Log in or register to post comments