Do I need a Sound Card? (If so, which one)

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by l3lue, Nov 19, 2006.

  1. l3lue macrumors member

    l3lue

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    #1
    I'm looking to set up a good speaker system for my MacBook. A friend of mine (who generally knows what he's talking about when it comes to technology) has me convinced that I should go the route of "Home Theater in-a-box" such as the HT-S590 .

    He doesn't know much about macs though and said I probably need an external sound card that will connect between the MacBook and receiver. He also said look for a sound card "with digital output because it will sound better".

    Any audio experts out there have any suggestions about how I should hook up this system? (Do I need a sound card/which sound card... etc) Thanks.
     
  2. kzg macrumors member

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    #2
  3. Joony macrumors regular

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  4. l3lue thread starter macrumors member

    l3lue

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    #4
    Great, thanks!

    So, the MacBook is capable of producing 5.1 sound without an external sound card?

    And, how does this cable connect?... from the audio out on the MB right into the receiver?
     
  5. kzg macrumors member

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    #5
    Yep the mini end of the cable goes into the audio out and the other to the digital input on the receiver. Then you just select digital output in the sound preference pane. Thats it, pretty nice isn't it. :)
     
  6. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #6
    Keep in mind that the receiver (or powered speaker set) will have to decode the surround signal from the optical cable, so it must have both an optical cable input and a digital decoder. Also, not all software / media sources will play 5.1 -- someone can correct me if I am wrong, but I think pretty much only DVD movies can be played in 5.1 output.
     
  7. l3lue thread starter macrumors member

    l3lue

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    #7
    I don't really get this. Will the Onkyo receiver/speakers and the cable mentioned before accomplish this?
     
  8. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

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    #8
    While any current Mac will output to a home theater system over an optical cable, you could likely improve performance by going with one of the various M-Audio external boxes because you'll offload the audio processing.

    I've found in the past that the bare bones M-Audio sonica improved sound and allowed the main CPU to do what it needed to do better. It may not be as much of a performance improvement with dual core processors but I was using it with a dual processor system.
     
  9. CanadaRAM macrumors G5

    CanadaRAM

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    #9
    Good question. You had better check the specs on the receiver to make sure it has an optical (TOSlink) input, don't'cha think?

    The Features and Specifications web pages say it has 5 inputs but does not specify what type. In fact the specs on the Onkyo website are particularly useless. Pin this down, before you lay out money for any receiver.
     
  10. kzg macrumors member

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    #10
    I did a google search on this model and yes it does have optical connections. I guess I forgot to mention that in my last post. :rolleyes:
     
  11. l3lue thread starter macrumors member

    l3lue

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    #11
    Thanks to everyone for the advice. Here's what the plan looks like...

    Get the Onkyo Home Theater set as well as the aforementioned cable to connect the receiver to my MacBook.

    ...if I wanted to get a little bit better sound quality then I will also get an external sound card. The sound card will connect to the computer. The cable will then go from the cound card to the receiver.

    Sound about right?
     
  12. l3lue thread starter macrumors member

    l3lue

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    #12
    I went to my preferences and I don't see this option. Is it only going to show up when my configuration is digital?
     
  13. 4nex macrumors member

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    #13
    I wouldn't bother paying for another soundcard, unless you see a cheapy on ebay or something, your unlikely to notice much if any difference from just using the on board digi out, particularly if its just for DVD sound and the like, as its not really going to be pushing most systems too hard. Don't let anyone sway you into buying fancy rip off cables either as there is always one. They'll tell you things like 'the difference was jaw dropping' and 'even my wife noticed' blah blah blah. They're a bit of a joke around the audio community, its funny but very rapidly gets tiresome. The differences, if any, aren't worth worrying about, much less wasting shed loads of wedge on.
     
  14. Whiteapple macrumors regular

    Whiteapple

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    #14
    an optical signal is an optical signal. What is jaw dropping is the quality of the cable (distorsion or not), the length of this one, and most importantly, the receiver/decoder. It's like Jpeg and RAW on DSLRs. It's the receiver who "decides" what quality you get. In the case of digital cameras, it's the same thing. JPEG has been processed, where RAW is close to the absence of processing.

    Why am I saying that? Because what is jaw dropping, like you say is the quality of the processing (and of your speakers). Badly decoded sound will sound like dog escrement on the best speakers of the world.

    FWIW Onkyo is Good. I like the brand.

    Don't buy cheap stuff and you're set, except the expensive-design stuff like Bang&Olufsen, and Bose to a certain extent, which sound like **** and are not worth the bucks.

    Good luck
     
  15. emotion macrumors 68040

    emotion

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    #15
    Maybe I;m missing something here but the MBP, and the MB I suppose, only output a stereo signal (whether that be analogue or digital). Not 5.1.

    Am I wrong?
     
  16. emotion macrumors 68040

    emotion

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    #17
  17. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #18
    Yes - it'll pass through 5.1 audio data through the optical out.
     
  18. l3lue thread starter macrumors member

    l3lue

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    #19
    Thanks to everyone who has replied.

    After listening to you and doing research on the web, the MacBook is a lot more powerful (when it comes to audio) than I thought it was. The sound card that I thought I might need is absolutely not necessary. The MacBook is capable of supplying a 5.1 digital sound into the receiver, via the right cable. This is all my setup is going to need. Again, thanks to everyone for the advice.

    Here is a great article I found ... CLICK HERE
     
  19. Killyp macrumors 68040

    Killyp

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    #20
    If you really meant a 'good' speaker system, then those sub/sat systems are not what you want. Sure, they sound okay, there's plenty of bass and it plays quite loud, and it's generally quite clear, but it's by no means hifi.

    If you're prepared to pay a little bit more, you'd be much, much, MUCH better off with a decent pair of stereo speakers.

    I swear by the Bowers & Wilkins DM303, there is literally nothing under £500 that overall sounds as great as these speakers, amazing really considering they only cost £180. Even the next models up in the B&W range aren't as good!

    Seriously, the home theatre in a box system will be cool, but you'd be really REALLY amazed just how much better the B&Ws are, believe me, I've spent a lot of time listening to speaker/amplifier systems including home theatre in a box at semi-budget costs, and this is the best route IMO...
     
  20. Whiteapple macrumors regular

    Whiteapple

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    #21
    It sounds like he just wants to get 5.1 from his Macbook.

    Of course, what you suggest if by far the best solution, but I do not think that this is what he needs. Besides, he could buy cheaper speakers, like Mission speakers, which are incredible, as well. I myself am using active speakers (Yamaha monitors and Sub) now, and I must admit that a Hi-Fi solution is way better than anything on the market (meaning that my active speakers sound like ****). The Onkyo system will pretty much be the same.

    Dammit, Long Life to the Hi-Fidelity. **** those active/integrated systems.

    KillyP is it possible to know what receiver/amplifier you use?

    I myself use a pair of Missiom M31i (old) and Marrantz stereo tuner. Sounds awesome for culture broadcast on the radio...;)
     
  21. 4nex macrumors member

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    #22
    Sorry but that just isn't true at all, you need to go and listen to some more gear. Besides, you could probably pick up some old Tannoys for under £500 on ebay which would piss on most things you could buy for most prices. The guy wants 5.1, stereo isn't 5.1. If he wants his DVDs with the rear channels, theatre in a box is a good no-fuss solution.
     

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