Audio Output (Line Out/Optical) on Mac Mini 2018?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by NightFox, Nov 14, 2018.

  1. NightFox macrumors 68020

    NightFox

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    #1
    Can anyone confirm whether the 3.5mm jack on the Mac Mini is purely a headphone jack as labelled, or is it also a proper line out (i.e. I can connect amplified speakers to it)?

    And, is it also an optical output? I know there's nothing in the spec that suggests it is, but neither was there any mention of it on my MBP spec yet that's a dual optical/analogue 3.5mm output jack.

    Thanks,

    Neil
     
  2. stratokaster macrumors member

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    Dublin, IE
    #2
    They removed this feature from all MBP models in 2016, I think they are also eliminating it across the whole Mac lineup.
     
  3. Chancha macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 19, 2014
    #3
    It is possible that your pre-amp / amplified speaker's input can deal with phones level, at macOS's max it is probably -4dB away from line level. Not sure about distortion though.

    Anyway you should be able to get a fair cheap DAC if you just need a line level output with barebone functions.
     
  4. NightFox thread starter macrumors 68020

    NightFox

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    #4
    Thanks, I guess not many people used the optical out anyway (especially as I don't think most people even realised it was there!)

    Yeah, I guess my monitors can probably live with some amplification - it's only for listening to music etc so I don't really need any pro functionality/quality, just something that doesn't sound distorted (or blow anything!). I just wondered if the output could be switched like I know some PC soundcards support automatically.
     
  5. Fishrrman macrumors P6

    Fishrrman

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #5
    You can connect analog speakers or audio-out to the headphone jack (as it's always been able to support).

    You CAN'T connect a digital cable to it -- the optical-out feature is no longer present.

    For optical out, go USB or use an HDMI audio "breakout box".
     
  6. solidify macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2018
    #6
    I hate to sound like a noob, but I am a little confused.

    If I buy a set of typical inexpensive computer speakers, should I not connect them to the headphone jack on the back of my new 2018 Mini? Do they need to be connected to line-level outputs only? Should I get speakers that use the USB port instead?

    Thanks for the clarification.
     
  7. Chancha macrumors 6502a

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    Mar 19, 2014
    #7
    I think the OP's usage is not typical like yours, he specifically want to get line level output which literally is just a "loud volume without distortion" output that's needed for certain pre-amplifing scenarios.

    If you get a typical pair of consumer speakers with 3.5mm jack and its own volume control, you can adjust both the macOS's digital volume in conjunction with the speaker's volume control to find the needed loudness balance without distortion, unless you have a fairly large room to fill the sound with.

    USB speakers are fine but not necessary for your case.
     
  8. F-Train, Dec 18, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2018

    F-Train macrumors 65816

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    #8
    Inexpensive speakers will connect either to the headphone jack or a USB-A port. The advantage of the former connection is that you won't lose use of one of the two USB-A ports, if that matters to you. You could also consider wireless speakers that connect via Bluetooth.
     
  9. Fishrrman macrumors P6

    Fishrrman

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    Feb 20, 2009
    #9
    Although bluetooth (as a connection scheme) may look convenient, I would avoid it due to:
    a. lower overall sound quality due to the bluetooth signal
    and
    b. possibility of EMI interference with the bluetooth signal (from USB3)

    So... use either an analog connection (to the headphone output jack), or USB speakers (direct digital connection to the Mini)...
     
  10. madrag macrumors 6502

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    Nov 2, 2007
    #10
    I'm facing the same problem, I finally migrated everything from my old Mini and was really sad to find out that my audio monitors don't work the same as they did with the 2012 Mini.

    The volume is about 30% less compared to the line-out.

    On topic, is there a solution to still use my analogue audio monitors with the Mini? (like some kind of an adapter?)
     
  11. F-Train macrumors 65816

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    #11
    What kind of analogue monitors are you talking about? Are they powered or unpowered? What connection do they use?
     
  12. madrag macrumors 6502

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    Nov 2, 2007
    #12
    M-Audio AV-30, Powered, connected via stereo RCA to a 3.5mm Jack.

    Worked great in the 2012 Mac, good sound.
     
  13. masterbaron, Dec 19, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018

    masterbaron macrumors 6502

    masterbaron

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    #13
    Since you've purchased and used the term "monitors" my guess is you can appreciate sound "un-colored" and full spectrum.- This can only be accomplished with a DAC now that there is no optical output to get the full content of the source. You can solve your connectivity issue and provide excellent listening quality with the addition of a DAC connected to USB output. Apple has stepped back again from the "pro-sumer" level. The headphone-out solution is not "pro" quality.
     
  14. madrag macrumors 6502

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    Nov 2, 2007
    #14
    That's true, I am seeking a better sound, even though I'm not a professional. The current sound is just not right anymore.

    What DAC should I be looking for? Do you recommend anything that might point me in the right direction?
     
  15. F-Train, Dec 19, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018

    F-Train macrumors 65816

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    #15
    Re your volume problem...

    As you may know, there is an app on your mini called Audio MIDI Devices. It's shown in the photo below. Have you connected your speakers and checked the level, in Audio MIDI Devices, for Channel Volume > Master Stream > Master?

    If the level is fairly close to 1, you should be getting perfectly good volume from your M-Audio speakers, tweaked by using the volume control on the speakers themselves. The thing is, you don't want Master to be too close to 1, because if you do that you may well cause distortion if you also use your speakers' volume control to increase the volume.

    As you can see in the photo, Apple has Master for the mini's internal speakers set at 0.957, or -1.394dB below the point where the speakers will clip. They will clip when Master's value is 1 and dB's value is 0.0.



    Screenshot 2018-12-19 at 2.54.03 PM.png
     
  16. madrag macrumors 6502

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    Nov 2, 2007
    #16
    Yep, I've been there, thanks for the suggestion though.

    The sound is really low, even changing the volume at the monitors and/or changing/testing the different volumes in the Audio MIDI Devices.

    I even installed the freeware Sound Control, which allows controling the volume from an HDMI screen (for example in a test that I've made, I tried that, but I bet the out of the screen is also only headphones and not line-out).
     
  17. F-Train, Dec 19, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018

    F-Train macrumors 65816

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    #17

    Beats me then. The way those speakers are designed, if your speaker connection is right, and if Audio MIDI Devices Master is turned up, you should have perfectly good volume range within the limits of those speakers.
    --- Post Merged, Dec 19, 2018 ---
    My understanding is that your current speakers retailed for about US$100. Whether you keep them or replace them, my assumption is that if you get a DAC you don't want to spend a large sum on one.

    Have a look at these two posts from another thread:

    https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/mac-mini-and-audio-24-bit-192khz.2158723/#post-26888620

    https://forums.macrumors.com/threads/mac-mini-and-audio-24-bit-192khz.2158723/#post-26893019
     
  18. solidify macrumors newbie

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    Dec 12, 2018
    #18
    F-Train, mine is currently set to .7. Should I raise it? .957?
     
  19. F-Train macrumors 65816

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    #19
    If you are talking about the mini's speakers, yes I'd raise it. 0.7 is about -10dB. There's no reason for Master to be that low. There's also no magic in 0.957. I'd suggest that you raise the level so that you're at -1.0 to -1.5dB.

    As a matter of curiosity, did your mini come with that setting? If so, it suggests that the setting varies between machines.
     
  20. solidify macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Dec 12, 2018
    #20
    Yes, that is how it came from the factory. And it is the Mac Mini Speakers. I assume that means the headphone jack and not the internet speaker?

    I actually use the speakers in my monitor so it shows another tab called DisplayPort. But none of those sliders are available to change. The monitor speakers are horrible so I will be buying a better set of computer speakers and was curious what level to set it to.
     
  21. F-Train, Dec 19, 2018
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2018

    F-Train macrumors 65816

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    #21
    Yes, the level you are seeing is for the mini's internal speakers.

    Like you, my monitor has speakers and the monitor has its own volume control. I don't have access to Audio MIDI Devices > Master (see photo below) and the mini's sound volume slider is greyed out for the monitor.

    Interesting that different minis come from the factory with different Master/dB values for the internal speakers.


    Screenshot 2018-12-19 at 4.20.29 PM.png
     
  22. solidify macrumors newbie

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    Dec 12, 2018
    #22
    Oh, ok. So when I get speakers and plug them into the headphone jack, that tab will appear. Makes sense now.

    Now that I look again, the Mac Mini Speakers setting is .71 which comes to exactly -10.0 dB.
     
  23. F-Train macrumors 65816

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    Apr 22, 2015
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    NYC & Newfoundland
    #23
    Yes, when you plug in speakers, there will be a new tab for them, just as there is in the photos for the headphones that I have connected to the jack at the moment.

    There is no reason at all for the internal speakers to be at -10dB, although it only matters if you use them. To my ears, they sound pretty awful :)
     
  24. madrag macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2007
    #24
    Thanks for the suggestions, I'll give it a look.

    As for the Audio Midi, one thing that I didn't get in your reply is that you're talking about the Mac Mini speakers? (at least in your screenshot). I connect to the audio out, which as we know is headphones out, and that's what shows in my Audio Midi setup.

    I normally use the volume of the Mac to control the volume of the audio, the audio monitors are with its volume at an optimal level (about 20% of its max) and the maximum volume of my MM2012 was extremelly loud, on the 2018 MM it is lowd but not as mutch (about 20/30% less).

    If I put the master volume of the headphones out of the Mini to the maximum, it's the same as doing it at the volume control, and it will be at its lowdests.

    BTW, turning the knob of my monitors to a higer volume just boosts it a bit, I even turned it to the maximum for the first time (and the volume at the Mac at about half) and it wasn't that lowd :(

    Is this normal or is my Mac faulty?

    Also, I am not 100% sure, but I have two displays, and when connecting one of them I seem to have noticed that the volume went down even more. Is this possible/related? (I coulnd't reproduce it again, but the volume does seem lower that it was when I first tried the Mac with the same settings).

    I've compared to the other Mini and it is like day and night.
     

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23 November 14, 2018