Balanced Audio in Mac Pro?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by cineapple, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. cineapple macrumors regular

    Nov 7, 2007
    I have a 8-core mac pro, with the stock set-up, but I just purchased some KRK speakers that have balanced inputs including TRS inputs and XLR connections.

    I was wondering, is the audio card on the mac pro balanced, and what is the best way to hook up these speakers? Before these speakers, I usually just ran my old computer monitor speakers out of the speaker 1/8" connection. There is another connection that has two arrows around a circle, what is that connection for?

    If the Mac Pro doesn't provide balanced audio, what is the best way to get it balanced? Should I get a sound card, or go through an audio mixer (is that even possible with a stock Mac Pro?) Ok, I think that is all the questions!

  2. Drumjim85 macrumors 68030


    Oct 7, 2007
    DFW, TX
    It is not balanced.
    And if you respect your sound quality what so ever, you should get a separate sound card. (or a D/A converter with optical input)
  3. cineapple thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 7, 2007
    I definitely want to give it some respect! What sound cards do you recommend? I also do a lot of video editing...
  4. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    In response to your questions:

    The second port you're asking about is a line-in jack. For sending audio from another source (note that this port is not powered, so you'll need to be going out from a powered source) into the Mac.

    To get your balanced audio, you'd need to use the optical audio out, get a Toslink cable into a mixer or box that has XLR or 1/4" outputs.

    There are very, very few soundcards available for Mac Pros right now. I very much doubt you're going to want to pay the price for the ones that are. Now, taking all of this into consideration, you can get a firewire mixing board for a decent price (a nice price if you're willing to buy used) which will do everything you want and much, much more.
  5. cineapple thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 7, 2007
    Do the firewire mixers have optical in? And what firewire mixers do you recommend?
  6. Sesshi macrumors G3


    Jun 3, 2006
    One Nation Under Gordon
    Very few soundcards available for the Pro :confused:

    If you feel the burning need to feed your monitors with a balanced output, get an external soundcard with a balanced output. There are reasonably low-cost (sub-$200) ones like this.
  7. Drumjim85 macrumors 68030


    Oct 7, 2007
    DFW, TX
    ya, that comment confused me to.

    there are hundreds ...
  8. gotzero macrumors 68040

    Jan 6, 2007
    Mid-Atlantic, US
    The internal sound card is not balanced. If that is all you are after, you could look into something like the Rane Balance Buddy, something that I use and love for certain applications. However, a basic sound card is probably cheaper than the balance buddy, and will end up with better sound because the balance buddy would still use the stock card.

    There are very few soundcards that will NOT work with the Mac Pro. Unless you are planning to work with surround, you have almost unlimited options.

    A simple firewire stereo out card will put you miles ahead of the internal sound.
  9. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    I was referring to internal soundcards. Few are PCIe, and of those, fewer still have mac support. Though, come to think of it, one of the capture cards might have XLR in/out via a breakout cable. And one could theoretically use an older PCI card with a PCI>PCIe converter.

    I tend not to think of it as a "card" when it's not in an expansion slot, when it's much bigger than a card, and connects by an external bus like firewire. Semantics, I know, but when somebody asks for a card for a mac pro, I think of PCIe. Either way, the internal cards are far more expensive than the plethora of external cards available.

    Firewire (or USB) mixers don't need optical in - they'll just send the audio as data down the bus, and bring everything on that connection through to your mixer, which will send it out through the XLR/TRS jacks. There are, as the others have pointed out, many of these to choose from, and just about all of them that have the ports you need will do the job quite well. Though if you have a need for it, a capture card might fill this need adequately as well. I don't know, as I've had neither the need nor the budget for a capture card at this point. I'm more than a little curious about them.
  10. scottlinux macrumors 6502a


    Sep 21, 2005

    OK there are a few websites that should get you started. :)

    Macs are used as the weapon of choice in most all major recording studios, mixing rooms, etc. So yes- there are a plethora of audio options for your Mac Pro.
  11. cineapple thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 7, 2007
    Thanks for all those who have chimed in and offered great advice.
    So, still trying to figure out exactly what I need. According to the posters below do I need to go through the optical or the firewire? Which is generally better?

    What is the best way to go out from my MacPro, into a mixer, then out through the XLR, or TRS connection? And when I play music through Itunes or any other program for that matter, does the Mac Pro automatically send the audio signal through the firewire and/or optical connection?
  12. Ploki macrumors 68020

    Jan 21, 2008
    with firewire you get a new digital clock master. you get an interface.

    with toslink you will get an extention of the Mac's builtin interface.
    i mean, its really up to you
  13. TheStrudel macrumors 65816


    Jan 5, 2008
    When you're playing music, or editing in final cut, if your mac is configured (takes 2-3 clicks), it'll go out via Toslink/Firewire.

    Everything I've read indicates that you'll get better audio out from your mixer (and more control, besides). What you can do with Apple's toslink port is very limited, and it would need to go out to a receiver for you to do more advanced things like decode dolby digital; a mixer can do that. I use a set of Logitech Z-5500s with the toslink connection, and it's very nice, but I don't think I can monitor surround sound in say, soundtrack with it. A mixer would let me. On the other hand, it would be more expensive for me to buy a mixer too, but since you already have these speakers and budget for one, I'd say go for it.
  14. cineapple thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 7, 2007
    So, the Mac Pro does have a Toslink Port?!? I see only Firewire I/O and the 1/4" out.

    It sounds like the way to go is firewire into a mixer, then out through XLR.

    I was actually looking at these mixers. Does anyone have experience with any of them?
    (looks like a great piece of equipment, but no XLR, or Firewire)
    (I would rather have the cheaper 10-channel version, but this has Optical I/O)
    (It is looking like this has everything I need, and the biggest bang for the buck)
  15. emt377 macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2008
    If you need the audio out to be clock synced to video or something else, like ad splicing, then use the optical out and an external decoder with the right interfaces.

    Otherwise get a USB/FW device. It won't clock sync, but also is one less source of clock jitter.
  16. hayduke macrumors 65816


    Mar 8, 2005
    is a state of mind.
    I'm not an audio expert and I suspect that other, similar to myself, might stumble into this thread. In which case, the following link might be helpful:

    Apparently all y'all aren't talking about left-right balance! :eek:
  17. cineapple thread starter macrumors regular

    Nov 7, 2007
    Forgive me if this is a silly/novice question, but what is ad splicing? And what would the external decoder be? If I used a mixer that has optical In and Out, wouldn't that decode?

    I WILL be primarily using the mixer for video editing, so what is the best method?
  18. ilinx macrumors newbie

    Dec 28, 2010

    Hi Cineapple,

    I know it's been a while since you posted this question, but I'm wondering what solution you came up with eventually. I'm about to buy a pair of KRK studio monitors for my Mac Pro, mainly to use while video editing, and was wondering the same thing about the best way to connect them in order to fully take advantage of their quality, but without having to spend too much money on an interface with lots of features I know I won't use. Am divided on finding something with an optical digital in and a XLR or balanced 1/4" TRS out or using something with a FireWire or USB connection (sync is important, but only to the frame, not sub-frame, so maybe the FireWire would be OK... unless it's like when you use a monitor connected to a VTR to monitor the video but not the audio and you get that lag between the two--even with compensating for that in the User Prefs I find it annoying).

  19. ekwipt macrumors 6502a

    Jan 14, 2008
    If you are going to be editing in Final Cut, I would skip the Audio Card and get a capture card.

    The good capture cards also have stereo outs to connect to Monitors (the audio type)

    The following cards are used by most Pro studios that i've come across:

    They're pretty much both companies flagship cards, so if it's a little xxx, check out the other cards on their websites.

    Theres also companies like Matrox that offer similar cards, which i haven't personally used but have looked at in the past

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