iMac 5.1 external audio capabilities

Discussion in 'iMac' started by iMikeT, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. iMikeT macrumors 68020

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    Jul 8, 2006
    Location:
    California
    #1
    I like how the iMac has decent built-in speakers considering that it's an all-in-one. However, I'm looking to get external speakers for my iMac.

    Originally, I was fine with getting a 2.1 system just to get better sound quality compared to the built-in speakers but I think I will go all the way and get a 5.1 system.

    So I'm not necessarily looking for recommendations for a 5.1 system but I do want to get some clarification about the iMac's external audio capabilities.

    I know that if I plug in any external speakers into the iMac, that I will get stereo audio out of the 3.5mm headphone jack. And I know that the iMac has optical out in the same jack. However, after looking through Apple's site for tech specs, it doesn't say anything about being compatible with 5.1 systems.

    Ultimately, what I'm asking is, is the iMac truly capable of delivering 5.1 audio? If it is, what exactly will I need?
     
  2. 88 King, Oct 18, 2011
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2011

    88 King macrumors 6502

    88 King

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2011
    Location:
    London, UK
    #2
    I think you will need active speakers to get 5.1 out of the imc.

    Fore example, any sound system in TV/audio shop will have active speakers so you can connect it via imc's optional out (3.5mm headphone jack).

    On the otherhand, 5.1 speaker systems designed for computers are generally passive, and need the computer to decode the audio. With those connected to the imac, you will only get 2 speakers working unless you have a DAC/amp in between.

    For example, my current setup goes like this:

    IMac --> external DAC --> headphone amp and active 5.1 speakers.
     
  3. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2010
    #3
    iMac has line out only so you need a 5.1 amp and speakers or as stated above a DAC with 5.1. I'd actually go with the DAC because the sound straight out of computers is a little lacking. OK, a lot lacking.
     
  4. iMikeT thread starter macrumors 68020

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    California
    #4
    Thanks for the replies, it's helping a lot in understanding how to get an optimal audio set-up with the iMac.

    A question, what's the difference between a DAC and an 5.1 optical converter? Or are these one in the same?
     
  5. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2010
    #5
    A DAC is usually higher quality conversion (Pro Audio). The converter does generally one thing and uses inexpensive materials to get you there. Wiring is essential. The costs are polar opposite as well. A good DAC may set you back 500.00+. Some in the 6000.00 range or higher. The 5.1 converter generally does not break 100.00. If you just want to hear 5.1 on DVD's or something save the money and get the converter but if you love quality audio in all it's forms I would spend a little more on a great DAC that you can run all things audio in and out of your computer.
     
  6. iMikeT thread starter macrumors 68020

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    #6

    As much as I love great quality audio, I'm not enough of an audiofile to justify dropping that kind of cash on a DAC, well at least for everyday use computer speakers. I do however, want something better than the built-in speakers found in the iMac. It appears that I'll be getting the converter.

    At this point, do I simply look for 5.1 system that will take optical in or do I have to find a standalone box then connect speakers to that?
     
  7. derbothaus macrumors 601

    derbothaus

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2010
    #7
    Either one. Find the right price point and flexibility. I don't have a 5.1 system and I have an awfully expensive Metric Halo ULN-2 that I use for recording and it also happens to have extremely great DA and tons of connections so I sort of stopped looking into other options.
    If it was me I'd look into 5.1 receivers that take optical. At least the sound will be clean:)
     
  8. iMikeT thread starter macrumors 68020

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    Jul 8, 2006
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    California
    #8

    Thanks. Though, like I said before, I just can't justify purchasing more than I really need to when it comes to every day use PC speakers. I'm not enough of an audiofile or an audio professional to do so. A home theater system, definitely, but not so much for something like this.

    With that said, I am having a lot of difficulty finding a decent 5.1 system with an optical input/a standalone optical converter and 5.1 system. The best system I have found is the Logitec Z906. The reviews for the Z906 however, have not been stellar. And from the looks of it, it is also way overpriced.
     

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