Mac mini Sound Control - HDMI

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Drezin, Jan 18, 2011.

  1. Drezin macrumors member

    Sep 9, 2010
    My father just got a Mac Mini (first mac) and is using it connected to a TV through HDMI.

    The problem is that we can´t control the sound neither on the desktop icon (its grayed out) nor with the keyboard (apple wireless keyboard).
    We can control the sound just fine with a TV remote control, so the problem isn´t on the TV itself and we can also change the volume on iTunes.

    Does anyone know how to solve this?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. satcomer macrumors 603


    Feb 19, 2008
    The Finger Lakes Region
    It has to do with HDMI. My 2010 Mac Mini (with Plex connect to HDTV)does the same with HDMI or Optical audio output (to my stereo). I guess it has to do with all the patents around HDMI.
  3. gdbleb macrumors newbie

    Jul 16, 2008
    I'll hazard a guess here.

    The "old fashioned" analog output would equate to "line out" on a pre-amp and you would increase the volume on the pre-amp (mac mini) which would increase the voltage to the amplifier and thus increase the volume of sound coming from the speakers.

    With a digital audio signal (HDMI or audio optical fiber O/P) there may not be a signaling capability for volume so the mini "blanks out" those controls as you observed. I have the same experience but I never took the time to research it. Just used the volume control on the TV or the receiver.

    Smarter folks will correct me or elaborate.
  4. fa8362 macrumors 65816

    Jul 7, 2008
    You can't control it via the computer. HDMI output level is fixed, like a CD player or other component that doesn't have variable output. Just use the TV volume control.
  5. PiroPhosphoric macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2010
    VLC can control volume

    With VLC you can control the volume of the output audio going through HDMI, up to 400% over original sound.
    I can do it with the magic mouse, for example, but keyboard control is also possible.

    So, there are more questions than answers.
  6. SolRayz macrumors 6502a


    Jul 5, 2007
    Ft. Lauderdale
    I'm bumping this thread because I too would like an answer to this puzzling question...or someone gracious enough to share some terminal commands to enable this.;)
  7. epmacman macrumors newbie

    Aug 1, 2011
    bumping this old thread, trying to control the entire system sound and not just individual players(itunes, vlc), I tired sound source, but that doesnt work either. Any workarounds?

  8. Mr.C macrumors 601

    Apr 3, 2011
    London, UK.
    As far as I'm aware there are no work arounds. I also have my Mini connected via HDMI and cannot control the system sound directly on the Mini. The only way I can do it is through my surround sound receiver as my Mini is connected to it with HDMI.
  9. shortcut3d macrumors 65816

    Aug 24, 2011
    The 2011 Mac Mini volume control works under Windows 7 x64 in bootcamp. However, the volume is extremely low. Fortunately, my Sony XBR has individual input volume compensation. Sadly, the Samsung does not. I'd be interested to know if there is a way to boost the sound level as well.
  10. Oneman, Sep 12, 2011
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2011

    Oneman macrumors newbie

    Sep 1, 2011
    The HDMI port outputs a digital signal (for both video and audio), just like the optical audio output mini-jack. Like fa8363 above stated, HDMI has its audio output level fixed. Meaning that Mac OS X Core Audio simply outputs the sound that it receives from whatever application is sending the signal, and does not change its level. This is the same way a Blu-ray/DVD player/AV receiver outputs HDMI audio signals.

    It is possible to change the audio level on the source application e.g. iTunes, VLC, etc but not from the system volume control which is run by Mac OS X Core Audio, when outputting a digital audio signal (HDMI, Thunderbolt, miniDisplayport or optical audio output). That is the reason system volume control is inaccessible when a digital audio signal is output.

    If you want to use system volume control then you can connect the analog audio output mini-jack to your display, then go to system preferences>sound>output and select the headphone port for sound output, instead of the HDMI port.
  11. pechenie macrumors newbie

    Sep 30, 2011
    Brilliant explanation, it so common for iOS/Mac: "oh it's just impossible to implement".

    But how, I wonder, a particular application controls the volume of output signal, eh? :) If it is "just a digital stream" there is no chance to control output volume, how do they control it's own sounds? The answer is absolutely the same way as the audio driver could.

    It might be implemented absolutely the same way as any particular app controls it's output volume, so the whole system driver could control the volume of total output stream as well. The proofs of this statement are in the other OS like Linux and Windows. You actually CAN control the whole system output volume on HDMI programmaticaly in these OS.

    So, the conclusion is: it is the Mac OS X restriction to control the output volume level on digital outputs.
  12. adamtheturtle macrumors member

    Dec 5, 2011
    The way I've found is to have everything go through Airfoil, but it adds some delay.
  13. thatgreenvw macrumors newbie

    Nov 29, 2011
    On a similar vain, do the keyboard volume controls work with usb speakers?
  14. frazhna macrumors newbie

    Dec 27, 2011
    not just an HDMI issue

    My monitor has 2 HDMI inputs and it has an analog audio output, so I plug my speakers into that output and my mac mini into HDMI 1 and my PC into HDMI 2. When I switch inputs on the monitor, it switches the audio for me also. The monitor does not have any audio inputs besides HDMI, so it cannot switch audio for me unless I use HDMI audio.

    I am having the same problem as everyone else with my mac mini. If I plug my speakers directly into the analog line out on the mac mini, I can control the volume with the volume keys on the keyboard, but if I send the audio out through the HDMI, the volume keys don't change the volume, and I can't even change the volume using the volume control in the banner at the top of the screen.

    I know that HDMI isn't causing the problem because I am able to change the volume on my PC using the keyboard buttons when I send the PC audio through HDMI. It is clear that when using the HDMI output you can't change the volume on the mac mini, but that is just because that is how Apple implemented it.

    I wonder if there is some kind of setting that could fix this, or if Apple could update the software to make it work.
  15. imwy2cool macrumors newbie

    Sep 12, 2012

    This may not work as seamless on the Mac Mini. I have the same problems as described above, but I'm using a Macbook Pro. So, this may not work exactly as above.

    This is currently a free solution (as of Sep, 2012), and it has worked nicely for me. I downloaded and installed an app called Soundflower. Soundflower allows you to change the sound output source. Now, I can be connected to my HDMI TV and control my sound with the built in sound controls.
  16. pabvid macrumors newbie

    Jan 6, 2013
    Soundflower worked for me (MacMini 2012, OSX 10.8, apple wireless keyboard). Thank you!
  17. SoCalReviews, Feb 7, 2013
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2013

    SoCalReviews macrumors 6502

    Dec 31, 2012

    I also use HDMI to a Samsung TV/Monitor and have this problem on my mid-2011 base model Mac Mini of not being able to control the software sound controls that are greyed out in OS X Mountain Lion. I have to use the Samsung TV/Monitor remote or TV buttons on the monitor to control the sound level. I know that there are a number of restrictions that audio/video and computer manufacturers have to implement by default in their devices that use HDMI output. I like what I am reading so far about this solution to use Soundflower. :)
  18. paulrbeers macrumors 68040

    Dec 17, 2009
    What everyone needs to understand is that it isn't an "issue".... HDMI is a line level audio output. It is designed so that the same "volume" is given whether you plug it into your TV or your receiver and that the audio device (again your tv or receiver) controls the volume. What applications like Soundflower and VLC do is artificially raise or lower the volume using software. Frankly, I think you should control volume with the device that outputs the volume and not the device that just sends the audio signals. Even devices that have their own volume, I usually set to about 75% and let my TV's and or Receivers do all the volume control. In the end they (tv's and receivers) are usually better at volume control than any software hack.
  19. VoR macrumors 6502a

    Sep 8, 2008
    Some people might view it as an issue though, because (as has been mentioned) he can achieve what he's after in both Windows and with a 3rd party application.

    Of course, these digital outputs are line level and it's best for quality to not mix volumes multiple times - but, there's no reason there can't be a master volume control on hdmi / spdif...
  20. nextdimension macrumors newbie

    Mar 9, 2007
    My beef is that the Apple Remote is useless for controlling volume. There is no settings app for the Apple Remote so that it controls the iTunes or current app's volume slider and not the system volume. However, the Remote app on iOS works fine at controlling a Mac's iTunes volume.
  21. Designed4Mac macrumors 6502


    Jan 6, 2013
    I Wish I Knew
    Try using Boom. Not free but worth the 4.99 IMO. This works for me.

    Once installed, go to system preferences, sound, then click on the HDMI type,while you have something playing through your TV and viola you'll have sound coming through the HDMI and out of your TV.

    And you can also control the sound with the built in control as well as having an an equalizer and volume boost.
  22. IarcadiaI, May 28, 2013
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013

    IarcadiaI macrumors newbie

    May 28, 2013
    Soundflower to the rescue

    I have previously had this problem while converting a media center from Windows to Linux, however I had not expected it from my wife's brand new $2000 mac mini.

    I asked about it at a local Apple re-seller while buying a mini displayport vga adapter, and the clerk told me it was "inconceivable!". Maybe he watched too much "Princess Bride" as a kid, but he wasn't very convincing, so I ended up here while looking it up.

    I just installed Soundflower, and it works very well. It took a little fiddling, to make it work. As I remember, you have to set sound to go to Soundflower in system settings. Also I had to get it from - the first dmg I downloaded would not install.

    Thank you imwy2cool - this really is an issue, as more and more screens come out with only hdmi connections. This was driving me to distraction.

    After using SoundFlower for a while I have noticed that it often crashes and tends to distort the sound quality rather badly. I also tried Boom, which enables the volume control in OSX, but dosn't actually do anything - regardless of controls, volume is either 0% or 100+%. I am still looking for the right solution.
  23. heavymetals macrumors newbie

    Nov 29, 2012
    I used the $1.99 app download for volume control and it works with the optical output, so it should with the HDMI.
  24. jmhart macrumors regular

    Jun 14, 2012
    Specifically, OS X outputs a PCM audio stream detailed here. The only exception to this is if you are passing through a Dolby Digital (AC3) or DTS audio stream from a media player in which case the PCM stream is superseded.

    In the end, the only volume control you're going to get will be altering the audio data before it's sent over HDMI which can cause undesirable side effects. With VLC for instance yes you can alter the volume which in turn simply applies gain to the audio data, but eventually that will just lead to distortion and clipping. Using a 3rd party app to lower the volume simply compresses the waveform which in turn reduces the resolution of what's actually being played.

    In conclusion, if you want the best possible sound do not use software to attempt to control the volume of a PCM audio stream. You want to apply volume changes after the data has been converted to a analog signal (what you actually can hear) which means using the TV or audio amplifier/receiver volume control.
  25. heavymetals macrumors newbie

    Nov 29, 2012

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