Mac Pro's Audio Options

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by drrich, Feb 24, 2009.

  1. drrich macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2009
    #1
    I purchased a Mac Pro last Thursday after running a G4 350 MHZ machine for far too many years. But it had been such a good machine I focused on it and took my eyes off of technological progress. I thought the PCI buses in the Mac pro were just faster versions of the kind of PCI in the G4.

    The G4 was outfitted with a Revolution 7.1 sound card from M Audio and that fed into a Creative 6.1 speaker system (with internal amp). The sound was amazing.

    It was my hope that I'd be able to transfer this card to the Mac Pro and discover even higher quality sound. But before I even tried plugging it in I did some checking and found that PCI Express is an entirely different technology than PCI. M-Audio has stopped making the Revolution even though they still have drivers for OS X 10.5 (for folks who put this OS onto machines with the original PCI slots, I suppose).

    So now that this dream has shattered I am wondering what are my options for being able to hear great sound from my new computer. The internal speaker is OK for the beeps and buzzes produced by an OS that wants to get your attention but it sounds horrible when you're trying to watch a surround sound DVD.

    I'd like to hear from any Mac Pro owners who have found a way to make their computers deliver high quality sound. I know the Mac Pro has optical in and out but have no idea how I could make use of this other than to plug into a rather high priced surround amp. Still I'm open to new ideas and new ways so please let me know the options.

    Thanks in advance.
    Richard
     
  2. akdj macrumors 65816

    akdj

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #2
    External sound card. USB out. There are a ton of different types, I use Edirol FA 101 and UA 25 (FW/USB), a bit on the spendy side. But, I also use a Behringer U-Control unit on the road for shows with the MacPros. This one is only $30. USB out. Has optical and analog.

    Yep, that's how you do it. Doesn't have to be a high priced amp though. Especially with everyone wanting HDMI switching right now, you can grab some excellent deals on 5/7.1 receivers. Also, may of the speakers specifically made for computers have amps (processing) built in already.

    If you do go with a USB or FW you will eliminate any noise in the computer from using the on board sound card. This pertains to your desire to have "quality" sound from your computer:)

    Honestly, I have purchased a dozen different sound cards for my Macs (we do a ton of mobile production), and my favorite is the $30 Behringer. Low noise floor, dependable, no drivers, plug and play, cheap and durable. It doesn't feel too rugged, but I have never replaced one (we have 4).

    Good Luck

    Jer
     
  3. drrich thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2009
    #3
    AKDJ,

    Thanks for this informative response. I'll do some checking on the Behringer. At this time my local area computer stores are in sad shape. Several have closed. So I may need to check out on-line sources.

    My real hope was to find something that would provide output into the Creative lnspire 6.1. The Revolution 7.1 card could be made to do that. But your response makes it look like the way to go is to consider the Revolution 7.1 a victim of technology change and move on.

    If you're using the Mac Pro for mobile production then there must be a way to get some high quality sound in my computer room again.

    Thanks again.

    DrRich
     
  4. slover1011 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2009
    #4
    I'm looking to purchase a Mac for my home media center soon (using EyeTV for recording and Plex for viewing). My Onkyo receiver has zone 2 which only accepts analog audio so I'm looking for an option which will let me output both 5.1 digital AND 2 channel analog simultaneously (having a latency option is a plus but not mandatory).

    I've researched and have found both the Behringer and M-Audio products as options, but both have problems. For the Behringer I contacted their support and was giving the following response:

    Yes, the analog and digital outputs can be used at the same time. However, the same stereo signal will be routed to both outputs. There is no way to have a separate routing for the analog and digital outputs. The UCA202 is only capable of 2 channel input and 2 channel output. The digital input will only output a stereo 2-channel digital signal. The Toslink jack carries an S/PDIF signal which can be connected via a fiber optic cable.

    For the M-Audio Transit USB device, it claims to be able to output both digital and analog simultaneously, but if it's true PCM digital then one would get static on the analog side.

    So it seems that neither of these are options. I've considered getting a Gefen digital audio splitter, send one end of that to my receiver and send the other end to the Gefen D/A converter and that analog out to my zone 2 input. This is a pricey option at $79 for each of the two pieces.

    Are there any other options out there? I've yet to buy my system but I'm going to pull the trigger as soon as the new systems are released (or build a Hac if it takes too much longer).

    Thanks much!
     
  5. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

    Joined:
    Jun 3, 2006
    Location:
    One Nation Under Gordon
    #5
    Not possible.

    5.1 digital passthrough is a feature of the built-in soundcard but can't be run in parallel with 2-chan sound from an external.

    What you need is a dolby-understanding plug-in card which does that, but (once again correct me if I'm wrong) there are no such external cards for OS X.

    It's either 5.1 optical passthrough on the internal, stereo through anything else...

    ...or getting hold of the original 6-channel soundtrack that you can run through Pro Tools, etc to a pro soundcard while watching the movie :p

    Your best bet is to make an external Dolby decoder do the task of making available a stereo mix as well as the 5.1 rendering, and work exclusively off the Pro's optical.
     
  6. MoSo macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2009
    Location:
    New York
    #6
    Try a DAC

    Many audiophiles use computers to feed DACs that connect to their audio system. There is a number of companies producing very high end units that should be able to achieve the audio quality that you want (although perhaps not a price you like). You can feed them either through USB or an optical connection, and they don't require an upgraded soundcard. Try googling "Benchmark Media DAC" or "Wavelength Audio DAC" to get a sense of some of the higher-end options. (Disclaimer, I am a happy owner of the Benchmark Media DAC with the USB option, and it works wonderfully with my Mac Pro using a plain old USB connection.)

    Best,
    MoSo
     
  7. akdj macrumors 65816

    akdj

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2008
    Location:
    Alaska
    #7
    Benchmark truly does make a phenomenal product. Have have their DAC1 in my music room. That's a good recommendation. But again, EVERY home theater receiver from the past 7-8 years has a DD DAC built in/DTS as well as all of the 2 channel possibilities in the world, including Pure Direct in alot of them. DPLII(X) in some of the later models as well.

    You can get incredible deals on Craigslist of Ebay on non-HDMI receivers. If there is room around your system, consider this route. It also gives you an awesome choice for speakers for your computer. Most of these receivers also have CD-R or MD digital outputs for external recording digitally or via analog to a mixer if you were doing vinyl or cassette/tape archiving.

    Any questions, give me a call. Also, as I mentioned, there are Edirol (Roland) choices. They will get up into the 200-400 dollar neck, then Motu and others in the 500-1000 range. Lots of different ways of getting sound to go both ways, digitally and analog through the same box at the same time (Recording a band, while supplementing their mix with FX, separate monitor mix, video, etc.).

    It's a BIG world, be warned. Especially if you get into the recording world. Musiciansfriend.com (Owned by guitar center, I believe) is a great place to shop. Amazon as well as zzounds.

    Good Luck

    Jer
     
  8. slover1011 macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2009
    #8
    Excellent! Thanks for the great advice. I've also heard back from Gefen and they suggested that their DAC will do what I need (I'll check out these other options as well). Thanks again!
     

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