MacMini audio out - Optical-S/PDIF?

Discussion in 'Mac mini' started by Giuanniello, Nov 20, 2016.

  1. Giuanniello macrumors regular

    Giuanniello

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2012
    Location:
    Capri - Italy
    #1
    Hi all,

    I was wondering if the audio out of the Mini is analog or digital, am a bit confused from the description out of the Apple Store page, by sight it looks like a common mini jack, I am fantasizing about to get a mini to make of it a sort of media center for music (a pity that iTunes doesn't play FLAC), my upgraded mid 2007 Mini's specs about audio out say "Audio Out 1 - 3.5-mm analog/optical combo jack", what does that mean, how can I get the optical out to give the signal to an eventual DAC?

    Thank you
     
  2. palebluedot macrumors 6502a

    palebluedot

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2008
    #2
    Not sure about the current Minis, but my Mini from 2013 has optical audio out through the 3.5mm jack. You need to buy a mini-TOS link to optical audio/TOS Link cable. It plugs into the 3.5mm jack like a normal headphone cable.

    I am actually outputting optical audio from my Mini into my PC and outputting the sound to speakers, so I can listen to music from my Mac Mini while I game on my PC.

    The only thing to keep in mind, and a scary thought, is that Apple may kill TOSLink on any future Mini. They removed it from the MacBook Pro refresh, and that is arguably an essential tool for many professionals, so not sure how the Mini would survive keeping optical audio.

    Sad times for Apple lovers.
     
  3. vintagebob, Nov 20, 2016
    Last edited: Nov 20, 2016

    vintagebob macrumors member

    vintagebob

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2013
    Location:
    San Jose CA
    #3
    You can get digital audio out with the optical Toslink as described above or you can get the audio out through USB.

    I use a USB DAC in my dedicated audio system connected to a 2014 Mac Mini (Was a 2010 MM for awhile). I rip my CDs to AIFF for full Redbook CD quality.

    I believe you can use a "Music Player Shell" program like Pure Music over iTunes to play your FLAC files?

    Optical based DAC (I have no personal experience with this DAC, remember to the set audio output in the computer to stereo only)

    Cable
     
  4. Giuanniello thread starter macrumors regular

    Giuanniello

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2012
    Location:
    Capri - Italy
    #4
    Thanks to both of you, actually my idea was to stream the audio from iTunes to the AppleTV3 and from it to a DAC which I haven't bought yet and then to my Audio Research SP9 analog preamp because, at the end, my CD player broke and playing through iTunes is so much more efficient rather than picking another CD or another record (yes, got also a beautiful turntable).
    I think for the above a DAC to which to input the optical out from the ATV3 would solve the problem but then I thought to go straight in through a Mini and skip the AirPlay and to get a used Mini for the purpose (my Mini doesn't have the HDMI out and I don't want to be forced to use a monitor since I would use the TV for that) and, of course, a DAC to convert the Mini signal straight to analog.

    By the way, Minis still go strong on the used market and refurbished is very difficult to find any if not the high end series which is not what I am looking for,

    In any case it's so very good to know the audio out is optical just in case, sure, could also convert the usb out which is another possible route.

    Again thank you so much

    Giovanni
     
  5. Chancha macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 19, 2014
    #5
    Pretty much all recent Macs that have a 3.5mm jack is capable of digital audio output, it is in S/PDIF signal but in the form of mini TOSLINK connector. The 3.5mm jack is double duty for regular analog in/out as well which is why most people are confused by this fact.

    I would second your thought on taking the direct optical output from the Mini, as all you use is iTunes and no need to go multi-channel / high sampling rate.

    Also bear in mind Airplay over Apple TV streaming has inevitable latency issues, and I believe it is limited to 44.1/48 Hz 16-bit (they may have updated Airplay ability but this was the case when it started). IMO Airplay is best reserved for case where you absolutely cannot wire a physical connection between your source and the receiver, or you want to play something off iOS devices over WiFi ad hoc.
     
  6. Tulani macrumors 6502a

    Tulani

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2012
    #6
  7. Giuanniello thread starter macrumors regular

    Giuanniello

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2012
    Location:
    Capri - Italy
    #7
    I downloaded some FLAC music I am reproducing through VOX on my MacBookAir and I gotta say that I can hear the difference between FLAC and the MP3s I have on iTunes so, so far, I might change my mind about the iTunes streaming (computer - AppleTV - DAC - preamplifier), still a good thing for casual listening but not so much if I want to enjoy some good music.

    Now given one day I will still get a DAC (will need at lease a couple optical ins to wire both the TV screen and the ATV and/or the PS3) I gotta find a solution to play FLACs, VOX so far not that bad but the interface is not as "friendly" as iTunes (even tho iTunes is not friendly at all any longer, each time they release a new update it gets worse and worse in my opinion).

    Thank you all for your contribution

    Giovanni
     

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