More audio outputs? (5,1)

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by Riku7, May 8, 2017.

  1. Riku7 macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    I'm on an early '08 Mac Pro 5,1. Is it possible to install more audio output ports? For the ideal system that I will gradually try to achieve, I would have the headphones out, + 3 other outs. So that's one output short. If it's possible, could you please suggest the correct component – the anatomy of a computer it still relatively new to me so I don't trust myself in identifying compatible components. :) When you already have the hardware, it's relatively easy to find teardowns and other illustrated guides.

    If you're about to suggest Bluetooth speakers, external audio interfaces or mixers, please see below. Otherwise, this doesn't need to be elaborated :)
    Q: Why not split by using a mixer?
    A: I'm doing this currently and it isn't ideal at all because it's fully manual. I have a small desktop mixer mostly for recording purposes, and it also serves as a physical volume controller for my main speakers which don't have one of their own. But the mixer is one more nasty looking device cluttering up the work area when it wouldn't necessarily have to be there; For the volume knob-less speakers I'd rather get a standalone volume controller. The mixer in between is one more electrical device plugged to the mains which contributes to heating and use of electricity, and it's one more device that has to be switched on and off in the correct order when I start/stop using the computer. Awkward.

    Q: Why can't it be an external device? Such as a USB/Firewire audio interface?
    A: Two reasons. One, because I'd rather not collect any more individual physical manually operated mains devices to the working area, if possible. Two, because when I'm about to start doing something I launch a 'context' that includes the automatic adjustment of multiple factors in the environment. For the audio output, this means that I want the switching of the audio output to be Applescript-commandable. You can't do this if the splitting is done by an external device that has a logic of its own.

    Q: Why not get some Bluetooth speakers?
    A: They DO seem to be taking over the market, a lot! But after reading a lot of reviews, for speakers, I can only find BT a major annoyance and a potentially short-lived fad: Bluetooth means software, which is one more thing that can malfunction, and if it does, the stuff today isn't really meant to be repaired, just disposed of. Some BT speakers have automated behavior which you can not change, one that can either be very annoying to you, or again, not work as it should: Speakers auto-shutdown after a certain amount of time; Speakers make a sound signal to indicate when they're on or off; Speakers can be paired with a device freely, meaning that other people can accidentally/purposefully connect to them without your consent. Speakers develop connectivity issues so that that the sound quality either isn't very good, it comes in and out, or you have to fight with the pairing.
    What can I say – I like simple, wired, personal speakers that only have one job. :) My main ones are decades old, work flawlessly, and don't have the "emotional problems" that "smart devices" can have.
  2. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    There is no such thing. 2008 is a 3,1 model.

    If you actually have a 5,1 (2010 or 2012 model years) or a flashed 4,1 (2009), then you probably also have audio out over the GPU's ports. You can either use an adapter to get audio out from them, or if your monitor has an audio out you can use that. For example both of my Dell monitors have stereo audio out.

    I don't understand your issue with USB audio devices. Most of the ones I've seen don't require power from mains as you state; instead they take their power from the USB port itself and they are quite compact. But if you absolutely cannot use USB devices, you can add PCIe sound cards which would of course be internal.
  3. LorenK macrumors 6502

    Dec 26, 2007
    Are you looking for a passive splitter? I was intrigued by your request, not knowing exactly why you would want multiple audio out (i send mine to a receiver for the stereo and for movies). I did find that there are lots of switched splitters, but here is one i found that has four outputs, but does not appear to be switched: INC&prdNo=11&blockNo=11&blockType=G11#

    It does both audio and video, but is RCA, not toslink.

    Good luck.
  4. Riku7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    Yes it's flashed, so the Mac now states that it is a '09 model when it technically and originally is '08. Sorry, I could've explained a bit better.

    My main one definitely doesn't because it specializes in color work instead of general multipurpose use.
    But I may eventually need to get a smallish TV for workflows that require more space, and that would probably be HDMI, which I assume that you're referring to, for becoming an additional audio out? At some point I had to employ a temporary setting in which I used this computer with nothing but a small HDMI TV and after some reading and playing around, managed to get the TV's built-in speakers to function as speakers as well. Wasn't plug'n'play but now that it works, should be fine with any possible future HDMI TVs. But, I wouldn't really want to spend money for a TV that has built-in speakers because they would be completely useless for me, thus, an unwise expense. Look this might sound silly but I've never owned a TV of my own because I've never needed one for the purposes that they normally are. So – do the HDMI ones thesedays have a stereo jack out so you could use the TV as an additional sound output from the computer while routing the sound to speakers of my choice? Or is it only if the TV has speakers of its own as well? The downside of this option anyway is that it would require that specific monitor to be on for the sound to work too, and this isn't ideal if I'm in fact only using the other display at that time. I'll have to draw some sketches to determine if it's a massive problem or not.

    As for USB, there's the fact that they clutter up the desktop at least, are possibly an overpriced option for what I'm trying to do unless I'd also find other use for them too. I'm already running out of USB ports and since they're not 3.0, it might be a bottleneck. As for USB 2.0, I do record audio and eventually would like to have an external audio interface to improve it but when I do, due to the bottleneck issue I'm pretty sure that it should then be firewire, not USB.

    I think a PCIe sound card might indeed be what I'm looking for. But I have no idea of how to identify the compatible component, and whether or not I will need some additional components in order to make it work. Any recommendations?

    I've also vaguely heard about a possibility to reverse signals of input and output ports but I'm not sure how difficult it is to do, is it safe, and is it possible with a Mac. Technically a microphone and a speaker are so similar devices that you can use a speaker as a microphone if you plug it in. For the ports then, there technically shouldn't be anything physically different between a line in and a line out, and it doesn't matter what device you plug in, so it's a matter of software for the computer to know which way to send and translate the signals in the ports.
    The problem with this, however, is, that I need my analog line in port for other purposes. But there's a Toslink in that I will not need for anything. But I have no idea of how the Toslink protocol works, so I don't know if a Toslink connected in / out signal is reversible even in theory. Any audio hardware nerds out there? :D Well this one is so hypothetical that it almost certainly will not be the seed of the solution.

    The problem with the external splitter is that I need to be able to integrate the switching of audio output to my already existing 'context' Applescripts. At the moment I'm already splitting my signals with a small desktop mixer but it isn't ideal because I have to manually power the devices on and off in tandem, rewire things and adjust volumes manually. For more details, see the 'spoiler' link in my first post, I put the "why not" details under that because I didn't want to make the post look like a heavy rant to process, in case someone had a direct answer to the question about internal outputs only. :)
  5. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    USB audio doesn't clutter up the desktop, it sits right in the USB port like a little adapter. And they cost less than $10 each, so I don't think that is a factor either.

    For PCIe, there are older Creative Sound Blaster models that you can buy which will work on Mac. Unfortunately the newer models don't support Mac, but that's reasonable considering Apple hasn't sold a computer with PCIe in many years. Here is a list from Creative for those models that they still support on Mac (up to El Capitan anyway):

    Yes audio does work over HDMI, but also DVI and DisplayPort as well. This only works on a 5,1 and with a specific graphics cards like the Apple 5770 and 5870. It is possible to use an enabler KEXT to make it work on other hardware, but that seems to be hit or miss. So I'd list this option as a "maybe". My Dell monitors all have a stereo audio out. Some monitors and TVs will have this and some won't, so it just depends on the model.

    By default, OS X will only want to send audio to a single audio out. Once you have multiple audio outs, you can use Audio MIDI Setup as a software mixer to control how and where you want the audio to go. Maybe this can even replace your hardware mixer setup?
  6. Yahooligan macrumors 6502a


    Aug 7, 2011
    There's no such thing as a 3,1 flashed to a 4,1 (And if there were that certainly wouldn't make it a 5,1).

    A 2008 is a 3,1, can't flash it to a 4,1. The hardware is completely different.
    A 2009 is a 4,1 which can be flashed to a 5,1.
    Native 5,1 are 2010 and 2012.
  7. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    Again, No such thing. The architecture is completely different between a 2008 3,1 cMP and a 2009 4,1 cMP. It is possible to flash a 4,1 to a 5,1 for purpose of using later model CPUs. Even possible to flash a 2006 1,1 cMP to a 2,1. But, no, CAN NOT flash a 3,1 to a 4,1.

  8. Morpheo macrumors 65816


    Feb 26, 2014
    Still not quite sure what your goal is exactly. You say your ideal situation would be "the heaphones out + 3 other outs". Does that mean you want to be able to switch from one output to another on the fly? Or do you want one audio signal on 4 stereo channels?
  9. Riku7, May 9, 2017
    Last edited: May 9, 2017

    Riku7 thread starter macrumors regular

    Feb 18, 2014
    On all of the 'no such thing' comments – sorry for the confusion, I guess I over-estimated how old the computer is, here's a screenshot to sort it out. At least the title of this thread was alright all along.


    Aaah that explains, we weren’t really even talking about the same thing here. When I say ‘audio interface’ I think about something like this.
    But you were referring to an adapter, rather. Well that makes far more sense and it’s ridiculously affordable too. Does anyone have experience, would such USB device appear in the list of devices in System Preferences > Sound > Output, normally? Currently my Applescripts use that tab for automatically switching between outputs as I switch between contexts, and I’d prefer to keep using this method. If it's that simple, that'd definitely be the easiest way. It occupies a USB port which are already getting crowded but I have a feeling that I might eventually need to get a bunch of USB 3.0s there because one day, the external backup disks will no longer be USB 2.0.

    I’ll have to look into Creative models, thanks. I doubt that I’ll ever update the OS beyond Yosemite because anything beyond Mavericks has mostly only done me harm. I don’t need the newest stuff just for the sake of new :)

    Whah, DVI and DisplayPort too? I had no idea. My graphics card is a flashed ATI Radeon HD, I can’t remember the exact model now because system report only displays the model as “7xxx” but I think it’s 7950, it has two modes and two fans. Too lazy to open the cover right now to see markings of the number but you get the gist. Anyway I did manage to get HDMI sound to work from a TV’s built in speakers, I had to modify some files somewhere and I can’t remember what it was but the modification worked.

    Most of the time I’ll only need to have one of the outputs to be active at any given time. But there is a chance that I might sometimes use two. I didn’t realize that you could create aggregate devices on a Mac natively! I had thought about Loopback for solving the issue; Basically because I would want to route music from iTunes into different speakers than an ambient soundscape that’s playing from a browser window. But yes I have a feeling that an aggregate device would probably replace my hardware mixer altogether. The only thing I *really* need the mixer for is to give phantom power for my microphone which I absolutely don’t require on a daily or even weekly basis. And in the far future, I'd rather have a firewire audio interface do that job too so the mixer isn't forever.

    Yes – switching between different outputs on the fly without having to physically rewire devices. A bit like how you'd treat a multi-room system, if you will. So no I'm not trying to recreate a 'surround sound system' in some very counterintuitive way. :)
  10. ActionableMango macrumors G3


    Sep 21, 2010
    I believe it does, yes. Each one will appear as its own sound device. (If I'm wrong, well, Amazon has a good return policy.)

    If your USB ports are physically too crowded, you could get a USB audio adapter with a cable built-in, which will move the bulk of the device away from the port.

    If you meant you are running out of ports, then of course you can use a hub or add ports via a PCIe card. See the link in my signature for USB3 cards.
  11. flowrider macrumors 603


    Nov 23, 2012
    OK you have a cMP 2009 4,1 that has been flashed to a 5,1 and the stock dual 4 core CPUs have been replaced by a dual 6 core 2.4GHz units, I assume to be an E5645s. That CPU was only installed in the 2012 5,1 DP base cMP.


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10 May 8, 2017