PCI Sound Card in Mac Pro?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by TheKipper, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. TheKipper macrumors newbie

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    Nov 1, 2006
    #1
    I just purchased a new Mac Pro :)D); however, I was a little disappointed with the sound card for a $3000 machine. I was previously using an older home-built PC with a Creative Sound Blaster Audigy 2 PCI sound card. Would I be able to swap this sound card into my Mac Pro? I'm not looking to improve the sound quality so much; rather I'd just like to use all of my 5.1 speakers. I figure I've paid for 5.1 speakers, so I may as well use all of them instead of the 2.1 I'm limited to with the ports built in on the Mac Pro.

    Is this at all possible?
     
  2. yippy macrumors 68020

    yippy

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    #2
    Not sure if that card will work as the Mac Pro only has PCI Express slots. However, the Mac Pro does support 5.1 audio but only through the use of optical out. So if you have/get a receiver with optical audio in you can connect it to the Mac Pro and get full 5.1 sound without using your sound card.

    There are also Mac Pro compatible sound cards that you can buy but your existing one won't work.
     
  3. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #3
    Creative has promised drivers for what seems like forever. So far, they're still vapor. :(

    There are a few PCIe sound cards that will work in a Mac, but they're expensive, as they're meant more for recording. You might want to take a look at USB, or FW400/800 devices. Less expensive for some IIRC.

    There's already a few threads, so a search will come up with something. (Recommendations can be found in them). ;)

    Good luck. :D
     
  4. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #4
    Welcome to the expansion myth - one of many other Apple myths which you may or may not realise, which depends on your level of JRDF-addledness.

    As nanofrog says, there are precious few general entertainment audio cards which work in OS X. There are some nice pro audio soundcards which can manage discrete 5.1 output... but this is all a bit pointless considering the source material under OS X, unless you are actually producing 5.1 material.

    The onboard 5.1 and the reason it is optical only is because it's not a 5.1 soundcard: It merely has 5.1 passthrough for content encoded as such.

    Rather than another soundcard, I'd suggest buying a replacement 5.1 set with an optical input, so you can have your 5.1 encoded content and also do 'fake 5.1' with your stereo content. The Logitech Z-5500 is a popular choice for this type of use. If the 5500 is a bit rich for your blood, a home theater receiver with an optical input + 5.1 setup will work in the same way - and perhaps there is a better chance of scoring an ebay / craigslist bargain that way.
     
  5. TheKipper thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 1, 2006
    #5
    Looks like I'm going external...

    Dang. I was hoping creative (or a third party) would have created a driver by now. I guess there just aren't very many mac users... /sarcasm :rolleyes:

    Approximately how much would I expect to pay for something lower-end, external? I'm just looking for something to play my music and use all my speakers with acceptable quality (nothing fancy here). I don't really require 5.1; in fact, I prefer just duplicating the stereo, playing 2 channel over the 5.1 speakers. Any particular brands/models I should look into for this?
     
  6. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #6
    I'm assuming you're not looking to improve the DAC, so Sesshi's idea of a receiver may be the way to go. Better amp than what's available in most powered speakers anyway. ;) And if it has a 5.1 decoder, you can use it later if you choose. :)

    If you do want a better DAC, you'd need to bypass the MP's audio circuits (active portions). Either a separate DAC or external sound solution. It can be done with a limited budget, but it get's crazy fast. As an example of a PCIe card that has a really good DAC, and ADC for recording, the RME AIO HDSPe All in One goes for ~$900?USD. By no means cheap. :rolleyes: It gets worse from there. :eek:

    Are you just looking to play music/games as a non HiFi/Audiophile, or are you that into audio and want really good 2 channel sound? :confused:
     
  7. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #7
    It's also not just a matter of getting a soundcard with six outputs. To actually do the 5.1 thing from recorded / other entertainment content, it must also be 5.1 aware. Which is why the onboard audio only passes through 5.1 content.

    This isn't a problem if you're a content producer: i.e. if you're a 5.1 content creator or reviewing material already split into discrete channels, then all you need is a soundcard with 6 outputs with no special 'intelligence' to them - and there are a ton of pro soundcards which offer 6 or more outputs.

    If you're a consumer, making use of a 5.1 stream necessitates that your sound hardware has the means to decode the 5.1 stream to 5.1 speakers. Until recently there was (typical for an Apple - one mediocre but simple to use solution: No alternatives) one universally affordable option on the Mac, the Griffin Firewave, which has been discontinued with no plans for a replacement. I'd welcome corrections but I'm not aware of any others at the moment.

    This is the reason why I said you would be better off with a 5.1 digital speaker, or a HT receiver.
     
  8. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #8
    I interpreted the OP's statement as "not interested" in creating 5.1 (6 channel) source material. But I have known a few audiophiles who want a better DAC for porting material to their existing systems (good amplification, and speakers minimum, and usually with good multiple sources). Simple music server in addition to their other source materials.

    Perhaps the OP could clarify their intended use?
     
  9. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #9
    It's obvious the guy isn't a content creator, so the pro soundcard is as I said earlier not a benefit in terms of actually delivering 5.1 with anything he has. i.e. there will not even be 'fake 5.1'. DACwise, if he is considering transplanting his Creative, he's clearly no hardcore audiophile - you can wring out about the same from DACing the onboard optical.

    Am I a Sherlock? ;)
     
  10. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #10
    I'm figuring either he doesn't like the DAC (less likely) or the something to do with speaker/amplification combination. ;)

    Creative does better with their EMU(?) brand of sound cards, and I've known people to mod the DAC. Big improvements if you know what you're doing. Not the best by any means, but better than anything sold to mass consumers for a small cost in parts. :)
     
  11. Fomaphone macrumors regular

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    Jan 11, 2009
    #11
    i got great 5.1 audio through my z-5500 system using the optical out of my MP.

    the system is NOT designed for monitoring, however, if that's you're intended use. movies and music sound great, but the system is too bass-heavy out of the box.
     
  12. TheKipper thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 1, 2006
    #12
    Sorry, I guess should have stated my intended purpose first. (Although the other options are interesting... :)

    My primary use is listening to music (ripped and downloaded) of mid-quality and watching the odd movie. However, I'd also wouldn't mind being able to record a bit of music from my guitar in the near future; this wouldn't be professional quality and just something to play around with a bit.

    I currently have 5.1 speakers of lower-to-mid quality. Because I am unable to position the speakers properly on my desk, I have been just using them as "surround" stereo. I actually found this gave a much fuller sound than just the 2.1 stereo speakers.

    I love listening to music, especially of decent quality, but I don't have the money to be an actual audiophile, so I try to settle for best bang for the buck. I'm relatively open to any solution (USB, firewire, optical, new speakers, whatever), but I'm on a fairly limited budget and I'm hoping to not cross the $100 mark if possible (I could go a bit higher if a new set of speakers would be a good option). That said, if I could get a great deal for a bit more, I'm open to that as well.

    Hopefully that might clear some things up. :)
     
  13. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #13
    Unfortunately in that case unless you go for the used HT receiver route or a used external soundcard, you're pretty much SOL. Behringer's low-end sound modules are a sub-$100 option if you want to do some recording, but you would be better off buying a better soundcard used.
     
  14. wpc33 macrumors 6502

    wpc33

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    #14
    I just got an M-Audio Revolution 7.1 PCI card, and it kicks my G5's ass. OS X Driver-support from M-Audio is terrific as well.
    I know that PCI and PCIe are not physically compatible, but I had to chime in on this brand.
     
  15. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #15
    And how much was that little beauty? ;)
     
  16. Sesshi macrumors G3

    Sesshi

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    #16
    I'm sure by the time the Mac Pro is about to be phased out, it will eventually have some support from formerly upper-mediocre consumer soundcards which are all but defunct on the Windows side as well. Is that good... or bad, I wonder.
     
  17. TheKipper thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #17
    Hmmm, what would be the cheapest (still with acceptable quality) option I could get then? Any brands I should try to find? or avoid?
     
  18. Trip.Tucker Guest

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    Mar 13, 2008
    #18
    What exactly is your issue with the onboard sound?
     
  19. UltraNEO* macrumors 601

    UltraNEO*

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    #19
    The OP wishes to have 5.1 output and his/her speakers don't support the TOSlink standard. So, now the OP is looking at alternatives. Personally I would advise him/her to buy in a after market optical decoder that has the ability of outputting 5.1 or 7.1...
     
  20. Trip.Tucker Guest

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    #20
    I would have to agree with your suggestion. Gives the OP more flexibility for speaker options.
     
  21. Ploki macrumors 68000

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    Jan 21, 2008
    #21
    i concur. :)

    might i ask, im building a 5.1 system merely for production purposes...6outs to 6ins on the amp that goes to speakers.
    i cannot make that work for entertainment right? the only thing id need it is to revise a final encoded product.. nothing else

    edit: for the OP, (someone else might chip in here) how about external PCI boxes that connect to PCIe ?
    http://www.magma.com/products/pciexpress/expressbox1/
    http://www.virtuavia.eu/shop/pci-express-to-pci-adapter-p29855.html ??
     
  22. goMac macrumors 603

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    #22
    I'm no audio genius here... but you'd have to use SACD or such to actually get 5.1 out, right?
     
  23. TheKipper thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 1, 2006
    #23
    Thanks for the idea, but unfortunately the issue is that Creative doesn't have any drivers available for the Mac and it doesn't appear that they ever will.

    Yup, which is why I'd only ever use actual 5.1 for the odd DVD here and there.


    What I'd really like is just stereo pushed out of all 5.1 speakers for a more fuller sound while listening to music. If I purchased a set of speakers with optical in, would I have the option to run stereo, making use of all 5.1 speakers? (I had this option with my Creative card.)

    Hopefully that makes sense... :confused:
     
  24. nanofrog macrumors G4

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    #24
    This is where a receiver can help. Feed it the stereo output from the MP (whatever connection you wish that the receiver can use), and it will be able to process the 2 channel signal into a 5.1 signal, as long as it has a decoder. Rather easy, if you don't mind having to run to a separate "box", and feed the amp output to multiple speakers. I presume this isn't an issue. ;)

    Just make sure the specs show the features you need. :)
     
  25. TheKipper thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Nov 1, 2006
    #25
    Thanks for the reply. :) It's looking like the receiver may be the way to go then. What brands should I look for? Approximately how much should I be expecting to pay?
     

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