Sound system for my Mac Pro, I need professional inputs please!!!

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by iphong, May 25, 2009.

  1. iphong macrumors member

    iphong

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2004
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #1
    I recently bought a 2009 mac pro. Now, I'm trying to setup a small bedroom home theater. And sound is still my main problem here. I used my Mac Pro mainly for doing graphic works, listening to music, watching movie, and gaming sometimes.

    Here is what I currently have.

    8-Core Mac Pro
    40" 1080p LCD TV for Movie
    24" LCD for doing graphic work
    Harman Kardon Sound sticks (trying to get rid of this and replace it with a 5.1 or 7.1 system)

    And here is what i'm buying
    5.1 or 7.1 Receiver
    Speakers

    My plan is to get audio out through the optical output. But according to several articles I read online, optical output does not transmit audio when I play music on iTunes or play games (in BootCamp), is it TRUE?

    So far, I couldn't find any sound card (internal or external) which work for mac pro that has 3 analog 5.1 signal output which I can use with standard 5.1 speakers. The only things I found is the Creative DDTS-100 and the FireWave which were all discontinued. What other options do I have?
     
  2. Spanky Deluxe macrumors 601

    Spanky Deluxe

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Location:
    London, UK
    #2
    Audio is output via the optical port with music in iTunes or in Boot Camp. However, unless its passing a 5.1 audio codec, it can only send stereo. To be honest, this makes no difference apart from the fact that you can't have 5.1 surround sound in games.

    I've got a 5.1 Sony receiver that came with surround speakers. It used to be in my lounge but when I upgraded to a full AV receiver and high quality surround speakers in my lounge, I moved this system to my office. Before this I had a cheaper (but still good) 5.1 Sony DVD/Receiver surround set that I bought when I started Uni.

    If I were you, I'd find a good priced good quality AV/Surround Speaker package that's got optical in *and* has front/rear 5.1 analogue inputs. Then get yourself a cheap Windows USB audio card with 5.1 analogue out (some Creative jobby). That way you can use optical for all your OS X needs (even if you game in OS X its not an issue since I don't think any OS X games are capable of surround sound) and then you can switch your AV to the other input for Windows games when you're in Boot Camp.

    Both of my AV/Speaker sets cost ~£300 but that was.... Summer 2002 and Summer 2003 so you can probably get something similar for far cheaper now. Anything from a decent AV brand will do. Sony, Denon, Onkyo etc. In my experience, the quality of the speakers in such systems are far better than even the expensive PC speaker sets. Back in 2002 I had an Altec Lansing system that cost me about £150. It was definitely louder than my Sony systems but it didn't have anything near the audio quality.

    Edit: I had a brief look and it looks like AV/Speaker sets don't come with 5.1 analogue audio in very much anymore. You may want to consider getting a second hand receiver with this functionality. After all, you wouldn't be using any of the new fancy stuff anyway. You'd just be using it as an amp for some speakers. You could even get your speakers second hand too, its not like speaker technology's moved on very far in the last twenty years!! Honestly, I'd rather have my 7 year old speakers and amp than pretty much any PC gaming speaker set.
     
  3. iphong thread starter macrumors member

    iphong

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2004
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #4
    You're very helpful!! Just a thought, I'm using a PC 4870 and it's capable of handling 7.1 audio via HDMI in Windows, so the extra USB sound card is not necessary! If I get a modern receiver which has HDMI inputs, it will solve the Windows gaming problem, won't it?


    How's the quality on that one. I've heard some people having bad experience with logitech, tell me it isn't true.
     
  4. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #5
    I don't know about Boot Camp, but you certainly can get digital audio from the optical port through iTunes music, which is AAC. Where you run into trouble is if it's AC3 (or DTS) audio that's found in videos (along with AAC audio, just like iTunes music). For whatever reason, Apple has chosen to fsk those of us who wish to use it. The solution is to get Plex - free and the champion of home theater software, Mac or PC. It will allow both AC3 and DTS passthrough for up to 7.1 (compressed) surround. The biggest issue is that there is very little content with more than 5.1 (Dolby Digital, DTS, True-HD or DTS-HD). Dolby Digital Plus provides 7.1, but I have never seen a movie with it. Even the Blu-ray discs are 5.1 (with very few exceptions).

    You can invest in a 7.1 system, but I really don't know when 7.1 surround movies will become commonplace; and I suspect for optical it won't occur with any regularity since it is a compressed standard. What is needed is the activation of audio over DisplayPort (again, Apple has fsk'd us) which has the bandwidth for HD audio (DTS-HD, True-HD, etc.)
     
  5. nanofrog macrumors G4

    Joined:
    May 6, 2008
    #6
    This would require licensing, and something Apple probably won't do, as they wouldn't have control. Financial reasons may also come into the equation.

    For example, with the exception of the :apple:tv, HDMI isn't available on the rest of their products. Yet the licensing isn't expensive. Membership fee of $50K USD which can be spread out over all of the units manufactured with it, and $0.04 USD per device. Not much, given the economy of scale.
     
  6. Shazaam! macrumors member

    Shazaam!

    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2009
    #7
    I'm very pleased with mine, and I know a good sounding system when I hear it. My system has been in use since 2005, first on a early G5, and now a new Mac Pro. Read the reports and then buy from a source that offers a 30 day return. You really don't need to look any further.
     
  7. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #8
    As Spanky suggests, get a HTIB (Home Theater in a Box) solution. Most Japanese electronics giants sell several models. Some higher end solutions also exist. Just get one with optical input. If you get one of Sony's BluRay HTIB solutions you can also play Bluray disks which may be advantageous for you.

    I don't know much about the Logitech's but it's just hard to take them seriously when it comes to audio.
     
  8. iphong thread starter macrumors member

    iphong

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2004
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    #9
    Thank you guys for all of your replies. I think that concludes my problem here. Just placed an order for a Onkyo 5.1 system and it's on its way soon. :cool:
     
  9. Spanky Deluxe macrumors 601

    Spanky Deluxe

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Location:
    London, UK
    #10
    Awesome! I've got an Onkyo AV Receiver in my lounge now and it absolutely rocks.
     
  10. Cave Man macrumors 604

    Cave Man

    #11
    I hope it also rolls, jazzes, classicals and r&bs, but not rap, country or western. ;)
     
  11. edvix macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    May 29, 2009
    #12
    Similar question but also with video

    Thanks for posting your question about a great sound system for your Mac Pro. I'm a Mac Pro one generation behind you (Mac Pro Early 2008 Quad Core 2.8 GhZ, 4 GB). I love this machine --- it can be swapping out to vm like crazy and it still runs fast enough for me most of the time (I only need to reboot this thing infrequently)! Since about 2003 I've been using a Logitech system THX system that takes in audio via the standard audio output jack that all Macs have).

    Its time for a sound system upgrade, and I really want to make use of the Mac Pro's optical output. My needs are a bit more simple in that I don't use Boot Camp on this machine and I only once in a while use Windows via VMWare (and when I do, its for work, not games). I'm not much of a gamer either. What I really want however is a great audio and video experience (I don't watch movies often but when I do I really want to enjoy them ... and I don't watch TV often but when I do, I want to really enjoy a great sports game off of ESPN HD for example Wimbledon or the World Series). All I have right now besides this old Logitech THX system is on my Mac Pro I have two Lenovo 22" L220x monitors side by side (great monitors btw) -- I have tried watching a movie on one of them but from enough of a distance in my room its not the greatest experience really (for work related stuff these monitors are fantastic). So, I am thinking of being courageous and even in an economic recession, possibly dropping some hard-earned dough on one of the new Samsung LED ultra slim eco friendly TVs (it would have to be the smallest one because they're not only expensive but I don't have a lot of room in my place). I also want to be able to play Blu Ray movies from my Mac Pro but allegedly Steve Jobs has his reasons as for why Apple won't license Blu Ray from Sony. So my guess is that I'll need a Blu Ray player that I can connect to the Samsung (these Samsung thin LED TVs apparently only have HDMI input) but I also want to be able to route the audio of the Blu Ray player to the same speaker set I would end up using via the optical audio output of the Mac. I would also like the option of ripping Blu Ray movies that I end up buying so I can play them (as MPEG-4?) on a MacBook when I travel. I'm also not all that keen on buying movies or videos from Apple's iTunes store and being swept up into also buying an Apple TV (I like freedom and options) but maybe I'm missing something in that perhaps the Apple TV is useful? Of course I would like the option also of sending video to the Samsung not necessarily just from the Blu Ray player (I also have to figure out my cable TV options for HD sporting events). Sigh. Why does this have to be so complicated? With that being said, can anyone make the best recommendation as to what I should do?
     
  12. Spanky Deluxe macrumors 601

    Spanky Deluxe

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2005
    Location:
    London, UK
    #13
    Woah! You're sure opening a can of worms there!! I can answer a few parts of your question though. Ripping blu-rays is a right pain in the backside right now and needs Windows and a Bluray drive (or PS3 connected over gigabit ethernet) to do. I've ripped one film via the PS3 method (look in the AppleTV forum on here for a howto) and it took forever.
    As for what speakers, receiver, TV and bluray player to buy... well its compeltely dependent on your budget. You need to decide how much you'd be willing to spend on the whole setup and how important different parts of the setup would be to you. For example, if you don't care about the highest level of Bluray audio quality then you could settle for optical digital audio from a Bluray player instead thus meaning you wouldn't need an HDMI audio input on your receiver. It sounds like you'd need at least two optical inputs on a receiver in order to have 5.1 sound from your Mac and 5.1 sound from a Bluray player.
    Its basically a how-long-is-a-piece-of-string question until you work out a budget. As an example, my lounge set up would probably cost about £1100 to rebuild at a guess, excluding the television. That's for a PS3 (~300) + Onkyo 606 AV Receiver (~£350) + Mordaunt Short Avanti Premiere Plus speaker package (~£480). I wanted the high def sound decoding in the 606 and also wanted the extra HDMI inputs so as to be able to run the PS3, Sky HD, an EP35 HD DVD player, a Wii and a Mac Mini all through the same receive. The Receiver then connects via a single HDMI connection to my 46" Samsung LCD TV. But then someone else would probably be happy with a speaker and standard receiver for about £300 total. Up until about six months ago I had a similar system but without the Mac Mini, Onkyo amp, Sky HD and Mordaunt Short speakers. Instead my PS3, EP35, Wii and standard def Sky were all hooked up directly to my TV and their audio signals went into my old Sony Receiver + Speaker package that I mentioned previously in this thread which I now use in my office. A set up like that new would be much cheaper.

    My advice would be to work out an approximate budget, work out what you want to be able to do with your set up and then go to an AV forum and ask for advice there. Bare minimum you'll want is an optical input to connect your Mac. If you're in the UK then a good forum to go to is AVForums.com and if you're in the US then I think an equivalent site is AVSForum.com. I used the first of these extensively in the set up of my lounge setup.

    I hope that helps, sorry I can't be more specific though!!

    Phil
     
  13. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #14

    As I said in Post #8, a HTIB from Sony with a built-in BluRay player would be your best bet.

    If you want to rip bluray's get a bluray optical drive for your Mac Pro as well. I don't know whether you could use the internal blueray drive to watch movies off of disk. Depends if the whole chain supports HDCP content protection.
     

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