Surround Sound with the Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by kapowaz, Feb 24, 2008.

  1. kapowaz macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    #1
    I've just received my lovely shiny Mac Pro along with 23" Cinema display, and I'm in the process of getting everything set up so that I can replace my old Windows PC. One thing I did have set up with my PC was surround sound, using a Logitech 5.1 surround speaker set (Z-680), which worked very nicely for playing games and DVDs. Naturally, given the Mac Pro has an optical digital output (and the Z-680 has built-in Dolby Digital and DTS decoding) I figured I'd just be able to plug it in and I'd be away.

    Unfortunately there seem to be two big problems: first of all, by using digital output, I immediately lose the ability to control the system volume from within Mac OS X itself – things like the volume buttons on the keyboard, the menu bar control and Remote Buddy all have no effect. Secondly, and this is the one that's really irritating, the volume is simply too low to be usable.

    When I used these speakers with Windows, they were almost a problem because they are so powerful; I had to run them with the subwoofer set on its lowest level so as to not irritate neighbours with the bass, and I almost never put the volume above about 40% of its scale, in fact typically it would be around the 25% mark. So you can imagine my surprise when I plugged these speakers into my Mac and discovered that even with the volume controller set to 100%, they are barely a whisper of their previous volume. Yet more mysteriously, this behaviour seems to affect standard line output too. The output is so quiet, that I get better (louder, rather than 'better', really) results when I set the output to internal speaker.

    Clearly this is going to get on my nerves before long; you don't spend premium price for a Mac Pro only to suffer sub-par audio. From discussions I've had with various other Mac experts, it seems that not allowing volume control ('pre-amplification'?) of the optical output is a 'good' thing, in that if you were doing professional audio editing you'd most likely be plugging it into hardware with an amplifier which you wanted to use rather than anything built-in. But this doesn't explain why the volume is so very low for both optical and analog output - obviously the speakers I'm using have their own amplifier and even at the highest level they're not able to produce usable output. So what can I do? Is there any software that will allow me to 'pre-amp' my digital output? If not, what surround speakers would people recommend for use with a Mac Pro? (if this problem is the fault of the way the Mac handles optical output, I don't want to buy another set of speakers and find they do the same thing!).

    Any advice or suggestions would be most appreciated!
     
  2. kapowaz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    #2
    I've just remembered something else, which makes this situation even more confusing; these speakers used to be sold as a CTO option with the old Power Mac G5, so at least at one point they were considered approved Mac speakers for their Pro series Macs.

    :|
     
  3. Mattww macrumors 6502

    Mattww

    Joined:
    Jan 11, 2008
    #3
    This is not a direct comparison I know but I use the Z-5500 speakers connected via optical cable to my PowerMac G5. The keyboard and menu volumes being disabled is normal. The computer is just passing through digital audio. These controls will work if you connect via analogue. I have no problem with volume and have mine set at 4 out of about 20 and it is plenty loud for everyday use. I may turn up to 6 or 8 when watching a DVD with a quiet soundtrack. I get DD 5.1 and DTS 24/96 from DVDs and from Quicktime with the Perian 1.1 plugin and edited preference file. In general use iTunes/games/TV etc I get DD ProLogic II simulated surround.
     
  4. kittiyut macrumors regular

    kittiyut

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2007
    #4
    I too use the optical out to connect with my Logitech 5450 (the discontinued wireless surround) but I have no problems with the volume being so low. As a matter of fact, it is quite loud! Are you sure there isn't a problem with YOUR Mac?
     
  5. kapowaz thread starter macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    #5
    Well, I wasn't sure what the problem was with, frankly, but after more investigation I've solved the problem. The speakers are a little on the old side, and for whatever reason sometimes they appear to 'short out' (I'm sure that's not technically what they're doing, but it happens from all the cables being in close proximity under the desk being banged together). When this happens the subwoofer emits a very loud bang and there's no further sound output. In the past when this has happened it's always prevented all sound, but on this occasion it seemed to just be vastly reducing the volume. The solution has always been for me to turn the subwoofer unit itself off and on again; this has fixed it and I now get my loud sound again! Yay!

    Now for that volume control issue... surely there's some hack that'd allow the volume to be adjusted?
     
  6. Siron macrumors 6502

    Siron

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2008
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #6
    I thought I was getting 5.1 under Bootcamp XP but when I click on the Realtek sound option in Control Panel and check I only have the option for 2 speakers - not 5.1. Apparently Realtek (which must be the on-motherboard sound hardware) creates a virtual surround sound environment.
    Alan
     
  7. Erwin-Br macrumors 6502a

    Erwin-Br

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2008
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    #7
    Have you tried downloading new HD audio drivers for Windows, from Realteks website? Maybe replacing the original Bootcamp drivers will do the trick. I'm only guessing, though.

    --Erwin
     
  8. Siron macrumors 6502

    Siron

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2008
    Location:
    North Carolina
    #8
    That was the first thing I did.
    Alan
     

Share This Page