Want to have 5.1 surround on an iMac - Both OSX and Windows

Discussion in 'Mac Accessories' started by scottrob, Oct 28, 2009.

  1. scottrob macrumors newbie

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    May 18, 2007
    #1
    I have a recent iMac and would like to have surround when game playing, both using OSX and Windows 7. I have a Creative 5.1 surround speaker system that is analog. I would like to use it if possible vs purchasing the Logitech $400 speaker system. It seems that each time I find a possible solution, it is outdated or has been discontinued.

    The possibilities I have researched are as follows;
    1. Creative DDTS-100 decoder which has the 5.1 outputs and an optical input. Discontinued.

    2. Tritton AX Pro surround headphone system which comes with a decoder that will connect to a 5.1 speaker system. This is also discontinued, but is more available. It should work on both the OSX and Windows side as it does the decoding.

    3. Purchase a inexpensive home theater receiver and let it decode the surround and drive the current Creative speakers.

    4. Griffin FireWave - The issue with this is that it is Mac only I believe.

    Any thoughts or ideas? I am hoping that I have just overlooked something.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and hopefully respond with some ideas.
     
  2. mnobre macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2009
    #2
    Greetings mate,

    I had this in my store a couple months ago, quality is pretty decent and it was quite cheap in compairsion with other products, never tried it on a Mac, but usually Hercules makes their products Mac friendly, now avaliability on the market in your country i really don't know.:)

    http://www.hercules.com/us/Sound-Cards/bdd/p/56/muse-pocket-lt/
    Hope it may be usefull to you.

    Mário
     
  3. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #3
    My beautiful solution:

    http://us.creative.com/products/product.asp?category=209&subcategory=669&product=17751&listby=

    It has worked for me and my Macbook Pro for almost 2 years now. I have it connected to my Logitech Z-5500s and I couldn't be happier.

    I was in the same predicament as you were and before Creative released this, I had the hardest time finding the perfect 5.1 sound card solution that would give me 5.1 in OS X and native 5.1 EAX support for games on Windows.

    This does both perfectly. It features an optical out for bitsteam AC3 on OS X and does EAX on windows.

    The only downfall is, well, its by Creative, and they've been known to lag behind driver support. However, they're a bit improved as of late. I'm currently running Windows 7 and they have a beta driver out right now, and so far no problems here.

    I remember checking out Firewave by Griffin but that only supports OS X and its long been discontinued.

    Hope that helps!
     
  4. TheStrudel macrumors 65816

    TheStrudel

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    Jan 5, 2008
    #4
    Icaras, this is the first I've heard of anybody using that on a mac. Can you comment on how well it plays with various apps? Multichannel playback is spotty using just the optical output and only works in a few instances. I'm also wondering if that can be used to, say, monitor surround sound in Soundtrack. Can you give us more details on what you use it with and how well it works? Can you test each channel properly through Audio MIDI setup?
     
  5. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #5
    Sorry, I didn't know you meant to use it's multi channel capabilities extensively on OS X. Nothing by Creative is supported by OS X and I knew this when coming into the product, as my main purpose for this card was specifically for gaming on Windows. So to answer your question, I would not expect any software built, surround functionality on OS X, or any apps either. I haven't tried testing it under Audio Midi setup. I'm not at my Mac right now but I can try when I get to it, but I doubt any adequate results under OS X.

    It basically works as just a basic 2 channel stereo sound card in OSX, and as a pass through AC3 device for 5.1 output. Speaking of it's optical out, that works just fine, since the device is doing the processing, and it plays Dolby Digital and DTS tracks just fine in DVD Player. Though, its kind of wierd, because just this week I lost basic analog output sound from it on OSX, forcing me to resort to its optical output. I was going to see what the issue was but haven't had the time.
     
  6. scottrob thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 18, 2007
    #6
    Doesn't the Z-5500 already have an optical input? My goal is to drive analog surround speakers from the optical output of the iMac. Can my goal be reached with a USB solution? Thanks again.
     
  7. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #7
    you have purchased something that was completely not necessary im afraid! all macs pretty much since they went Intel support mini toslink (optical cable) cables, you could get a mini toslik (3.5mm) to toslink cable and plug it straight into your z5500's, full 5.1 support and that.

    it sure does have an optical input. driving he analogue speakers requires a DAC (digital to audio converter), or some sort of receiver that can then power the analogue speakers. if the USB powered device can do both of these then yes its possible.
     
  8. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #8
    Oh no, like I said before, I knew what was coming. I did quite a bit of research and this sound card was purchased primarily for gaming on Windows, which offers native EAX support. You cannot process EAX 5.1 out via Mac's optical output in Windows. Full 5.1 support in OSX via mini to toslink cable (which I also have) only will do your surround in movies supporting AC3, and nothing else.

    Yes, DoFoT9 is right on this. And if all you want to achieve is Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS from movies, then the optical input from your Z5500 coming from your Mac's audio out is all you need. But in regards to your original question concerning games on OS X, the short and simple answer is no. Don't expect games in OS X to do surround using the audio out, or the device I had mentioned that I am using, or pretty much any USB sound device out in the market, as they are pretty much all meant for Windows. Unfortunately, this is an industry thing and surround sound in games in OS X just isn't supported. If it were, this wouldn't be having this issue and we would have seen some simple USB or PCIe devices by now that support surround sound in games in OS X.

    I guess its the entire reason I bootcamp the brunt of my gaming in windows, rather than OS X.
     
  9. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #9
    sorry, my mistake. i didn't read that part of your posts. :eek:



    would sound still come out of the speakers via optical? or do you NEED the USB sound device for any sound to come out? if i were to purchase the z5500's for my new i7 iMac, i would game occasionally on it via both Bootcamp & on Mac. for my games i don't really care for 'high quality' sound, just sound in general is fine. for my music however, it needs to sound great :D

    that and the fact that OSX runs games really really bad ;)
     
  10. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #10
    No, not at all, you totally don't need a USB device to get sound out of the Mac. Or else, what would be the point of the audio output? :p

    Going optical out into your Z-5500s will yield sound just fine. However, two things you should note by using optical on OS X (haven't tested it under Windows)....

    1.) There is a slight latency when a sound is first played. The Z-5500 takes a split second to detect the digital signal coming in.

    2.) You do not have OS X control over volume. It's all hardware controlled through optical, so you'll be using your Z-5500 control center or remote for volume. :(

    All this can be easily avoided by connecting via an analog 1/8" from your Mac's audio out into the Z-5500's front/center analog input, which is located behind the Z-5500 control center. I think it's the green colored input.

    So essentially, the USB device allows me to have my Mac connected both via analog and digital, where the analog signal is coming from my USB device. This gives me the best of both worlds, so when just listening to music, or gaming, I have the Z-5500 set to Direct 6 Channel for analog input, and then for DVD or movie watching with AC3 support, switch your Z-5500 to optical input (and don't forget to switch optical output or something under the DVD Player preferences...)
     
  11. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #11
    haha i am not sure, so the USB device just gives those games "full" support for surround etcetc.

    interesting to know. i take it there is no latency of the actual song, but just latency at the initial play time? (e.g. no "lag").

    1/8" is the equivalent to a 3.5mm plug no? (sorry, not accustomed to the old system ;)).

    how can that be? there is only one output plug on macs, i take it that you have a MacPro? this wouldnt be feasible for me im afraid. i can live with using the wireless remote (its wireless isnt it?) to control the volume, i think.

    thanks so much for your helpful reply.
     
  12. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #12
    Sorry man, I just edited my post. That's basically the advantage of having another sound card. You can connect both analog and digital concurrently.
     
  13. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #13
    Here's a more full out reply to your other points...

    Yea, basically, and to have a second means to connect your mac.

    Exactly. Initial play time only.

    Yes, that's it exactly.

    Nah, I am using a Macbook Pro. The Creative device I have is simply an external USB multi-channel sound card.

    No problem, hope all that helps :)
     
  14. DoFoT9 macrumors P6

    DoFoT9

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    #14
    oh, but of course!! i should have realised that. silly me.

    thanks for clarifying, however i dont think i will invest in it. i am already pushing it with the speakers!

    edit: thanks for replying to my post too :D
     
  15. cman-uk macrumors regular

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    Oct 27, 2009
    #15
    I'm in the same boat.

    My Altec Lansing speakers feed into my sub, which has two outputs, a green jack and a black jack, both of which plug into my PC sound card.
    I wish to use these speakers with my iMac.

    What option did you end up going for?
     
  16. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #16
    If all you have is a 2.1 system, all you need is a 1/8" output from your Mac to your Altec system.
     
  17. scottrob thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 18, 2007
    #17
    I have purchased two devices, but I am strongly leaning towards sending one back. I ordered the Creative Labs SB1090 USB Soundblaster X-Fi and a TRITTON AXPRO True 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound Gaming Headset.

    My speaker system is an analog 5.1 system. The Tritton gaming headset has an optical input and 5.1 analog outputs so I could feed my speaker system from that. I am unsure from the above discussion if I will get 5.1 surround out of the optical feed from my Windows games running under Windows 7 or from any Mac games running under Snow Leopard using the Tritton device.

    I had originally thought of using the Creative USB box for Windows gaming and the Tritton box for Mac side gaming/music/etc. Since I will be doing most of my gaming running Windows, the Creative Labs USB device will probably suffice.

    I am still trying to figure all this out before breaking the seals on either device.
     
  18. cman-uk macrumors regular

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    Oct 27, 2009
    #18
    Damn, that seems like a really long winded (not to mention expensive) way of achieving what you (we) want to achieve. Surely there are better methods out there...

    i.e. Logitech Z-5500... but I simply cannot afford that solution, and plus over 500watt RMS is about 5 times over my requirements! There's gotta be other decent speaker solutions out there which can accommodate an optical input...
     
  19. scottrob thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #19
    I agree and maybe I am asking too much, but I was unable to find a solution that did not involve spending $$$ for the Logitech speakers. Even then, just getting the Logitech speakers does not solve the Windows surround problem unless I misunderstood some of the previous posts. As I said, the Trittons are probably going back unless I can figure out that I can get gaming surround via optical on both Windows and OS X using that device.
     
  20. cman-uk macrumors regular

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    #20
    I would think the Z-5500's WOULD work in Windows. No reason why they wouldnt.
     
  21. scottrob thread starter macrumors newbie

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    May 18, 2007
    #21
    I do not want to spend ~$400 for a new set of speakers if I can use my present analog ones.
     
  22. lixuelai macrumors 6502a

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    Oct 29, 2008
    #22
    Well there are 3 ways.

    1) 5.1 Firewire or USB DAC that works under OSX. Will not be cheap.
    2) Receiver with optical in but your Creative speaker may not work with it.
    3) Z-5500 or similar
     
  23. scottrob thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #23
    If that is true, then the decoder box that comes with the Tritton AX Pro should suffice. It should be able to take the optical output from the iMac and decode it to surround. Right? Maybe? :confused:
     
  24. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #24
    What the heck are you guys talking about? The Z5500s not working in Windows? It's an analog/digial speaker system and will work simply in analog if you have the appropriate sound card with the appropriate drivers. I use analog 5.1 and optical 5.1 and both work perfectly fine in Windows. :confused:
     
  25. Icaras macrumors 603

    Icaras

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    #25
    Well yes, finding a simple and no fuss sound card thats supported both under Windows and OS X makes it uncheap, because like I said earlier, consumer friendly multi channel sound devices simply are not very popular on OS X, and thus are hardly supported, and hardly made or sold. Case in point: the discontinued Griffin Firewave.

    Multi-channel audio devices on OS X, exist pre-dominantly as professional audio interfaces, primarily used for recording and mixing. Because of this fact, not only will it be more expensive, but because you will more than likely going to need to connect your Mac Audio device to powered speakers, not your traditional consumer friendly satellite speakers.

    Cost of powered speakers >>>> cost of consumer satellite speakers
     

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