1) you have an Intel mini, yet opted not to use its built-in optical out?
Yes. With the Denon receiver I used before it broke I used the optical out. But as I see it, a digital stream over FireWire is just as good as a digital stream over Toslink.
2) how much, so we have a ballpark amount, did you pay for the "kit" you cobbled together: the Aiwa, plus the FireWave itself, plus Quad 303 stereo power amp plus Quad 33 preamp plus all the strange minijack cables required by the Firewave plus the 303 refurb kit?
FireWave ~$50 US - closeout price for end-of-line product
AIWA ~$60 - eBay
I didn't pay for the Quad 303 but there is a market in them and I guess it would go for £150 UK and I spent another £100 on components to refurbish it and about £30 on cables so that gives:
Total: ~ $560 or £400 UKP
3) I'm not familiar with the 410 or what it records, since I'm USA-based, but does your DTT programming come with DD 5.1 audio or just DD 2.0?
I think it's similar to your EyeTV 500, but DTT programs here are 2-channel only.
4) and just to make sure I understand how you're using the FireWave, every audio signal you feed through it, from every application be it EyeTV or Apple dvd player or Front Row or VLC, forcibly gets "mixed" and internally processed by the Firewave, right? That's because the Firewave doesn't have a "passthrough" mode,
I think it does have a passthrough mode. Every time I change from 2-channel sound for music to surround sound I turn on "Prologic II" in the FireWave app. And I turn it off again for music.
doesn't have an optical or digital coax out and, as a result, even when it gets AC-3, DD 5.1 and DTS it doesn't know what to do with it, i.e. it forcibly mixes all AC-3, DD 5.1 and DTS down to "something else" before it sends it out.
No optical or digital coax out and if there was I wouldn't have a use for it. The FireWave's purpose is to convert the sound from the digital to the analog domain.
But isn't Prologic II a form of DD 5.1? It doesn't mix the Prologic II stream, it just decodes it and feeds the 5.1 streams to the amps (except that for my weird speaker config, it mixes some of the centre stream and the subwoofer strean in with the left and right, but that is my choice in the 'Speakers' config panel of the FireWave app.) I'm not sure what it does with DTS, since the docs explicitly say that the FireWave can't handle it.