2011 Mac Mini - Digital/Analog Audio Simultaneously - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 12-08-2011, 09:01 PM - Thread Starter
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I am about to buy a Mac Mini to act as my HTPC. My goal would be to play iTunes/Internet Radio/Etc. to both my main zone and my 2nd zone. I know that only analog will play through the 2nd zone, so my question is how could I hook this up to work? Does both the HDMI port and the headphone jack output audio simultaneously so I could hook up both?

Any help would be great
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post #2 of 9 Old 12-08-2011, 10:26 PM
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I too will be interested by the answer, if any, with the Mac Mini 2011.
I had the same problem with the Mac Mini 2009 (pre HDMI), and the only cumbersome/costly solution I could find was :
- an optical Toslink splitter plugged at the audio output of the Mac Mini (through the mini-jack to Toslink adapter)
- 1 optical direct link used for digital (5.1...) audio output
- the other optical link connected to a 5.1->RCA Stereo decoder by Gefen

It worked, at a cost (about $150 total).

Note that your problem may be more complicated if you want to send SIMULTANEOUSLY the "same" stereo/5.1 signal to both of your zones : my AVR (a Yamaha RX-V3800) would not downconvert any HDMI 5.1 signal to stereo, although it would upconvert from stereo RCA input to 5.1 amplification.
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post #3 of 9 Old 12-09-2011, 04:40 AM
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Go to Application/Utilities/Audio MIDI Setup and create an multi-output device, you can combine them into one output to select in the Sound system preference.
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post #4 of 9 Old 12-09-2011, 07:29 AM
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Quote:


Go to Application/Utilities/Audio MIDI Setup and create an multi-output device, you can combine them into one output to select in the Sound system preference.

This is great advice, slopduck.

Quote:


Does both the HDMI port and the headphone jack output audio simultaneously so I could hook up both?

Before Lion, this wasn't as easy to accomplish, as geeji's workaround testifies to. Some folks used the analog out of an Airport Express ($69 refurb from Apple) to feed their Zone 2 since iTunes would see it as an AirTunes destination and both would play in sync.

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I too will be interested by the answer, if any, with the Mac Mini 2011.

It isn't so much the 2011 Mini as it is Lion, but I can verify that the multi-output device in Audio MIDI works just fine with my 2011 Mini: 1) HDMI and optical out simultaneously and 2) HDMI and analog mini-jack out simultaneously.

If you wanted to send a simultaneous, but different, audio stream to Zone 2, you'll either need an AVR that supports AirPlay into just Zone 2 while the primary zone is active with something else or use an Airport Express, and then rely on AirPlay from an iOS device.
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post #5 of 9 Old 12-10-2011, 04:41 AM
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So, is there an easy way to do this on a 2009 Mini running with Snow Leopard?
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post #6 of 9 Old 12-10-2011, 07:08 AM
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So, is there an easy way to do this on a 2009 Mini running with Snow Leopard?

I don't think so: "multi-output" was a new AudioMIDI option Apple added in Lion, previously you could only create an "aggregate" audio device and that didn't seem to me to help much in terms of home theater (hence why many of us here were quick to jump on the AirTunes and Airport Express bandwagon.)

If you did upgrade to Lion you'd still face a slight hurdle because audio over mini-DisplayPort isn't supported in that model mini, so you'd need to add a second way to get audio out of your mini besides the primary built-in optical out. An inexpensive, plug and play USB audio adapter would probably do the trick. (If you stay in SL, I still recommend a $69 Express for your Zone 2, it'll remain a valuable device as an AirPlay destination and could always be repurposed later.)
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post #7 of 9 Old 12-10-2011, 07:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chefklc View Post

...if you did upgrade to Lion you'd still face a slight hurdle because audio over mini-DisplayPort isn't supported in that model mini, so you'd need to add a second way to get audio out of your mini besides the primary built-in optical out. An inexpensive, plug and play USB audio adapter would probably do the trick. (If you stay in SL, I still recommend a $69 Express for your Zone 2, it'll remain a valuable device as an AirPlay destination and could always be repurposed later.)

I am using a USB audio adapter to feed the Zone 2 on the AVR. Also, the Mini's optical output is fed to the AUX in on my AVR. This all works OK but only one audio output at a time is supported. The only real hassle is that after using the mini in optical out mode, it seems to require a re-boot to get the analog output from the USB adapter to work again. Not exactly a horrible situation but certainly inelegant. Seems to me that just switching the output source in Preferences should just work, but it does not immediately switch - hence my question.
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post #8 of 9 Old 12-10-2011, 08:14 AM
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Right, it seems there will always be little nagging audio-related issues, often it has to do with the particular AVR you're using, other times it's trying to bend iTunes to your will, other times Apple breaks something with an update, remember all the reports of optical audio issues with the 10.6.8 update? Anyway, it's why a "home theater PC" is still a tiny niche, it all boils down to figuring out the best way to adapt to the other equipment in the chain, and in this case it's feeding analog to that Zone 2. Since you already have the USB out hardware, Lion's multi-output might make things smoother for you--but Lion itself might also disrupt something else in the way you have things configured. You won't know for sure until you try with your hardware--but before you install Lion, make sure you have a perfect bootable Superduper clone of your current Snow Leopard system, so you could restore it if needed.

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This all works OK but only one audio output at a time is supported. The only real hassle is that after using the mini in optical out mode, it seems to require a re-boot to get the analog output from the USB adapter to work again. Not exactly a horrible situation but certainly inelegant. Seems to me that just switching the output source in Preferences should just work, but it does not immediately switch

Personally, I could never tolerate having to reboot, it would drive me crazy and I'd do whatever it took to work around it.

If you 1) weren't ready to try Lion, 2) were getting tired of your "inelegant" current setup and 3) were mainly interested in listening to music in Zone 2, I suspect if you ditched the USB out and fed your Zone 2 via an analog out from a wired Express, your experience would be much more seamless since it's actually officially supported, just toggle the Express destination on or off. Wired it would be much more stable, your iOS devices and other Macs would see it, and you wouldn't be switching per se, you'd be adding to your optical. I used my Express like this for years and was very pleased.

Regardless of what you try next, let us know how it worked out.
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post #9 of 9 Old 01-13-2013, 05:15 PM
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Thanks "slopduck"
This was just what I needed:
Quote:
Go to Application/Utilities/Audio MIDI Setup and create an multi-output device, you can combine them into one output to select in the Sound system preference.

But one thing I noticed was that the sound out of Zone 2 was a bit crackly and full of static. So I went back to the Audio MIDI set up and tweaked the mHz level for the "Headphone" source to match the same rate for the HDMI. They're both at 480,000 (I think that's it).

Problem solved.
Edit - well not perfect. Sound quality is still a bit poor. Volume is funny too. Needs to be turned up to the max for Zone 2.

Any ideas?

Cheers
Fletcher
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