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Adric's Avatar
Member Since: Mar 28, 2012
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 261
Adric is a jewel in the roughAdric is a jewel in the rough
Mac Specs: 27" iMac (Mid 2011), 3.4GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, 2GB Video Card, 2TB HDD

Adric is offline
The headphone jack doubles as an optical digital out port. What you will want to do is hook your 5.1 system to the computer via a toslink optical cable that plugs into that headphone jack.

Here's what you need. The little 3.5mm adapter that comes with this is important to connect to your computer so make sure and get one with whatever brand you decide to go with:
XtremeMac XtremeHD Toslink Audio Cable - Apple Store (U.S.)

An optical cable can carry the 5.1 surround bitstream that's required for Dolby Digital and DTS (the two major surround sound formats) but I'm not sure if there's any additional drivers that need to be installed on the computer or if the mac automatically detects the optical cable or not (though it should I would imagine). I've never done that myself.

However, if you're serious with audio/video editing and you want pristine, uncolored sound, you'll want to eventually migrate away from the consumer sound products and into the pro audio field with a USB/Firewire audio interface (with at least 6 balanced audio outputs) and 5 studio monitor speakers with a sub. Consumer speakers "color" the sound. That is to say, the manufacturers tune their speakers with varying response rates whereas studio monitors have flat response rates. Flat rates are better to mix and edit on because what you are listening to is the "true" way it sounds. Trying to mix and edit on consumer speakers is a little like trying to paint a picture while wearing blue-tinted sunglasses.

Also, FWIW, Final Cut (if that's what you plan to use) will not let you edit in surround sound without going the audio interface/studio monitor route and neither does Logic Pro. Both of these programs edit in raw PCM audio, not through a Dolby Digital or DTS bitstream so to hear surround sound through them while editing, they need to output six separate channels of raw audio to each speaker that you set up in the computer. To hear surround sound (on a Final Cut project) through an optical cable, you would have to send your movie to compressor first and encode it in Dolby 5.1, then play back the quicktime movie.

The good news is that you could enjoy downloaded movies as well as DVD's on your computer in glorious surround sound via that optical cable! Everything else would just be in boring old stereo though
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