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Music, Audio, and Podcasting Do you use your Mac to create music? This is the place for discussions on creating and editing music on the Mac!

5.1 surround sound on the new iMac?

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Member Since: Dec 18, 2012
Posts: 2
Chrisbevan90 is on a distinguished road

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I'm looking to get the new 27 inch iMac in February. Mostly for audio and video editing. It will be my first Mac and I am very excited but I am concerned about the audio out jack. From my understanding, there is just one headphone jack in the back and nothing else. I am [U]very[U] picky about my sound quality.
I've been looking at the Logitech Speaker System Z906. It's a reasonable price and seems to have good reviews.

How would I go about hooking this system up to my new iMac?
I'd assume just using the headphone jack but will that really give me 5.1 sound? And will the quality be just as good as plugging it into a sound card on a pc?

Thanks for any help, this will be a huge part of my decision to buy a Mac or pc.
(I really want the Mac haha)

Thanks for any help!
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Member Since: Mar 28, 2012
Location: Atlanta, GA
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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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Member Since: Dec 18, 2012
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Thanks, Adric!
This was a lot of help! I am unfamiliar with the Mac OS and its programs but I'm a pretty fast learner. I'll be sure to pick up the toslink cable when I purchase my speakers.
I'm sure when I get more into the audio editing I will buy some speakers that plug in via USB.
I'm very excited to begin to learn about the Mac, it will be a change of pace. I'll be sure to post pictures of my setup once I get it all together in February.
Thanks again!
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Some holiday reading to get you started:-

Apple - Support - Mac Basics

Hang on to those original install discs like grim death! Using OS X.7 or later make a bootable USB thumb drive before running Installer!
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I am running and old Dell Dimension 8400 that runs runs windows xp and have decided to get a new computer and it's between a new iMac or a Dell All In One with touch screen running Windows 8. The problem is that I have a Logitech x-540 5.1 surround system on my old Dell that I would like to continue to use, but I know it can be tricky hooking this up to an iMac. Any recommendations on connections or which computer to buy would be appreciated. Thank you.
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Sorry to resurrect an old thread but the links here are dead. I also have a a early 2013 27" iMac and would like to get 5.1 sound, preferably straight to speakers (i.e. not HDMI through a receiver). Thought about using the optical-out but apparently that a decoder is needed and I can't find one that isn't a cheapie made in China (anyone??).

Next thought was to get this Sound Blaster Omni Surround 5.1, but at the bottom it says "Dolby Digital Live encoding not available for Mac OS". Not sure what that means. A YouTube video of something similar (no-name) stated that movies from iTunes would not play 5.1 but most other apps do OK. Movies on iTunes is the main reason I want 5.1 so that concerns me.

Any one using the Sound Blaster with suggestions and/or recommendations?
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