surround sound for my Mac Mini?
May 10, 2006 12:29 AM   Subscribe

What's the best surround sound solution for my Mac Mini?

I'm turning a Mac Mini into a media center, outputting to my HD DLP tv. It's great, I love the idea of no more DVD players in my life, but I want surround sound.

My Mini has only a stereo mini output.

Questions: with all the surround sound systems (subwoofer + speakers) out there, do any of them decode the surround sound through a stereo mini connector (I imagine this is unlikely) or do I need a separate decoder?

What's the best system (small room, don't need a ton of sound, just nice and clear) in terms of bang for the buck (I don't want to spend craploads of $)

Bonus question: Any wireless systems?

For the record, I've googled this extensively, and am awed by the number of products etc out there, but nothing I've found clearly answers these questions. I'm looking for genuine experience trying the very same thing I'm trying: full surround sound from a mac mini while watching DVDs.
posted by asavage to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
That mini stereo jack on the back is also an optical-out. You need this adapter, and the reviews suggest that it supports 5.1 surround at the least.
posted by helios at 12:50 AM on May 10, 2006

I'm not sure if the older PowerPC Mac mini's have toslink.
posted by mr.dan at 1:07 AM on May 10, 2006

USB Sound card?
posted by kenchie at 9:49 AM on May 10, 2006

PowerPC minis don't have optical out.

With DVD Player at least, any speaker system that supports Dolby Pro-Logic can produce a reasonable surround experience from just the stereo out (there's an option in DVD Player's preferences to turn Pro-Logic encoding on).

The other options are upgrading to an Intel Mac mini (which also gets you Front Row) and getting a USB optical ouput dongle, with which I have zero experience.
posted by cillit bang at 12:18 PM on May 10, 2006

In that case, you could get a nice USB sound card from M-Audio with optical out, and either buy a 5.1 speaker system1 r with a built-in decoder (which is rare, but I know the Creative Inspire 5500 has a decoder and it's priced less than $200), or buy a cheap 5.1 receiver and some nice speakers. 4 Paradigm Atoms and a Paradigm CC-170 would sound fantastic, but I don't know if the price ($600 plus the receiver ) is more than what you'd consider craploads of money.
posted by helios at 12:20 PM on May 10, 2006

Whatever you do, stay away from Bose. For the love of $deity, anything but Bose.
posted by secret about box at 10:30 PM on May 17, 2006

You can get "simulated" (a euphamistic term, at best) surround sound from stereo, but that's probably not what you're after. Otherwise, there is (to my knowledge) no solution involving encoding surround to stereo audio and back.

If the above posters are correct about the lack of optical output, an external soundcard will be needed. M-Audio comes to mind.
posted by phrontist at 11:02 AM on September 25, 2006

(And when I say external, I mean something that will typically connect with firewire/USB)
posted by phrontist at 11:03 AM on September 25, 2006

Actually, I'm now reminded of this, which is really slick and gives you full surround outputs. It looks as though it fulfills your exact need.
posted by phrontist at 11:11 AM on September 25, 2006

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