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Surround-Enable Your MacBook

Setting up DVD Player for multi-channel digital sound By Dave Nagel
Most of you out there are probably unaware of this. But aside from being a speed demon when it comes to pro applications, Apple's MacBook and MacBook Pro also happen to be pretty handy hubs for home theater applications. And this includes playback of DVDs with full digital surround sound output--including passthrough of DTS audio.

The digital-out port
Here's the part that you might not be aware of: Recent Mac models, including the MacBook and MacBook Pro, have a line-out port that serves two purposes. On the one hand, it can be used as a headphone jack that works with any ol' regular headphones with a 1/8" miniplug. On the other hand, that exact same port is also capable of delivering a fully digital optical signal via fiber.

The signal that the MacBook sends out is encoded. And that means that you can hook your MacBook up to your home theater receiver, which will then decode the signal, just as if you were playing your DVDs through a set-top DVD player.

This capability is built into every MacBook, MacBook Pro and Intel-based Mac system on the market right now. The only thing you'll need, as you would with any DVD player, is the right kind of cable to connect it up with your surround receiver.

In the case of MacBooks, iMacs and Mac Minis, that cable is a mini-Toslink to Toslink cable. These are available widely, and you should be able to pick one up for about $30 (for a six-foot Toslink cable with a mini-Toslink adapter.) In my case, I use a Belkin adapter, which came with a six-foot cable. But I needed a longer cable, so I just removed the mini-Toslink adapter from the Belkin cable and attached it to my Monster Cable cable. In case you're interested, you'll find my review of this Belkin adapter by clicking here.

Plug the mini-Toslink end into your MacBook ad the Toslink end into your surround receiver. (Receivers vary, so I'll leave it up to you to figure out how to select the right input on the receiver.)

Setting up DVD Player
  Now, in order to get your MacBook to output digital sound to your receiver, you'll need to do a little setup. So go into your Applications folder and launch DVD Player.

Once it's launched, open up DVD Player's preferences (DVD Player > Preferences).

There, click on the button labeled Disc Setup. By default, the Audio Output is set to "System Sound Output."

And, if you do not have a mini-Toslink cable connected to your MacBook, this will be your only option. However, once you plug that puppy in, anther option will become available: "Digital Out - Built-in Output."

Select this option to enable playback through your Toslink cable to your surround receiver.

At this point, you may or may not need to restart your computer. (You'll know, if DVD Player doesn't work properly.)

Once this is done, you're ready to go. Insert a DVD, and the digital signal will be passed through to your receiver via the Toslink cable, and you'll be able to hear your DVD's audio the way it was meant to be heard.

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Related Keywords:macbook, surround sound, digital, optical, dolby, dts, toslink, mini-toslink, 5.1 channel, dvd


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