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Turn a Mac Mini into a audio and video High Res "Apple TV"

OP
MINOR WHITE

MINOR WHITE

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I use a Mac mini M1 as my main music player. I also have an Apple TV 4K as my main video streamer. The Apple TV 4K, Mac mini M1 and other devices are connected directly to my receiver and it is connected to my TV. I use the M1 to go online and browse while listening to music on the couch using a Magic Keyboard and Magic Mouse. The update to macOS Sonoma updated the HDMI port from a locked 24/48 output and it can be set up to 24/192. Amazon Music Unlimited Ultra HD, Apple Music, Qobuz and Tidal can now all deliver 24/192 hi-res signals to my receiver via HDMI without the needing to go through Roon or Audirvana. Different settings are necessary for hi-res output of different services but honestly, they all sound good from 16/44.1 up to 24/192.

The most convenient service when using my Mac mini M1 for music is Apple Music. My rips and Apple Music service library both show up when using the iTunes Remote app on my iPhone to act as the Mac mini M1's Apple Music app controller. If on my iMac in another room, screen share works to use any of the service apps currently in the Mac mini M1. If I want sample rate and bit match while using Apple Music, I turn on LosslessSwitcher.
Apple Music is a lot simpler and most familiar to me (have had Mac my whole life) so I'll likely use that and direct link to the DAC via USB. I hadn't heard of Lossless Switcher: I'll look into that and thanks!
 
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MINOR WHITE

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I wasn't aware the 24/48 HDMI limit on the new Minis was a SOFTWARE restriction rather than HARDWARE. Great info! Confirmed this works for me as well :)
Yea that's a confusing newer issue. Instead of INCREASING resolution, they've locked it at a lower rate than what is possible via the hardware and even software programs. Must be in the interest of controlling bandwidth and simplifying things for them technically? (Trouble issues, etc)
 
OP
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Fyi I use TV as second monitor with laptop (it's 55" at ~2.5 metres) but run at default resolution as Retina display (obvious if you are a Mac user: needs 4K GUI is 2x). Operating eg Music and TV apps on that screen is fine for me. You can also try Remote app from the phone to control audio/visual playback from those apps. There are likely similar solutions for third-party.

Edit: plus what @tmtomh said.

View attachment 327841
It's counter-intuitive, but you want to use the default (you can show all resolutions to see the rest) so macOS renders everything at high resolution (just like your Mac laptop screen). The UI will be 2x and the side effect is that UI is large enough to see/use easily.
This is awesome and thank you!!!
 

formdissolve

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I love the latest Nvidia Shield TV Pro mainly because it has the ability for USB audio out for everything (the optical port on my LG is terrible). The main issue I have with it for streaming video content is that it does NOT automatically switch framerates from the source. They have a beta feature where you can "match framerates" via a button in the menu that works for most apps, but not all. I haven't tried Plex yet either.. This is because they run an older version of Android TV - the latest versions support auto-switching of framerates.

The main reason this is slightly annoying is because a LOT of content is 24fps (23.976 to be exact), but some TV shows on apps are 30hz and then some stuff on YT is 60hz (if you care about that). That said, I just leave it at 23.976 since the vast majority of stuff I watch is 24fps anyways and switch on the fly for the edge cases.

As for audio: I haven't tested that yet, but it shows up in Roon as a Chromecast output which is cool
1704902503309.png
 

Jedi2155

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You can play DD Atmos music over HDMI using the NVIDIA Shield TV Pro. The Tidal app claims to play high-resolution FLAC, but I'm not sure exactly what it sends over the HDMI port. The Shield is also, to my knowledge, the only way to stream lossless DD Atmos over Plex.

I gave up my 2019 Shield Pro when I tried in 2021, and last year I bought it again when I swapped my x6500h for a x4800h and my Xbox Series X which supported DD Atmos Lossless on my PLEX wouldn't for some reason on the 4800h. I discovered the latest Amazon Fire Cube TV does Plex MUCH better than the Shield and the Xbox and I've been using that as my primary streaming box as my plex media since. Best thing about the the FireCube is that it has the latest hardware that it can handle PGS subtitles (Chinese specifically for my girlfriend) over my plex videos without any slowdown and supports 6 GHz WiFi 6E although it has a measly 100 mbps network port which makes no sense to me.
 
OP
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Just wanted to drop an update:
Been using the Mac Mini as my "smart TV, Video, and Audio Streamer".
- Ethernet in via modern wifi router
- HDMI out to small 40" 1080i sceen video/tv, etc.
- USB out to Bel Canto DAC 2.8 for audio

It takes some getting use to, and there's things I like, and things I don't like at all.

I notice in order to watch live TV (via YouTube TV) at the 1080P setting, the cooling fan runs on the Mini, A LOT.
When streaming to a Google Ultra dongle over wifi, I had 1080p no problem, filled screen proper proportions, everything seemed fine.
Now, to get the highest resolution for both the app and the TV, I get the cooling fan on, with NOTHING else running.
Not a fan of this. (Wow...that was a horrible pun).

The Audio though has been great.
I use "Boom Audio Pro" as a rider MIDI app to tweak the frequency response to contend with room nodes, which is GREAT.
USB out to the DAC at 24bit, 192khz has been perfectly fine and sound quality for Qobuz and for now iTunes has been just great.
Both are running "Bit Perfect", and with the Boom Audio slight EQ tweeks.
Later I'll be getting ROON for the Mini and hopefully be running everything thru that.

I'd really like to figure out why the fan runs a lot on this compared to when I would even run it on my laptop. It's kind of annoying and frankly a bit shocking.
 

DWPress

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There are apps to tame fans for Macs, just keep an eye on temperatures if you tweak. This is an older Intel Mac mini then? My Apple silicon minis fans never come on.
 
OP
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There are apps to tame fans for Macs, just keep an eye on temperatures if you tweak. This is an older Intel Mac mini then? My Apple silicon minis fans never come on.
I believe it's a 2015,
I noticed there was an OS update, and just installed that and I think Youtube/Google Chrome was also updated (security things).
After the reboot, things were actually WORSE: fans were running nearly non-stop.

But I think I found the issue.
I had "use Hardware Acceleration" turned on for Youtube TV/Chrome.
Which in my head I thought this was a good thing and would actually help.
But I switched it off, and re-booted and so far it seems to be quiet, or at the least the fans aren't running at full after-burner ram jet.
I'll keep monitoring it for a day or so when streaming movies and shows in 1080p and see if it flares up again.
 
OP
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There are apps to tame fans for Macs, just keep an eye on temperatures if you tweak. This is an older Intel Mac mini then? My Apple silicon minis fans never come on.
Yeah....I was premature on that one.....turns out I just happened to choose a couple of channels that were 720p....once I chose 1080 it was instant fan action.
 
OP
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What is it?
It's an audio midi computer app that has a parametric EQ function (and a bunch of pre-sets) to help tweak the audio from your computer. In my case, I use the Mac Mini as an audio server and media device that runs to a Bel Canto Dac via USB. So I get to take advantage of very simple effective non-destructive equalization to help deal with room nodes/frequency response issues with my system/room.

 

gags

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Another Mac Mini user here. Currently USB out to a Topping D10 for audio for my main system and line out to some powered Bose desktops on the fire place mantle piece for “it must just work” family acceptance factor. These can be switched in the OS easily enough.

HDMI out to a monitor for video. I use Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad and sit across the room from it. Everyone in the family, including my 6 year old kid is happily using this set up.

A tip to help read the screen from across the room is to turn on accessibility zoom. This allows a key plus two finger swipe gesture which results in MacOs zooming in on the cursor. It becomes second nature after a while for things like typing urls into a browser and similar.

 
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OP
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Another Mac Mini user here. Currently USB out to a Topping D10 for audio for my main system and line out to some powered Bose desktops on the fire place mantle piece for “it must just work” family acceptance factor. These can be switched in the OS easily enough.

HDMI out to a monitor for video. I use Bluetooth keyboard and trackpad and sit across the room from it. Everyone in the family, including my 6 year old kid is happily using this set up.

A tip to help read the screen from across the room is to turn on accessibility zoom. This allows a key plus to finger swipe gesture which results in MacOs zooming in on the cursor. It becomes second nature after a while for things like typing urls into a browser and similar.

That sounds like you found a perfect solution and it's working great for everyone. I didn't know about the zoom function, I'll check that out.
Let me know if you notice fan noise from high-gpu/cpu usage video programs.
 

tmtomh

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That sounds like you found a perfect solution and it's working great for everyone. I didn't know about the zoom function, I'll check that out.
Let me know if you notice fan noise from high-gpu/cpu usage video programs.

I've used 2011 and 2012 Mac minis as music servers. I have not used them for video. The only time I've heard the fan is when I would add a bunch of high-res (24/96 or higher) music files to the iTunes/Music library all at once and iTunes (and later the third-party iVolume app) would scan them all to determine the ReplayGain values.

I noticed the 2012's fan became audible less often than the 2011's. And the fan noise virtually disappared altogether when I made a small stand out of some Lego pieces to enable the mini to stand on its edge vertically (instead of the usual flat orientation). That massively increases airflow through the unit's air intake (which is on the bottom), which in turn reduces the speed the fan has to spin in order to circulate enough air to cool the components.
 
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OP
MINOR WHITE

MINOR WHITE

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I've used 2011 and 2012 Mac minis as music servers. I have not used them for video. The only time I've heard the fan is when I would add a bunch of high-res (24/96 or higher music files to the iTunes/Music library all at once and iTunes (and later the third-party iVolume app) would scan them all to determine the ReplayGain values.

I noticed the 2012's fan became audible less often than the 2011's. And the fan noise virtually disappared altogether when I made a small stand out of some Lego pieces to enable the mini to stand on its edge vertically (instead of the usual flat orientation). That massively increases airflow through the unit's air intake (which is on the bottom), which in turn reduces the speed the fan has to spin in order to circulate enough air to cool the components.
Thanks for this! I use the Mac Mini (2013 maxed out) mainly as the home entertainment center...instead of a Smart TV and instead of Casting from my laptop to a Chrome Ultra dongle: mainly to take advantage of a software system Parametric EQ ("Boom 3D"), and ability to have faster ethernet to it and using the USB higher res output for Roon/Qobuz, etc. Most of the duty though, is using Youtube TV or Plex, Netflix. I am learning that the latest Youtube codec for video is rampantly CPU heavy even just at 1080p, nearly instantly kicking the fan on full blast. Sometimes Qobuz will cause this as well. I have learned that you can force Youtube to default to H.264 (html) codec video, which is more native for Macs, and isn't as CPU/GPU/Memory heavy. Using the proper extension in either Safari or Firefox, "seems" to help keep the unit running cooler. The only downside is the audio codec for the Youtube H.264 video is a "lesser quality" (I think bit rate?) mP4, as opposed to the Opus codec, which is capable of higher bit rate. At least to my ears, I haven't noticed any difference with my system....so I think I'm good with things.
 

tmtomh

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Thanks for this! I use the Mac Mini (2013 maxed out) mainly as the home entertainment center...instead of a Smart TV and instead of Casting from my laptop to a Chrome Ultra dongle: mainly to take advantage of a software system Parametric EQ ("Boom 3D"), and ability to have faster ethernet to it and using the USB higher res output for Roon/Qobuz, etc. Most of the duty though, is using Youtube TV or Plex, Netflix. I am learning that the latest Youtube codec for video is rampantly CPU heavy even just at 1080p, nearly instantly kicking the fan on full blast. Sometimes Qobuz will cause this as well. I have learned that you can force Youtube to default to H.264 (html) codec video, which is more native for Macs, and isn't as CPU/GPU/Memory heavy. Using the proper extension in either Safari or Firefox, "seems" to help keep the unit running cooler. The only downside is the audio codec for the Youtube H.264 video is a "lesser quality" (I think bit rate?) mP4, as opposed to the Opus codec, which is capable of higher bit rate. At least to my ears, I haven't noticed any difference with my system....so I think I'm good with things.

Glad you’ve found a setup that works for you! Given how YouTube compresses all audio, I would be very surprised if the Opus and AAC codecs sounded any different. Also, YT’s audio bitrate doesn’t change, so if you were to choose to view YT videos at lower video resolution (to reduce GPU load on the mini), the audio quality would not suffer.

In general, video is much for demanding than audio, so I can imagine the fan would ramp up more quickly with video.
 
OP
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Glad you’ve found a setup that works for you! Given how YouTube compresses all audio, I would be very surprised if the Opus and AAC codecs sounded any different. Also, YT’s audio bitrate doesn’t change, so if you were to choose to view YT videos at lower video resolution (to reduce GPU load on the mini), the audio quality would not suffer.

In general, video is much for demanding than audio, so I can imagine the fan would ramp up more quickly with video.
I think it's almost impossible for me to hear the differences, or it is a rare or certain type of video and music/audio that would present the difference, and even then it's really not "oh my god night and day".

I had found a great video a month ago explaining and showing the various youtube audio codecs and rates with corresponsing cut off filters and frequency range and compression....but I haven't been able to find it again.
The compiled document at this site is very comprehensive outlining the rates, codecs, legacy, etc.
 
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