Mac Mini for use with TV & Audio - GUI Question

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jwr159

Mac Mini for use with TV & Audio - GUI Question
« on: 28 Jun 2020, 04:49 pm »
Does anyone use their TV connected to a Mac Mini?

I have a Samsung Q70 TV, a USB input only DAC (that I would like to continue using), and an Apple 4K TV box.

The only practical way I can figure out to use the DAC with the TV is to use a Mac Mini in place of the Apple TV Box. In my view, this is a workable but not an ideal solution. There are no "apps" for Netflix, Hulu that run on the Mac platform. Both would have to be accessed via a browser window. I am okay with that, but then navigating the screen with a wireless keyboard and mouse seems awkward for normal TV, movie, and listening to music using a streaming service like Tidal. 

So my question is can an iPad be used as a keyboard and mouse? If so, how would it be done?

If there are other options - like using some other type of remote to provide a typical TV-like experience, please let me know.

Thanks for any feedback.   

brj

Re: Mac Mini for use with TV & Audio - GUI Question
« Reply #1 on: 29 Jun 2020, 04:32 am »
What exactly do you want to do with the Mac Mini on the TV, as that's going to drive your ultimate solution.

My 2012 Mac Mini outputs audio over USB to my DAC.  That audio can come from either Roon running on the Mac Mini itself for music listening, or the TOSLINK audio output of my Oppo BDP-105 on the Mac Mini's optical input for movies.  The Oppo essentially acts as an audio extractor, as it sends audio to the Mac Mini in the same manner no matter what the original audio/video source seen by the Oppo.  For example, Oppo can play DVDs/Blu-Rays of course, but my TV can alos output audio/video to the Oppo over HDMI-ARC, and the Apple TV can output audio/video to the Oppo over HDMI.  The Mac Mini sees it all the same on its optical input.

My Mac Mini also has an HDMI output to the Oppo (and from there to the TV), but I almost never use it.  If I want to configure something on the Mini I'll just start screen sharing to it from my Mac laptop.  I could play YouTube videos this way, I suppose, but on the rare occasion I want to do that, I just stream the videos from my Mac laptop to the Apple TV using AirPlay.

If you don't have a Mac laptop, you can still start remote video sharing from either Windows or Linux using VNC.

I do have an Apple Magic Keyboard and Trackpad that can be used for input to the Mac Mini with the TV as the video output, but it is far more convenient to stick with screen sharing to my Mac laptop.  I use my phone or tablet to control Roon.

For music, I perform EQ inside of Roon.  For everything else, I use Rogue Amoeba's Loopback to control the audio routing on the Mac, with AU Lab providing the EQ in that case.

Hope that helps...

jwr159

Re: Mac Mini for use with TV & Audio - GUI Question
« Reply #2 on: 29 Jun 2020, 01:24 pm »
Thank you brj for the post.

I am attempting to achieve two objectives.....

1. Maintain the user interface I now experience using the Apple TV 4K box; and

2. Integrate a high end (USB INPUT ONLY) DAC into my two-channel system used for TV and music.

The connectivity issue to the DAC is proving to be a real problem. I would have thought some type of optical/Toslink adaptor would be readily available, but it is not. Turns out the only way to do the conversion is by using a computer.

I have come up with two possible solutions.

1. Replace the Apple TV 4K box with a Mac Mini. With the Mini in place, an HDMI out would go to the TV for video, a USB out would go to the DAC for audio.  The issue with this solution is that you know longer have the nice Apple TV 4K box interface on the screen. Instead, as you know, you need to rely on a wireless keyboard/mouse or Airplay from another device. Workable, but not ideal IMHO.

2. Connect the Apple TV box, blue ray player to separate non-Audio Return Channel (ARC) HDMI inputs on the TV.  Connect a Mac Mini to the ARC HDMI port on the TV and set the audio output on the TV to ARC & PCM/Stereo.  Now the Mac Mini will do the translation of the audio from HDMI to USB. I have not tried this approach so I am not 100% sure it will work. It all depends if the TV recognizes the Mac Mini. If this approach works, then I get to keep the Apple TV 4K box user interface.

All these issues go away if my DAC had an optical input. Then I could simply connect the optical output on the TV to the DAC. But I rather use my existing DAC than replace it.


brj

Re: Mac Mini for use with TV & Audio - GUI Question
« Reply #3 on: 30 Jun 2020, 04:44 am »
Well, as I said, I do exactly what you're describing (and more), as my Mac Mini outputs audio over USB to my DAC for all forms of music and movie playback.

The catch is that I don't use the Mac for any video activity of any kind.  Instead, I use my Oppo as an HDMI switcher and audio extractor for my movie sources, including my Apple TV for streaming movies.  So the Oppo handles video output to the TV across all video sources, not my Mac.  Because of this, I rarely need to log into the Mac directly for any reason.  Most use an AV receiver for this type of activity, especially if they have a lot of sources, but you could also use an inexpensive HDMI switch as well, as many extract audio in addition to switching between HDMI inputs.  This way the Mac receives movie audio over its optical input, and then sends it back out again over USB to your DAC.

(I know nothing about the linked switch - it was the result of a 30 second search.)

brj

Re: Mac Mini for use with TV & Audio - GUI Question
« Reply #4 on: 30 Jun 2020, 05:05 am »
I alluded to parts of it before, so I suppose I should mention that I have different software running on the Mac depending on whether I'm interested in movie playback vs. music playback.

For Music, I run Roon, sometimes feeding HQPlayer for upsampling.  (Driver correction EQ is performed within HQPlayer if running, or if not, Roon.)

For Movies, I use Loopback for audio routing with AU Lab for EQ.

I wrote one AppleScript script to set up the music software configuration, and another to set up the movie software configuration.  (The Mac always boots into the music configuration.)  I then linked these to a Flic smart button.  Double click for music.  Long click for movies.  Done!  (This is yet another reason I almost never have to log into the Mac.)

Depending on what you use for music playback, however, you might be able to use Loopback to control the audio routing even for that element and avoid such complexity.  I wanted to use Roon, which doesn't current accept a raw audio stream as input, so I went to the effort.