Thinking of upgrading my development laptop. Perhaps finally go to Macbook Pro. But I have a few questions first which I hope someone here can answer.
I want to be able to stream ALL computer sounds to my Atom HE while using and internal or external microphone in video calls.
Initially I was under the impression that all Macs came with a hi res sound via TOSLINK through a modified port in the headphone socket but to my chagrin I just realized this was only available on older models.
So my next question is if I can stream ALL the computer sound via Airplay? Online it seems to be possible but it would be better if someone who does it can confirm. I know you can airplay music but I would want to get OS sounds, browser sound, etc.
In short: answer seems to be “no, not fully” these days.
Which actually means, I have to revisit my decision from some years ago, to have no cable any more from my Mac to my stereo (connected to an AirPort Express) sitting under the same desk. Usually used it only for iTunes (=Music), but with the option to switch to “full system sound”.
(Was a totally different setup, without a Nova in another room and before I got a 27" screen with rather decent speakers in it; seems I haven’t tried to use it for some time now…)
Seems it was originally introduced in 2012 as I described, and according to an updated article, it was still working in (at least) 2016.
On both my Macs (MBP 16", 11.5.2; and even my old MBP 13" (2011) with 10.13.6) it now behaves differently:
You can select any AirPlay 2 device as target for “output”.
Works fine with video played in various browsers. Those are (roughly) lip-sync’ed.
Works fine with some simple audio-playback (like: preview from finder). Though with 2 seconds of delay. (Typical AirPlay buffering… did not expect this here.)
Output-device aware app (like VLC, audacity) use the default setting and allow to switch between the other and the AirPlay device, when you manually select this.
However, they introduce a 2s delay as well for audio-transmit, which makes it rather useless for audacity and video in VLC (with the offset to video; okay, VLC can compensate that in advanced settings, …)
I briefly started a game, which shows the same:
A video playback is fine and in sync.
Any audio from effects/gameplay go via AirPlay, but are 2s delayed.
It’s obviously media-playback-oriented, since for both audio and video the AirPlay receiver (Nova) shows track information! (Varying amount, depending on input. Including title/length of a track, …)
And it also only transmits data, while something is playing.
The “alerts” section in the settings these day allows to set a different device for effects, than the general audio output. You can also set “the same”.
However, as soon as I select an AirPlay device, the system sound remain on an in-built or USB-connected speaker.
I’ve learned about the “MIDI audio devices”, which gives more information about the devices, and allows things like setting sample rates…
It does show the AirPlay devices, as soon as connected via the settings. (As 44.1/16 device, by the way.)
It does allow to set any shown device as output, and some settings like adjusting the channels (like: swap left/right).
It does offer another menu option to set alerts & effects to a specific device; but this option is not enabled for the AirPlay device. (In line with the setting app, though clearer visible.)
Tried with Nova and AirPort Express, both with AirPlay 2.
I also fired up my old AirPlay 1 Pioneer speaker, which these days works the same as above.
(Sorry if any names are off; translated back from German; did not check the official names.)
(Something in me wants to find out, when it changed, why they went for a more “media” optimized way, if it is related to AirPlay 2 introduction, … but haven’t found this yet and maybe should spend time now differently. These things annoy me… I liked the old feature better. The new one could be more robust on bad WiFi or so… but with good network, even AirPlay 1 was doing really fine.)
Thanks for the very detailed reply. I really appreciate it!
As you describe it, it is pretty much useless for my intended use so you saved me lots of possible frustration.
I am mostly annoyed by the apparent removal of the TOSLINK interface.
So it is probably back to an external converter then. Which I already have on Windows. Suppose I could use the same external box on a Mac but, considering the premium cost of Apple silicon, a direct interface to the Naim would have been a serious selling point for me.
I know there’s 3rd party software for “routing audio” on Macs, but I haven’t yet looked, if those could help here or not.
As Apple gives so they take… starting next release, macOS will be able to receive (!) AirPlay 2, so you can use it as an external speaker or even screen-share your iPhone or iPad to it.
(AirPlay mirror to Apple TV was for example a scenario, where near-realtime (low lag) audio+video redirection from macOS was working quite nicely, even via WiFi… maybe I should test, whether at least this is working still.)
Maybe the removal of the TOSLINK was because it needed something extra, which a very low amount of people used (and they could save money in the supply chain). Or needed less chips, so they could shrink the board and include more battery. Or it’s a step towards removing those ports anyway from (all) the devices.
Or, they knew they did not want to replicate this function on their Apple Silicon Macs, and thus removed it alltogether, before going there.
(They are known to think in advance and slowly deprecate things to get rid off. Like: support for 32 bit apps. Saved them likely work and hassle on the M1-x86-emulation to only support 64 bit. But they deprecated and removed it 2 years (+/-) before that, so people would not think it’s related to the “best ever” Macs. (That’s my theory, at least.))
Thing is on my Windows machine I already have a solution to wire analog into the Atom. So considering the cost of a Macbook Pro I was looking to see if there was a solution on it that does not require an extra purchase.
So I was online with someone from the official Mac helpline online today. Their solution was to run an analogue cable from the line out to the Atom. So native lossless streaming is a thing of the past.