Over the network. This is an interesting topic, arguably deserving of its own article. The photograph below shows the back of my Mac mini. Depending on your choice of hardware and interface, yours will of course look different. Most current Macs the Macbook Air being the exception, alas have an optical output port hiding inside the headphone jack.
Also, the Mac mini is reported to have very low jitter on its optical output. So if you have a DAC that supports optical in, at least give it a try. Double-click to run it. Note that I have selected Built-in Output so it displays on the right, and set it to For now, this will do. Since this is connected to your stereo system, this is rather annoying. One workaround is to turn off as many of those as possible in the Sound Effects preferences, and turn the Alert Volume waa-ay down.
Like this:. This is good, because compatibility is high and you can get almost anything with a USB plug on it these days. Connecting the DAC is simple — just plug the cable in at both ends. Conventional wisdom has it that you should not have any other USB devices active at all for best performance, which means that if you need external drives, try to use FireWire or Thunderbolt.
Note that this time there are two volume-control sliders, for the left and right channels. These should be set to maximum, to prevent OS X from scaling the signal before sending it out — if you want to do volume control in the computer, let the music player itself do it. Again, connecting the DAC is simply a matter of plugging it in. All you need to do in this case is to get a cable with a FireWire plug on one end and a FireWire port on the other, as FireWire is backwards-compatible with FireWire As noted above, many of these devices support multi-channel audio, and we can see that by looking more carefully at the Audio MIDI window:.
Clicking on the Configure Speakers button leads to a dialog that allows the main left and right output channels to be assigned to any of the output channels of the DAC:.
Use Google Images or any other search engine to locate a usable image of the album cover — x is a good size for this purpose. Download it to your computer, and then right-click on the album not an individual track and open the Info window. Double-click on the Artwork box, and you will be prompted to select a file. Select the image file you just downloaded, and click OK.
This procedure can be streamlined with a utility called Album Artwork Assistant , which is essentially an automated version of the above. The key — in my opinion — to making effective use of iTunes is the use of smart playlists. Most of the time, I just want an effective way to navigate my music library and find albums.
Click on the album view icon in the toolbar:. You can change this if you want to.
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While you can change it for each track, I always do this for whole albums. The Info window is shown below. You can select a genre in the bottom-most field of the window — you can either select from the drop-down menu, or just type in what you think the genre should be. Then click OK. You will notice a number of other fields in the screenshot above, any of which can be used to match tracks or albums for a smart playlist. I like to use the Comments field, where you can put anything you want.
And viola! Smart playlists should be organized into folders by type. I also use the Grouping field to put in the owner of the CD, so other members of the household can find their own CDs easily. Sometimes an album will have a genre that you miss in your set of smart playlists. Create another playlist folder called say Miscellaneous, and create a smart playlist called say Missed Genres in there. Then configure it like this:.
So you may then want to create a new Genre playlist, adjust your existing playlist settings, or simply change the genre field of the album. I find it handy to create another similar playlist that includes items added in the last day. This way I can rip a number of CDs, and easily find them later in the day when I want to check them and add the artwork. You may want to move your iTunes library from time to time.
For example, if you have a large library, you may want to store the iTunes library on an external drive.
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You can do it this way if you like — just remember that your metadata remains in your home folder, while the music files themselves will be on the external drive. Another approach is to move the metadata and the music files together. That way, the iTunes library file goes wherever your music files go. To do it this way:. You can check that iTunes is using the files are on the external disk in a couple of ways. First, in the Advanced tab of iTunes preferences, check the location of the media folder — it should be on the external drive.
This makes the Mac mini a true part of your stereo system, that you can place anywhere there is free space. Mine is on an Ikea Lack wall shelf that also holds the networking hardware; a 2m Firewire cable connects it to the DAC. As a result, we have made the music computer permanently headless.
The Remote app also works with many of the more advanced players to be discussed in the next article. You can use screen sharing on a laptop to control iTunes running on your music computer. Screen sharing is built into OS X; to enable it, go to the Sharing pane in the System Preferences of the music computer and check it. Then, on the laptop, open a Finder window, click on the name of the music computer in the left column, and then click on the Screen Sharing button.
Using a remote desktop does take some getting used to. If you have a headless Mini, however, you can set its screen resolution to something that you find best to work with from the laptop. The inexpensive Apple Remote has a limited amount of functionality for controlling iTunes remotely, provided that the music computer has an infrared port. As of the time of writing, this includes the current iMacs and the Mac mini, but not the MacBook Air. You cannot select albums or playlists.
With Lion, Front Row has been removed, and the Menu button does nothing. So, you get limited remote control functionality this way, but it is also very cheap. There are other options for controlling a remote Mac. On an iPad, the apps iTeleport and Logmein can be used this way.
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Once you have your library and audio set up to your satisfaction, you will want to try using some other music players. These player offer more capabilities than iTunes, as well as better audio quality. Many of them integrate into the iTunes used interface, so the work you have done with setting up your library is not wasted.
Each offers a different set of features, too numerous and varied to list here, but they also all have a free trial period so you can try them out for yourself:. While it sounds a bit involved, computer-based audio can be rewarding once you get up that learning curve a bit.
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And if I really want a spinning disc, I reach for one of those black ones now. It is, after all, all about the pleasure of playing back the music that you have. Happy ripping! Anyone have any idea why this is? I would have thought optical fiber has higher bandwidth and throughput?? Never noticed flutter with its 1m Toslink. One end of the cable has a 3. This looks exactly like the socket on the end of your Apple headphones. These will plug straight into your stereo. The cable looks like this:. But the difference between a mid-range cable and a high end cable is less noticeable unless you have a good ear and a good stereo.
Steer away from anything on ebay that looks like this:.
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Next Page: iPod Dock and wireless Airplay…. This is because the headphone jack is designed to power headphones, not be plugged into a stereo. You can read about the technical differences here. So, for the best sound quality, you need to track down a 2nd hand iPod or iPhone dock that will suit your iPhone or iPod. The jack on the left in the above picture. This is different. A headphone output is expecting a pair of headphones and while it will still work fine, you may lose some high-end or low end or clarity using it as a line out instead of a headphone out.