Apr 27 2009
If you had a dollar for every Mac mini home theater tutorial, you’d be able to pay for several of mine. Of the many good configurations out there, you can count on me to find the least expensive. What can I say, I’m cheap. And if you just paid $500 for your Mac, you probably are too.
So, today we’ll set up an econo-home entertainment center: mini cinema.
With the help of free software and a great deal on hardware from Amazon, we’re going to use your existing television and speakers to create a much improved sound experience. Even better, we’ll load your DVD collection on your mini for hassle free movie marathons.
First up, the deal. This Philips USB 5.1 surround sound external audio solution has been spotted as low as $29 in the past. Right now Amazon is selling it for 60% off, at $39. Of course I can’t guarantee that it will be available for long.
What this thing gives you are optical and RCA outputs for front and rear speakers, an amplifier and a minijack headphones out and microphone input (something missing on the mini). There is conflicting documentation on Mac support. As of the time of publication, I have not been able to test the unit but it has seemed to work for others (see Amazon reviews).
Note: special thanks to a reader for the following info (from Philips support) on the Aurilium’s Mac OS Support:
The specifications for the PSC805 indicate limited functionality with a Mac OS, namely stereo sound only because the software is Windows compatible only. The device should be plug and play with the Mac as far as stereo is concerned, however.
If your’s works, drop me a line (brian AT macmerc DOT com). This isn’t the only solution to get high quality sound out of your Mac, though it is about $60 cheaper than other solutions with the Amazon discount.
Now, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to pipe your video into your TV. If you have a newer TV you might have a digital input allowing you to directly plug your mini in to your TV. If you’re not in that happy place, you’ll need this adapter to connect your mini via analog to your TV.
Okay, now for the fun. First, you’ll want to rip the best of your DVD collection to your Mac. Let’s hope you opted for the 80 GB hard drive. If not, you may want to invest in an external Firewire solution. The ripper of choice for the Mac is the free Mac the Ripper.
This excellent free utility lets you selectively rip components of your DVDs (even protected ones) to your hard drive for backup and quick-access convenience*. Expect anywhere from 4 to 12 GB per DVD.
So, what do you do with your new collection of ripped DVDs? Play them in Matinee. This media player allows you to play ripped DVDs through Apple’s DVD Player.
Enjoy the candy-smooth interface that includes library management tools for easy navigation between DVDs.
Now, wrapping it all up – we have video coming out your TV, an audio adapter granting you surround sound and some slick freeware running your cinema box. Thanks to careful planning and use of existing stuff, you can do this for as little as $39, and for hundreds less than most setups.
I can already smell popcorn.
* STEALING IS BAD. You should only rip DVDs you own.