Control volume of attached digital Dolby surround device

Oct 21, '09 07:30:01AM

Contributed by: emale

Some people are speaking from the "living room of the future:" A television where you can read your emails and surf the web, listen to your music everywhere in your house, and also control everything everywhere. For me, all solutions I've seen until today are not very user friendly. Surfing the internet with the television remote control, problems with all the different video codecs when playing media files on the TV screen, etc.

I've had my own solution for the last three years: A Mac mini (small, quiet, powerful enough) attached to a big LCD TV, a Dolby Surround system, Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, some AirportExpress Base Stations for iTunes access in other rooms and an iPod touch to control them, eyeTV, etc.

There was one small problem with my setup, though: With the Mac connected to an audio device using the digital fibre connector, there's no way to control the system output volume. Pressing the volume keys results in this bezel. From that, I presume that the digital output only transports the signal information and no volume information.

So I had to control the sound volume with an additional remote for the digital surround device. I also had to control the power for the surround device and the LCD TV via that remote. This was very annoying, as I had more than enough remotes on my couch table already.

Finally I found a low-cost solution some weeks ago, and maybe it's worth sharing -- I don't think I'm the only one who's using a Mac as a real digital hub.

What you need:

Despite all this, I wasn't really satisfied. I had to press Control-Plus to increate the sound level, and the three keys at the top right of the keyboard to control the volume where useless. So after some searching, I found KeyRemap4MacBook (that also does remapping for other macs) -- also freeware.

KeyRemap4MacBook can remap the volume keys quieter/louder/mute to F3/F4/F5 (unfortunately, I found no way to remap them to something else). So I did the remap, and changed the settings in Butler to F3/F4/F5. Now I'm happy: After three years of digging, I'm able to control the volume with the volume keys. Who thought this could be so hard when using the digital output? At the other side: Pressing the F3/F4/F5 keys does the same thing as pressing the volume keys, but I can live with that...

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