So, I'm working in a theater, and we start to use more and more computer, for light, video, and we'd like to use it for sound. But sound is kinda tricky, and usually sound cards on computer are pretty bad, or expensive and not built-in.

The perfect solution would be that my laptop can issue some numeric sound that my DM-1000 (or any other console) can deal with. Like AES/EBU, SPDIF, anywhat... Problem is, by looking on the internet, I can only find weird adapters and cards, costing a lot of money.

And in my mind, numeric sound is kinda easy to output, you just say 1's and 0's at the right speed, which is way easier than analog audio ie, and which is way easier to cumpute than FullHD-HDMI in example.


  • why did nobody write any driver (only piece of software) that allow you to get, in exemple, SPDIF out of the minijack for your earphone ? or AES in the HDMI cable, so you just need a simple adapter to have digital sound out of your computer ?

  • And then, the sound quality would just be about a piece of software. But I feel like, your computer is very powerfull compared to anything used 10 years ago, so you got unlimited compute power, which mean near perfect quality. In my opinion (but I'm probably wrong), quality on analog sound depend on having good pieces of hardware, when quality on numeric sound depends on having enough compute power. So, would the quality of digital sound computed from a FLAC file, by a good computer be allways lossless (compared to the file from which the sound is read) ?

  • what do you mean with numeric sound? Commented May 11, 2015 at 13:59
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    Someone did make it so you can output S/PDIF from the headphone minijack: Apple. Apple MacBook Pro and iMac computers allow you to plug in a Lightpipe/ADAT cable with an adapter which will turn the jack into an optical S/PDIF output. Maybe some other companies have done that. if you don't already have that built-in then you'll have to buy one of those "expensive" interfaces (they are very affordable in the US). Commented May 11, 2015 at 14:59

1 Answer 1


Transmitting digital audio is not just about sending 1s and 0s at the right speed. Whenever you transmit a digital signal, it's actually analog. You have to modulate the digital signal into an analog one and then demodulate it back into a digital one on the receiving end. (This is where the term modem comes from - modulator/demodulator)

So in addition to sending the signal at the right speed, the interface has to be terminated by the right impedance, it has to apply and detect the correct voltages, and it has to have the right kind of connector. Also in order to make sure the digital audio is recieved and decoded correctly there must at least be timing information added. The AES/EBU specification is 46 pages long.

As I mentioned in my comment, there is at least one case of a manufacturer building an optical S/PDIF interface into their headphone output jack. Also there are tons of HDMI audio extractors available.

When sound hits your ears, it is analog - there is no digital interface for the human brain. This means that the quality of the equipment decoding the digital audio and then the analog processors, amplifiers, and speakers have a large impact on what you hear.

A sort of side note: In no way is computing power considered infinite at this time. Our need for computing power seems to expand to consume the power available. Video games are an excellent example of this fact, but it applies to audio software and file formats as well.

  • Then, I'd like to ask what the quality of those HDMI audio extractors is ? Do I have to care and buy a good one ? or is it just not relevant, like in a hdmi->dvi adapter ?
    – Spoutnik16
    Commented May 11, 2015 at 20:12
  • I really don't know, I've never used one. Commented May 11, 2015 at 21:13

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