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I have a Mac Mini 2018 that I sometimes connect my headphones to. They work just fine. No issues with volume.

But if I connect the Mac Mini to a receiver (a Denon AVR-2106) via the minijack with a 3.5mm to RCA cable, then the volume on the speakers connected to the Denon is too low.

The volume on the Denon is in dB and starts in negative number (never understood why) and I have to crank it up to 0db and then I can barely hear the audio from the speakers. Also, I have to max the output volume setting on the Mac.

What gives?

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  • i'm glad you found a home for this question - just to copy/paste from SD, if anyone else is wondering… the -ve dB readout is "dB below full scale", [dBFS] so 0dB is 'max volume'. It really has little value as a true measurement other than if you are quantifying right the way through your audio path in the same units. It's just 'fancy consumer waffle' I'm afraid.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented Mar 31, 2020 at 17:11

4 Answers 4

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This is because the jacks on the Mac are not line level inputs/outputs.

I wrote an answer to a question in a similar vane that addresses this in much more detail: Use 3.5mm jack as line in for a musical instrument

But, to summarize it here, the audio jack is putting out a signal in milivolts that enough to drive a simple microphone, a headset or some small speakers. When you connect to the line input of a piece of AV equipment, it's expecting a much higher voltage - ~1.5V. So, what you need is something that acts as a pre-amp.

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Just to provide an alternative which does not require extra hardware:

I had this problem with my 2021 Mac Mini M1, and found the volume too low. I used the free eqMac software to increase the volume beyond "100%". Seems to work OK.

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  • 1
    This might be more useful with information where this software can be downloaded from (link).
    – nohillside
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 22:08
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It’s low since Apple gear drives consumer headphones. For more volume you would connect an amplifier (or pre-amp) to the output if your receiver expects too high impedance.

You also might have better luck with a different input or getting a Bluetooth receiver that’s designed to input into another system.

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The maximum output on the Mac Mini is 1Vrms which is the upper limit with a 3.3V supply. As conventional line-level outputs provide 2Vrms, you will need to crank up the volume on your amp by another 6dB.

In addition, please be aware that there are 2 volume controls in series. All controls except the very last one need to be set to 0dB, i.e. the Mac Mini volume MUST be set to maximum when using the headphone output as a line-level output.

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