How to connect Mac mini to passive bookshelf speakers? or go for active speakers again?

Our Mac mini, now almost 2 years old, is what we use to stream and listen to our library of classical and jazz music.

Our Harman Kardon Soundsticks are broken and sounding poorly. Replacements are ~$300.

Instead of replacing them, we own a pair of good quality passive bookshelf speakers which we are thinking to connect to the Mac mini. Our mini has 3.5mm stereo jack, USB A and C sockets.

What hardware do we need to connect our speakers to the mini?


Do we find a new pair of active speakers instead?

We are looking for guidance, product recommendations and pros and cons of each approach?


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What are your bookshelf speakers currently connected to? The simplest way to do this is to get a 3.5mm to RCA cable (Y splitter) and plug the RCA into your receiver that is already connected to your speakers.

The bookshelf speakers are not being used and are waiting for me to learn more about how to connect them up to the Mac mini.

You’re offering a solution which would require me to get a analog receiver. It’s a possibility. Thank you

I sometimes use the 3.5 mm stereo socket for my earphones. So I’d have to unplug and plug which is easy to do.

What kind of connectors are on the back of the intended speakers?
RCA? Screw Terminal?, Spring Terminal?, etc…

There are all types of inexpensive 3.5” Stereo Mini (Mac Mini output)
plugs to [insert speaker connection here].

[3.5” Stereo plug to Open End]

However, if your speakers are 8 ohm vs 4 ohm you will probably need some kind of amp to drive the volume loud enough to hear.

That was my experience with old Bose speakers, but I wasn’t
listening to jazz or classical :slight_smile:

My advice would be to go on FB marketplace or similar and buy an old hifi amplifier (or receiver, if that’s your thing). It will not be an expensive purchase in comparison to any piece of Apple kit.

Apart from cables that is all you should need.

Your ears will thank you.

Or get a switching box/splitter for the 3.5mm jack

I don’t know why my link didn’t display

3.5mm to Open End

This is what I used, but again it depends on what type of connection
your speakers have. In my case I needed some “volume” and bought a
cheap headphone amp. $5 for the cable, $15 for the amp = $20, All Done.

Thank you @csf111. two options: screw and 4mm banana sockets. The impedance is 15 ohms. Also I Don’t know this, however I doubt Mac mini has enough wattage to drive any speakers without amplification. Was your experience different with the Bose?

What amp did you purchase? How was that performance with the Bose speakers? @csf111

Yes indeed and :dart: @Coulmac

A colleague suggested I consider this desktop amp N22 Desktop Amplifier — Audioengine

Anyone have experience with it? Know how well it will drive 15 ohm Bookshelf speakers?

That was my issue, I got sound, but it wasn’t loud enough
so I got the headphone amp. I travelled with headphones
so it served dual purpose. The one I have is so old I can’t
read the name of it, but it was something like this

Kinda Sorta Like This

There was a product called a Griffin Twenty a while back that did exactly what you need. I considered this for my bookshelf speakers at the time. It is now discontinued. So you need an amp to power your speakers, and if you get one with AirPlay, your iOS and Mac devices will be able to play to it wirelessly.

I still have HK soundsticks and the subwoofer, and they are USB wired rather than the later BT version. Fed up of the cable clutter, I once asked here if there was anything you could get to make them wireless and the silence was deafening :-). Turns out to do that you essentially need some sort of computer rather than some sort of amplifier. My solution appeared when I got a new display that features a USB hub. The speakers connect there and I have just one wire from my MBP to the display.

Looking at the AudioEngine, it doesn’t have airplay although you could add that via a dongle. Sadly it all ends up costing more than today’s alternatives, e.g. a couple of homepods.