After my post earlier this week about transmitting Mac audio, readers contacted me about extending this solution. Although they liked the idea of direct audio while working out on a treadmill or exercise bike, several stated that they also wanted to watch from the sofa once the spouse or the kid go to sleep. The idea was the same: audio transmission to an iPhone or iPod touch. The source was different. They wanted to watch live cable TV or their TiVo. And for the punchline, their media center Mac lacks a tuner. Was there a similar quiet Mac-based solution that would let them transmit the TV audio from these non-Mac sources?
If your Mac has a microphone jack, internal or even through an external USB solution, the answer is yes. You can easily connect your TV audio to your Mac just like you would connect it to a pair of speakers. Run a cable between a spare audio output (modern TVs usually offer more than one, if not, you can use a splitter) to the microphone jack on the Macintosh. On my low-end TV, this means an RCA stereo cable that feeds to a standard stereo minijack plug.
Setting up the Mac host is simple. Instead of feeding audio via Soundflower, as described in the earlier post, choose your microphone audio input in the Skype settings. Start a call to your iPhone or iPod touch, switch the TV source (usually via a "Source" button that picks which signal to watch, such as Composite 1, Component 2, etc.) to your normal cable or TiVo input. Set the external speaker volume to zero. The signal arrives at the Mac microphone independently of those speakers.
You may find that the audio out signal tends to be on the low side. Many TV speakers provide their own amplification. If this is a problem for you, you can hook in an inline amplifier. (I use an old Radio Shack 277-1008C.) Alternatively, you can boost the audio via a third party program like Rogue Amoeba's Audio Hijack Pro.
This solution takes a few more cables, components, and connections than the Mac Audio-to-iPhone through Skype set-up discussed in the earlier post. But if you have the cables on-hand already, it offers an inexpensive solution compared to many other wireless TV headsets on the market right now.