By Casey Liss
Can You Hear Me Now?

I really love my new Apple TV. Though I only have a handful of apps on it, they’re wonderful. (I’m looking at you, Plex and Netflix.) I find that our new Apple TV is on considerably more than the one it replaced.

The one thing the new Apple TV is missing for me is optical output. I have a peculiar AV setup—one that I’m not looking to change at the moment—and a lack of optical output is a real bummer.

Suffice it to say, the Apple TV is connected to my TV directly via HDMI, and then the TV pipes audio back to the receiver via optical. That means I cannot listen to the Apple TV without the TV on. I discussed this in more detail on ATP.

Often times, I want to hear my Apple TV, but I don’t want to see it. AirPlaying music is a common occurrence around the Liss household. Be it from Spotify or iTunes Match, no matter what there is no video to display.

Given we have little eyes in the house, we try to keep the TV off as much as possible while he’s running around. We also like to have music on constantly. What I really needed was a way to get the audio carried on the HDMI out of HDMI and onto optical. I already had an optical port on my receiver dedicated to the old Apple TV; all I wanted was a way to drive it.

Tendak HDMI Splitter

Around the time the Apple TV came out, I stumbled on the Tendak HDMI Splitter which appeared to do exactly what I want. I finally got one and set it up this weekend. The Tendak serves as both a HDMI passthrough (for continued/normal video operation) as well as splitting off optical audio. At the time of this writing, it’s around $30[1]. If RCA is your thing, the Tendak provides RCA outputs as well.

Regardless, the Tendak does the trick, and does so for half the cost of this alternative Kanex Digital Audio Adapter. The Kanex is considerably prettier, doesn’t appear to have an annoying red power LED, and appears to be far smaller. However, the Kanex is also nearly double the price.

My setup is odd, but the Tendak has given me back what the fourth-generation Apple TV took away: ability to play audio without the TV being on.

My only gripes are the bright red power LED, and that the box is physically setup as a passthrough. HDMI enters one side and comes out the other. In my setup, it would have been far more convenient to have all the inputs and outputs on one side of the Tendak. I’d also love for it to run off the power on the HDMI cable, but I know that’s a bit much to ask.

  1. I should note there seem to be many equivalent devices for sale on Amazon from different brands, so another brand may be slightly cheaper. Your mileage may vary.