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I'm planning a whole house sound system, but I don't make that much money. (I've already looked at some of the pro systems, and none of them quite do what I want, but that's another article) What I would like from you wizened folks is to find out if it's possible to configure $(favorite_os) to output 3 (or 4) distinct stereo outputs from a 5.1 channel sound card.

I realize I may end up having to just bite the bullet and purchase multiple sound cards to get the outputs I want; but I thought I'd try to explore this avenue first. Let's face it, the average sound card IS capable of 6-8 distinct sound channels, it's probably just a matter of convincing the audio system in the OS to do what I want.

OK, GO!

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I haven't done this, but I imagine it would work, using a linux distro and pulseaudio. I am not sure about the subwoofer - it may have different impedance so not play well with a normal speaker.

First we need to know the name of the sinks (a sink is somewhere you can output sound to) that are available.

pacmd list-sinks | grep name:

You should have one that has a name like alsa_output.pci-0000_02_00.1.surround51

Now we need to know the names of the channels:

$ pacmd list-sinks | grep 'channel map:'
channel map: front-left,front-right,rear-left,rear-right,center,sub

(I made up the center and sub ones, as I don't have a 5.1 machine handy - see what yours are called). Pipe the list-sinks into less if you have lots of sinks and it is hard to figure it out from the grepped output.

Now we need to make new sinks, using parts of the existing sinks.

In default.pa (in /etc/pulse*) we create new sinks, and usurp some of the outputs:

load-module module-remap-sink sink_name=livingroom remix=no master=alsa_output.pci-0000_02_00.1.surround51 channels=2 master_channel_map=front-left,front-right channel_map=front-left,front-right
load-module module-remap-sink sink_name=bedroom remix=no master=alsa_output.pci-0000_02_00.1.surround51 channels=2 master_channel_map=rear-left,rear-right   channel_map=front-left,front-right
load-module module-remap-sink sink_name=funroom remix=no master=alsa_output.pci-0000_02_00.1.surround51 channels=2 master_channel_map=center,sub   channel_map=front-left,front-right

Now any of your pulseaudio capable media players should have these new sinks available to send sound to. Simultaneously? Perhaps!

  • Brilliant! I'll have to check this out this evening! I'll update with my results! – dainichi May 5 '14 at 18:59

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