I have an ASUS P7P55D LE motherboard with onboard sound and I am running Windows 7 64-bit, and I am using the SPDIF output from my motherboard to my receiver. On my receiver I can see which audio channels are in use (i.e. stereo or 5.1)

In the audio interface properties I can test DTS Audio and Dolby Digital outputs and both work fine, but when I try to play a game with 5.1 sound (I've tried Left 4 Dead and Dragon Age Origins) it reverts to stereo. I was getting this behaviour with the default Microsoft drivers so I installed the latest from the ASUS website but there is no difference.

I notice that in the Advanced tab of the playback device Properties dialog (accessed by selecting the device in the Playback Devices window in Windows 7 and clicking Properties) the Default Format only allows me to choose from various 2 channel formats so maybe that is something to do with it?

I also notice that in the Playback Devices dialog I can press the "Configure" button when I select the "Speakers" device (which is the analog output) and in the "Speaker Setup" dialog that then opens I can choose from Stereo/Quadraphonic/5.1 Surround (which I have selected) and 7.1 Surround. However, the "Speaker Setup" dialog only contains the Stereo option for the HDMI output, and for the SPDIF output (which is the one I want to use) the Configure button is disabled altogether!

When I look at the audio settings in a game the Speaker Configuration is shown as "Desktop stereo speakers" which reminds me of the audio settings in previous versions of Windows.

How can I get 5.1 output all of the time?

  • 3
    this sounds suspiciously more like a problem with the games than with your sound drivers. you're sure you've enabled 5.1 sound in the games' configuration? – quack quixote Mar 14 '10 at 17:23
  • 3
    You mention the Advanced tab, where is this tab? In the game? In Windows? Are you sure your game is outputting 5.1? – heavyd Mar 16 '10 at 6:13
  • I'm sure it's not the games - I've never had this problem on other computers running Windows 7 (although 32-bit and with different audio devices). I've obviously checked them all for options to force stereo and found nothing. – GraemeF Mar 19 '10 at 9:14
  • I've amended the question to clarify which Advanced tab I mean. – GraemeF Mar 19 '10 at 9:15
  • Added information about the speaker configuration options, and the fact that they are disabled for the digital outputs. – GraemeF Mar 21 '10 at 14:38

There are many reports of such problems, with so many possible solutions that it's impossible to cover them all.

In this thread, the solution was to uninstall the Windows 7 drivers and install the Vista ones.

In this thread, the problem was the audio cable.

In this thread, the solution was to turn off speaker fill and set the game's executable compatibility privilege level to "Run this program as an administrator".

And this is by no means the entire list. It might help to narrow down the problem, to know which version of Win7 you're using (32 or 64-bits) and whether your audio driver is the latest version (and which one).

| improve this answer | |
  • I've ruled out the audio cable because I get Dolby Digital and DTS when I play a DVD, and as I said I'm using Windows 7 64-bit. I went to try the Vista drivers as you suggested and noticed that there is an updated version of the Windows 7 drivers, so I'll try that and then the Vista drivers if it still doesn't work. Thanks :) – GraemeF Mar 21 '10 at 12:23
  • The drivers come as a single package for all versions of Windows since XP, so that doesn't seem like the right option (unless I'm supposed to extract the Vista ones from the installer but there was no mention of that on the thread you referenced). – GraemeF Mar 21 '10 at 14:40
  • @GraemeF: In case you need it, a very good extractor is Universal Extractor found at legroom.net/software/uniextract – harrymc Mar 21 '10 at 15:05

The issue is that you need a Dolby Digital or DTS encoder software to get 5.1 audio from games. You get 5.1 from movies because the audio is already encoded – it however is not free.

See also: Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect Pack.

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  • 1
    That doesn't make sense – why would you need an encoder just to hear Dolby Digital or DTS output? – slhck Jul 20 '12 at 1:28
  • This thread is long-dead, but this is actually the answer. Either you need software encoding or hardware encoding. If the motherboard/soundcard does not encode the audio for 5.1, it cannot be passed down spdif. SPDIF only supports 2-channel PCM and the way surround over optical works is that it is encoded as two channel and then decoded on the other end. The reason it works in the sound applet is that they use a pre-encoded sound file. You will also get surround over SPDIF if you have a movie playing using a player set to "pass-through mode". – Yorik Oct 13 '16 at 16:18
  • Games do not and will not encode surround in a way that can be passed to SPDIF. The only way to get surround out is by using the 3 analog outputs or by attempting a matrix encode such as audioguru has suggested. real-time software encoding introduces latency, so for games this is often not worth it. Few aftermarket motherboards actually pay the fee to have Dolby DTS encoding support enabled on the chipset. – Yorik Oct 13 '16 at 16:19

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