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in pavucontrol I have my output set to Digital Surround 5.1(IEC958/AC3)

When I open a video with VLC (my preferred option) OR GNOME Media player I hear no sound.

VLC is configured to use pulseaudio as the audio device.

I have noticed that if I go to the System Settings/Sound/test sound dialog, sometimes I hear a female voice saying 'Front left', 'Front right' etc, sometimes a 'bloop' noise from each speaker. Either way it causes VLC audio to kick into life on all 6 speakers.

If I then then skip a chapter, skip forward, or restart VLC I am back where I started - no sound.

Could someone explain for me what is happening, and also how I might configure my system reliably to output 5.1 Surround sound to its optical cable?

Diagnostics can be found here

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This post gave me the answer I needed, though it did not explain quite what was wrong

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