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Windows 7: Realtek ALC1200: How can I get 5.1 audio from optical?

25 Aug 2012   #1

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)
Realtek ALC1200: How can I get 5.1 audio from optical?

I have an ASUS P5Q3 motherboard, with Realtek ALC1200 onboard sound. Latest 2.70 Realtek driver (6/19/2012,

Video card is ATI HD5770, which includes dual-DVI as well as HDMI. I'm using the two DVI outputs to support two 24" LCD monitors. Latest 12.8 Catalyst driver.

Up until now I've been using speakers, which are an Altec-Lansing 641 speaker system. This is a 4.1 system (two front, two rear, sub-woofer) configured to the Realtek driver as "quadraphonic". The sub-woofer unit is really the amp and control center, and is not plugged in to any back panel audio jack on the mobo.

Rather, the mobo green (front speaker-pair out) back panel jack is connected to the green (front speakers) input on the sub-woofer/amp unit. And the mobo black (rear speaker-pair out) back panel jack is connected to the black (rear speakers) input on the sub-woofer/amp unit. Then all four speakers are connected using speaker wire to the speaker connections on the sub-woofer/amp unit, which has an internal crossover and feeds all four satellite speakers plus the built-in sub-woofer. 4.1, implemented via internal crossover and the stereo-front/stereo-rear speaker outputs of the ALC1200.

Ok. No problem with sound, when using speakers. However it generally sounds mostly "stereo" (2-channel, fronts) even when I would have thought the audio drivers would somehow mix DD5.1 sound (e.g. from HDTV) to come out the four speakers. I very rarely hear anything from my rear speakers normally (e.g. with Windows Media Center playing HDTV)

But I absolutely do hear sound from the rear speakers when using CyberLink PowerDVD9 Ultra and playing a DVD that say has a DD5.1 or DTS 5.1 sound track. So obviously there is some difference in audio handling in PowerDVD9, which manages to make intelligent use of the rear speakers to present at least some type of surround processing using front and rear speakers.

Now, my new objective is to somehow feed the original un-processed un-decoded DD5.1 or DTS5.1 (or even DD2.0 or whatever) digital audio from the PC to a Yamaha RX-V863 AVR that I've now placed near the PC, in order to support virtual surround headphone processing which depends on having the original digital multi-channel data stream fed to it.

I had originally thought I could simply connect an HDMi cable from the HDMI output of the HD5770 video card, to an HDMI input on the AVR. Then I would select "ATI HDMI audio" (on the "playback devices") and that would feed the pure unprocessed digital audio to the AVR. Well, that didn't work as expected. In order to be able to see the manual setup onscreen output from the AVR, I had its HDMI output connected to an HDMI input on one of my monitors (which has four available inputs, normally using the DVI for connection to the PC).

When I activated that HDMI display it appears the ATI video drivers in the PC decide to shut down one of my two LCD monitors being fed via DVI, apparently concluding that I want to now have my two monitors be one from DVI and the second from HDMI. This isn't what I really want to do, but when I'm finished with the setup and deactivate the HDMI output, the ATI drivers apparently revert back to dual-DVI and the second monitor comes back to life.

However the "playback devices" shows "not plugged in" for that ATI HDMI audio item, and so it cannot be selected for output. So I cannot send digital audio out over that HDMI cable to the AVR.

I then tried an optical connection from PC to AVR, as the P5Q3 and ALC1200 provide both coax and optical outputs for S/PDIF digital audio output. In fact, I CAN select "RCA + optical" from "playback devices", and in fact digital audio IS delivered from PC to AVR. However it is only 2-channel stereo, not the true multi-channel audio I want to deliver.

It is always 2-channel stereo being delivered, no matter what the sound source (i.e. Windows Media Player playing HDTV that does have DD5.1 audio, or PowerDVD that is playing a DVD that does have DD5.1 or DTS 5.1 audio).

I have tried everything I can think of to coax multi-channel audio out of the optical connection, but to no avail. Even changing the "speakers" setup to show 5.1 has no effect (I would think that truly is only related to actual speakers, and the speaker output jacks on the back panel... unrelated to the optical digital output which is totally separate).

Can anybody tell me what I have to do, to deliver multi-channel audio out over either (a) HDMI output on my HD5770 video card, or (b) optical output on the back panel of the mobo? I really can accept either solution, but at the moment neither approach works for me.

NOTE: this is not a Windows Media Center problem. HDTV audio delivered to extenders around my house is true DD5.1 when played at those remote node locations, so the WTV recordings themselves DO contain the multi-channel AC3 audio. It is obviously something tied to the Realtek audio driver, and my setup, which is only delivering 2-channel PCM stereo out of optical.

What am I doing wrong???

My System SpecsSystem Spec
25 Aug 2012   #2

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

Surely this isn't possible. 140 people have viewed this thread, and not one person (e.g. game player) actually sends multi-channel digital audio out to some external processor/speakers for achieving multi-channel sound?

Surely, there is at least one "gamer" who's getting multi-channel sound from a speaker system fed from the PC.

If so, how do you do it? Even if your hardware setup isn't like mine, at least tell me what YOU did that was successful.

Did you send digital audio out via HDMI or optical? If HDMI, where is that HDMI port on the PC... on the video card?

How many monitors do you have (one or two or more)? How are they connected to the video card?

What is the device at the other end of the HDMI or optical cable?

What is the source for your multi-channel sound? Is it HDTV (via Windows Media Center)? Is it just audio from a game? Audio from a BluRay/DVD disc, and if so played with what software? Audio from an MKV or MP4 movie file of some sort?

Please... any information at all would be useful.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
26 Aug 2012   #3

win7 ultimate 32bit

"ALL sound systems have only two things in common---they can be turned 'on' and they can be turned 'off'

that said--I lost you in your OP about what you have hooked up to what--so---make sure you have the proper drivers and CODECS installed---then--working backwards---connect speakers to proper Yamaha amplifier outputs--decide which audio output you want to use, set that up in the Realtek control panel and connect as recommended in your Yamaha manual. note that the Yamaha model RX-V863 is a discontinued model (circa 2008) and may not play nice with the latest tech....

Attached Thumbnails
My System SpecsSystem Spec

26 Aug 2012   #4

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

I don't have a 5.1 speaker system connected to the back-panel outputs from the ALC1200 onboard sound from the motherboard. That's not what I'm trying to accomplish.

Rather, I'm simply trying to send the original untouched digital DD5.1 (AC3) or DTS multi-channel audio stream (either from playback of HDTV recordings through Windows Media Center, or BluRay playback through CyberLInk PowerDVD9 Ultra), un-decoded and just exactly as-is, out over either (a) HDMI from the ATI HD5770 video card, or (b) optical out from the ALC1200, to the Yamaha AVR. The Yamaha will accept digital audio either via HDMI or optical.

From there, the Yamaha will decode whatever is sent to it and feed my downstream audio processor (specifically a Smyth Realiser, providing virtual surround through headphones) from its preamp outputs.

That's what I want to accomplish. But the HDMI solution seems to confuse the ATI video drivers, and one of my two monitors gets shut down. I believe the drivers probably think I'm trying to run THREE monitors (two via DVI and one via HDMI) and it only supports two monitors, so one gets shut down. And the optical connection method only produces 2-channel stereo out of the PC to the Yamaha.

So that's the current problem. Neither theoretical approach actually works.

Which is why I'm trying to find out how others have accomplished this (which presumably they have), choosing one of the alternative digital audio outputs rather than "speakers" in "playback devices", to feed some type of external multi-channel sound system.

Surely somebody (or thousands of somebody's, most likely gamers) have done exactly this. All I want to know is how they did it, and then I'll see if their solution is applicable to my own setup (which doesn't seem very unusual, if you ask me).
My System SpecsSystem Spec
26 Aug 2012   #5

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by tman69 View Post
connect speakers to proper Yamaha amplifier outputs--decide which audio output you want to use, set that up in the Realtek control panel and connect as recommended in your Yamaha manual. note that the Yamaha model RX-V863 is a discontinued model (circa 2008) and may not play nice with the latest tech....
Again, my current problem is that the PC is not feeding multi-channel digital audio to the Yamaha. It's only sending 2-channel stereo using the optical approach (when I select "RCA+optical" in "playback devices"), and it's not sending anything at all using the HDMI approach (assuming I'm supposed to just plug an HDMI cable into the open HDMI connector on my HD5770 video card, and then select "HDMI audio" on "playback devices", and digital audio should magically go out over that HDMI connection to the Yamaha).

Note that despite the age of the 863 it was previously working perfectly in a standalone "normal" environment, fed from multiple HDMI and digital audio/video source devices and feeding an HDTV and the same Smyth Realiser I'm trying to use now. It's just that in this new arrangement the 863 is now planned to be fed simply from my PC, but just as any other digital audio-only source device (via HDMI or optical).

The problem is simply how to get that digital AC3/DD5.1 audio stream out of the PC and over to the Yamaha... using either HDMI or optical. Surely someone's done that, and I'd like to know how it was accomplished.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
26 Aug 2012   #6

Windows 7/10 64 bit

I didn't take the time to research your specific hardware, but some S/PDIF digital outs are only two channel stereo. When I worked on the Dell users forum, we had complaints about this very thing on some Dell models. Users with systems that only had two channel stereo that wanted 5.1 S/PDIF were installing separate sound cards that had that capability.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
26 Aug 2012   #7

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

Ok. Solved all of the mysteries myself.

(1) I abandoned the unsuccessful effort to get multi-channel digital audio out of the optical connector from the ALC1200 chip on my motherboard. I don't know if it's possible or impossible, or I needed to do something else, but all I could achieve was 2-channel digital PCM stereo... which was unacceptable for my purposes.

(2) Apparently you cannot have two monitors connected with DVI to the HD5770 video card as well as trying to use the HDMI connector for HDMI-audio-only at the same time. That's not how it works. Only two of the three connectors can be used simultaneously.

So one of my monitors (which also had an HDMI connection option) needed to be changed from DVI connection to HDMI connection. And that monitor's direct DVI cable connection from HD5770 to the monitor was thus replaced by an HDMI-relay: (a) HDMI from HD5770 to an HDMI input on my Yamaha RX-V867 AVR, and (b) HDMI from HDMI output of the V867 to the HDMI input on the monitor.

This HDMI path from PC to AVR then caused the "playback devices" to finally show the ATI HDMI Audio as "connected" and "ready". And by selecting this as the default sound device, all audio (including multi-channel) was now delivered digitally from PC to V867 over the HDMI cable... exactly as I was trying to achieve.

This now allows me to use the AVR as my external sound system (including feeding a downstream audio processor), which is exactly what I was trying to achieve. The monitor that got reconfigured is now running at 1920x1080 50hz via HDMI, instead of 1920x1200 60hz via DVI, but otherwise the change is essentially painless.

And now I am delivering true multi-channel digital audio from PC to the AVR via HDMI, which was my goal.

So... the secret fact I did not know until today was that the HDMI connection on the video card is not a standalone [third] digital audio delivery mechanism, which can coexist with the other two DVI output connectors on the video card so that all three connectors are active simultaneously. You cannot support two monitors through DVI as well as a simultaneous third "HDMI-connected device" for audio-only.

Instead, only two of the three connectors are usable at one time. It can either be two DVI-connected monitors, or one DVI monitor and one HDMI monitor.

And if you use the HDMI connection method then you can also choose that HDMI connection for delivery of full digital audio from PC to an external AVR via the same HDMI cable delivering digital video to the connected device at the other end. The video card still only supports two connected monitors, but if one uses HDMI then that same cable can simultaneously feed digital audio to the connected device.

And that's the secret, for anyone else who wants to do the same thing I did.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Aug 2012   #8

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

Just a final post-script to this story...

I decided I really very much preferred the way that monitor looked when it was 1920x1200x60hz DVI, rather than the alternate 1920x1080px50hz HDMI, for everyday work.

So if I didn't absolutely want to listen to HDTV via surround headphones (e.g. when watching playback of HDTV programs recorded by Windows Media Center while I work at the computer) which required (a) an HDMI connection for digital audio/video from PC to AVR and then (b) a second HDMI connection for digital video from AVR back to the HDMI input on this monitor, that I'd really just like to be able to run things the way they used to be for all normal everyday situations. This special digital audio mode selects "ATI HDMI Audio" from "playback devices" in sound configuration.

And the way it "used to be" was (a) DVI to both monitors, getting full resolution and crisp DVI display and control, and (b) using my existing Altec-Lansing 641 external speaker system. This everyday normal mode selects "speakers" from "playback devices" in sound configuration.

After reflecting for a while on what I'd done and what I'd accomplished, I implemented a few configuration changes and now I have all of the flexibility I wanted. I can run that HDMI/DVI monitor using either connectivity option (along with the implied digital/analog sound that implies), without causing Windows desktop disruption and annoying inconvenience.

(1) My two monitors are both 24" LCD, but I'd previously had the HDMI/DVI monitor set as "primary" (monitor #1). This monitor has an INPUT selector to choose which connection method should be displayed, and conceptually it is really TWO SEPARATE MONITORS to the video card and drivers although obviously only one input at a time is in use. (To be totally honest, there is also a PIP mode where the HDMI input can be displayed full-screen or in a hardware window, if you have that HDMI port connected to a true independent external device like a BluRay player which is unrelated to Windows and the desktop.)

The second monitor was DVI-only, and was the "extended" desktop (monitor #2).

This caused problems when monitor #1 changed from DVI to HDMI and vice versa, with Windows moving all of the desktop objects over to monitor #2, causing issues with "phantom 3rd-screen" window/mouse locations, etc. So my first reconfiguration involved swapping the two monitors, both physically on the HD5770 connectors and also logically within Windows/Catalyst desktop configuration.

So now, the DVI-only monitor was connected to the DVI-only port on the HD5770, and it was defined to Windows as "primary" monitor #1. It was still in the same physical location on my desk, right in front of me.

And also, the HDMI/DVI monitor was now connected to the HDMI/DVI port on the HD5770, and it was defined to Windows as "extended" monitor #2. It was still in the same physical location on my desk, TO MY LEFT. This required that I use Catalyst to reverse its previous understanding of where monitor #1 and #2 were in relation to each other. Now, #2 is pictured to the left of #1 in Catalyst, rather than the other way around as it had been.

(2) I plugged the DVI cable for the HDMI/DVI monitor back into the HD5770, but also turned off the AVR (at the other end of the HDMI cable, which was still connected to the HD5770 as well). So now I DID have all three HD5770 connections "in use", although the HDMI connection was functionally disabled by: (a) AVR turned off, and (b) HDMI/DVI monitor INPUT selector set to DVI, so that along with the AVR being off functionally the HDMI display device no longer existed to Windows.

(3) I rearranged things on my desktop, so that ALL objects now resided on the DVI-only monitor (i.e. "primary" monitor #1, straight ahead of me). There are NO objects on the HDMI/DVI monitor (i.e. "extended" monitor #2, to my left). This means that the toggle between HDMI and DVI for monitor #2 which will occur when I want to change from digital multi-channel audio to/from analog speaker audio will NOT CAUSE ANY CHANGE TO MY WINDOWS DESKTOP.

So the only thing that will happen is that DVI monitor #2 will change to HDMI monitor #2 and HDMI digital audio will be enabled (and in effect when I also change "playback devices" to select HDMI audio), but all other annoying effects on the Windows desktop will be suppressed, since all desktop objects are located on monitor #1.

(4) When I want to run that HDMI/DVI monitor as DVI and go with analog speaker audio, (a) I turn the AVR off so that the other end of the HDMI cable is gone, and (b) I select DVI on the monitor's INPUT control. This causes Windows/Catalyst to activate the 1920x1200x60hz DVI monitor device as the "extended" desktop monitor #2. And I select "speakers" for audio from "playback devices".

When I want to run that HDMI/DVI monitor as HDMI and go with multi-channel digital audio delivered via HDMI from PC to AVR, (a) I turn the AVR on so that the other end of the HDMI cable has a "partner" for the HDMI handshake, and (b) I select HDMI on the monitor's INPUT control. This has the effect of "disappearing" the DVI monitor and "appearing" the HDMI monitor. And this also causes Windows/Catalyst to activate the 1920x1080px50hz HDMI monitor device (which actually DOES show up as a third display in Catalyst's desktop configuration picture) and make it the "extended" desktop monitor #2. And I select "ATI HDMI Audio" for audio from "playback devices".

So now I have all of the flexibility I really want, picking one or the other of the following choices:

(1) Analog 4.1 (quadraphonic) speaker sound from the onboard Realtek sound chip, and 1920x1200x60hz DVI monitor #2 through DVI out of the HD5770 direct to monitor #2's DVI input, or

(2) Digital multi-channel sound through HDMI out of the HD5770 to my external AVR, and supporting 1920x1080x50hz HDMI from AVR back to the HDMI input on monitor #2

This is made possible by virtue of the ATI HD5770 video card (which has dual-DVI and HDMI connectors), and by my dual-input HDMI/DVI-capable Eizo HD2441W monitor... now configured to be the [floating] "extended" Windows desktop monitor #2 with no desktop objects on it but just a "blank work space". The other fixed-DVI monitor is now the "primary" Windows desktop monitor #1, and this never changes no matter what monitor #2 looks like.

Case closed. Hope this story helps others trying to do the same thing with kind of similar hardware options.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
27 Aug 2012   #9

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

So just to summarize... this thread is "solved" not because I was actually able to get DD5.1 digital audio out of the optical connector from my Realtek ALC1200 chip. In fact that actually was NOT ever achieved, and only 2-channel PCM stereo was achieved via optical. Still inexplicable why this doesn't work, but it's behind me now.

The thread is "solved" because I ultimately accomplished my true objective of providing multi-channel digital sound from PC to my external AVR. That DID get achieved, though using the HDMI audio approach instead of optical. This DOES WORK PERFECTLY as long as you have the proper hardware and cabling setup.

And it works CONVENIENTLY, once you figure out how to best configure (or reconfigure, as necessary) things to make use of it flexibly... assuming you have the right hardware to provide all of the needed options.

Personally, I'm now completely satisfied (and thrilled with the audio results) with what I've accomplished.
My System SpecsSystem Spec
15 Sep 2012   #10

Windows 7 Pro x64 (1), Win7 Pro X64 (2)

Quote   Quote: Originally Posted by dsperber View Post
(1) I abandoned the unsuccessful effort to get multi-channel digital audio out of the optical connector from the ALC1200 chip on my motherboard. I don't know if it's possible or impossible, or I needed to do something else, but all I could achieve was 2-channel digital PCM stereo... which was unacceptable for my purposes.

Today, I had to reinstall my Yamaha RX-V867 AVR in this setup, as I had taken it to Yamaha to investigate why it seemed the "HDMI pass-through" was only passing through L/R channels from the input, rather than all channels. But that's another story.

Anyway, I got it back (unchanged and unfixed, but it's no longer an issue) and was reinstalling it. I was also reconnecting all the HDMI cables which I'd figured out how to make use of a few weeks back when I first "solved" the question of this thread by abandoning optical audio and going with HDMI audio.

And once again, I was just super-annoyed that the HDMI video I was forced to use for one of my monitors (in order to also carry multi-channel HDMI audio to my AVR via HDMI, since I couldn't get multi-channel out of optical on the Realtek sound card) and decided to take another look at optical. Maybe there was some setting I'd missed somewhere, because it certainly did seem impossible that only 2-channel stereo was all that could be obtained from this digital audio output. Surely I had overlooked something.



What I had overlooked was the dumb setting for the digital output that said my receiving device COULD ACCEPT MULTI-CHANNEL!!! The default setting is 2-channel only, and all that it took was to check the other formats.

In other words, to obtain true digital multi-channel (exactly as in the source program, so 2-channel or Dolby Digital 5.1, or DTS, etc.):

(1) right-click on the "speaker" icon in the System Tran and select "Playback Devices"

(2) select "Digital Output (RCA + Optical)" which is how it appears in my configuration with ALC1200 using the latest Realtek 2.70 drivers

and push the "Set Default" button.

(3) now push the "Properties" button, to get into the configuration of the optical output. Click on the "supported formats" tab.

The defaults shown in "supported formats" are to have all of the multi-channel formats UN-CHECKED BY DEFAULT. And this is why no multi-channel output was previously being sent out the optical connection, because I'd never known about this tab and its un-checked-by-default options.

So I checked ALL THREE FORMATS (although I don't actually have any WMA Pro files). And I also checked all of the bitrates. In other words, I'm feeding an AVR and it can handle anything, so send everything exactly as it is in original source.


I now have true full multi-channel audio coming out of my optical connection going to my AVR's optical input.

I am NO LONGER USING HDMI AUDIO, since that also required HDMI video which had too much annoying baggage along with it.

I am now back to original (and preferred) 1920x1200 60hz DVI video, with multi-channel audio going from sound card optical output to AVR input. This was my original goal and plan, and I have now achieved it.

So for anybody else wanting the same result... it's stupidly simple!

Just CHECK ALL THE MULTI-CHANNEL ITEMS IN "SUPPORTED FORMATS" for your external device to which the optical connection will go.

That's all it takes.
My System SpecsSystem Spec

 Realtek ALC1200: How can I get 5.1 audio from optical?

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