How to Fix: Can't Play Games in 5.1 Audio Surround Sound

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Infopackets Reader Bob J. writes:

" Dear Dennis,

I recently built a new computer with the Ryzen 2700x CPU (8 cores, 16 threads) and it's screaming fast. I also purchased an EVGA Nvidia 2080 video card to play games. Everything works great, however the games are not playing in 5.1 surround sound. I have researched this issue online and can't seem to find a straightforward answer. Can you please tell me how can I play my games in 5.1 surround sound? "

My response:

I have dealt with this before and there are two main approaches to resolving this issue.

How to Fix: Can't Play Games in 5.1 Audio Surround Sound

Before I make my suggestions, please understand that 99.99% of all games ever made do not come with 5.1 DTS of Dolby Digital audio. The reasoning for this has to do with royalties needed to be paid to Dolby Digital and DTS by the game developers - it is simply not feasible. Instead, games are created with 5 channel PCM audio.

You therefore have two main choices to get the 5.1 surround sound to your receiver:

  1. Use your motherboard's integrated 5.1 or 7.1 sound board via 3.5mm inputs located in the back of the computer. In a 5.1 surround sound scenario, you would need 3 x 3.5mm to 2-Male RCA adapter cables to go from the computer to the receiver - assuming your receiver accepts RCA inputs for front left and right, rear left and right, and center plus LPF (low pass filter - also known as "subwoofer").
  2. If your receiver does not support RCA inputs then the next best choice is to purchase a sound card for your motherboard (using a PCI express slot) that is capable of converting the separate audio channels I mentioned above into a single toslink (optical cable) output. To do this, you need a sound card that supports "Dolby Digital Live!". I personally own the Asus Xonar DX with Dolby Digital Live! and it works great - all games play in Dolby 5.1 surround sound and all I needed was a single toslink cable to do it.

    To make the Asus Xonar sound card output Dolby Digital Live! stream, you will need to go into the Xonar Audio Center (next to the clock) and set the audio output to 8 channels (even if you have 6), then check mark the "SPDIF Out" and make sure "Dolby Digital Live" is selected from the pull down menu. If you don't do this then the sound card will simply output PCM audio in 2 channel mode.

If your receiver does not have SPDIF optical but instead offers coaxial, you will need a special 3.5mm to RCA coaxial cable.

I hope that helps.

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About the author: Dennis Faas is the owner and operator of With over 30 years of computing experience, Dennis' areas of expertise are a broad range and include PC hardware, Microsoft Windows, Linux, network administration, and virtualization. Dennis holds a Bachelors degree in Computer Science (1999) and has authored 6 books on the topics of MS Windows and PC Security. If you like the advice you received on this page, please up-vote / Like this page and share it with friends. For technical support inquiries, Dennis can be reached via Live chat online this site using the Zopim Chat service (currently located at the bottom left of the screen); optionally, you can contact Dennis through the website contact form.

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