How to Use the Optical Out (S/PDIF) Port on Your PC - Make Tech Easier

How to Use the Optical Out (S/PDIF) Port on Your PC – Make Tech Easier

There are many ways to connect a PC to an audio system, but not all are created equal. For best results, you should use an optical audio cable. Read on to learn how to use your pc’s optical (s/pdif) output port to set up such a connection and enjoy the best your pc’s audio system and audio setup has to offer.

note: for this to work, both your pc and your audio system must be equipped with optical ports.

Reading: How to connect spdif to speakers

Also read:Audio Wars: Digital (S/PDIF) vs. HDMI vs. AnalogAudio Wars: Digital (S/PDIF) vs. HDMI vs. Analog

how to enable optical audio (s/pdf) on pc

First, there is the obvious matter of making sure both your speakers and your PC have an optical (s/pdf) port. With that out of the way, simply connect your computer to your speakers using an optical cable.

note: If you are using a full audio setup that includes an amplifier instead of a separate speaker setup, double check the optical connection you are using. your system may offer different ports for optical input and output. you want to connect the output of your pc to the input of your speaker.

As with any cable format, companies will try to claim that their cable is better than others due to gold plating, “high quality” or other marketing jargon, but ignore all of that. buying a cheap optical cable should be absolutely fine unless you plan on tying it into knots. Optical cables work similarly to HDMI in that they send digital signals that aren’t actually subject to degradation. the main difference is that audio data uses less bandwidth than hdmi, so even if the quality of a cable isn’t great, you’re not likely to be affected.

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Once the optical cable is plugged in, click the speaker icon in the lower right corner of the windows taskbar, then click the speaker name above the volume slider to see if it turns on. displays an “optical” or “digital” sound output. up. if so, just click to enable it.

If the speaker doesn’t appear there, right-click the speaker icon on the taskbar, click sounds, then the playback tab.

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right click anywhere in the play tab list, then click “show disabled devices”.

At this point, you should see a device called something like “digital output” or “optical output”. right click and click “enable” to turn it on. once you’ve done that, right click again and click “set as default device”. you should now have optical audio enabled.

Also read:DTS vs. Dolby Digital: What You Need to KnowDTS vs. Dolby Digital: What You Need to Know

how to enable 5.1 optical surround sound on pc

Analog sound may still be fine for typical stereo setups. Still, when you get into 5.1 territory and modern sound formats like DTS, you just need a digital connection. if you don’t have one, the audio decoding is done on your pc instead of the specialized hardware of your audio setup. the audio is transferred there as lower quality analog.

getting the connection to work may not be the easiest of things. still, you should prefer to use a separate optical connection for your audio rather than an hdmi port. hdmi audio may be a bit easier to configure, but it has significant limitations.

hdmi has limited bandwidth and is mainly used to transfer videos. Are you streaming high-speed video or playing games at ultra-high resolutions and 60+ fps? your hdmi may not have enough bandwidth to also transfer uncompressed 5.1 digital audio to your speakers.

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Optical Pc Audio Connection Hdmi Optical Out

By using two dedicated cables for video and audio, you’re offering each their own pathway to your audiovisual setup for the best possible results. However, there are some caveats.

First of all, is your motherboard capable of outputting 5.1 surround sound? Just because there’s an optical out port doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get surround sound on all your games, movies, etc. the optical port on the motherboard must support 5.1 sound, although this will vary greatly depending on what version of windows you’re on, whether it registers as a dolby-compatible output, etc.

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you can check if your setup supports one of the dolby 5.1 formats by going to the sound window -> reproduction. right click on your device, click properties, then the advanced tab. just click the dropdown menu, select “dts interactive” or whatever 5.1 surround sound settings you want to use, then click ok. (If your computer doesn’t detect Dolby Digital, you may have some work to do, and we’ve provided links to some workarounds in the conclusion.)

You should also click on the “supported formats” tab to ensure that the formats your receiver is capable of handling are checked.

check your application settings

In some cases, even though you have done everything correctly, you may not hear the sound of some applications on your speakers. some may do something that seems strange, completely ignore your multi-speaker setup and only play audio from the front left and right speakers. when that happens, it’s time to review your application’s configuration.

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every piece of software in windows can bypass the default audio settings. it’s possible that the media player of your choice has “locked up” on its analog output and you may not have realized the system-wide change it made to your new digital output connection.

On a similar note, apps like kodi offer options to manage your audio output. through them you can usually change the audio output device, encoding, number of channels, etc.

when some pieces of audio only play in stereo, you may find the solution in your standalone speakers, your amplifier or your pc audio software. by default, multi-speaker setups play stereo streams from just two speakers, since that’s the way audio “should be.” it was recorded in stereo, so it plays back in stereo with only two speakers.

To have two-channel stereo audio playback from all speakers, you should look for any option that looks like “stereo expansion”, “channel redirection”, or any “surround sound effect” available.

Also read:How to Increase the Maximum Volume in WindowsHow to Increase the Maximum Volume in Windows


That should give you the basics of using an optical cable in windows 10. The thing is, there are a lot of nuances and a lot of variables where things could go wrong. It’s not just your sound card and speakers that need to support it, but also the individual media you’re using, as well as the fact that recent versions of windows have made optical output support pretty buggy. (You can no longer use the “configure” button in the sound window, for example, to enable 5.1 speakers).

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