To put this as simply as I can, I'm trying to get the best audio I can from my PC. Is there a difference between HDMI audio to TV, then ARC out to receiver, and HDMI audio out to TV > optical to receiver? Or should I not do any of that and send audio from PC via optical directly to receiver?
there is a difference between hdmi and optical. hdmi is uncompressed audio while optical is compressed and some devices do not support 5.1 over optical only stereo.
if you have a normal receiver the best option is usually pc->avr since it is simpler. you can pick whether to pass through the video to your tv from there or just run other cables to power your monitors. i personally run pc->avr->tv.
its possible to run pc->tv->avr as well but sometimes there are complications like your pc only thinking you have a 2.0 device hooked up not 5.1 or the tv not being able to output 5.1 even over hdmi ARC. if you have a HTIB set which doesnt have hdmi inputs an only has hdmi arc support then its one of your only ways to hook up but if this is not the case, i'd direct hookup instead. likewise, i'd only use optical if you had to.
hdmi dirrectly from pc to receiver from your gpu takes many factors out of the equation and normally is the most problem free of possible hookups, especially if you're using a tv for viewing.
Thank you. I am using a HTIB (and only one output/arc). My TV is a Panny P50U50, and I'm not sure how it handles audio pass-through.
On my PC using HDMI I can only choose stereo. And using optical is only 2 channel, correct?
One thing that is odd to me is that when using ARC, bitstream works, when using optical I don't receive any sound.
if its a htib with only hdmi out ARC then unfortunately you're quite limited on options.
using optical is 2 channel unless both source and destination device support multi channel over optical (which is a form of dolby digital compressed sound). this could be called dolby digital live or dts connect on your pc but the destination device would have to support it as well and many might not.
unfortunately it seems like you're having the "2.0" system detected when connecting up to your tv first and using arc. i'm not currently aware of any way to force 5.1 and i'm not sure if your tv supports 5.1 arc or not (it might, but due to the pc not recognizing the htib its not allowing you to output 5.1)
You've been a great help so far, and really knocking out any questions I might have that I can't find answers to elsewhere. I appreciate it.
And yes, it does seem like my TV is sending EDID that makes my PC think it can only send stereo.
However, I also read that it doesn't matter what my PC says, the end result of what I'm sending depends on what my "receiver" can decode. Hence using HDMI audio and then ARC from TV allowing bitstream but toslink not.
So in my situation would PC-HDMI-TV-ARC-Receiver be better than PC-toslink-receiver?
generally what can be handled depends on what is a compatible format between all devices or what the weakest link is.
i've seen 5.1 HTIB that accept a hdmi arc signal fine from dvd players and other devices such as the tv but refuses to show up for anything but stereo on the pc. i'm thinking this is due to the pc seeing the tv and not the htib on the other end of the arc connection.
given that you seem to be getting stereo either way, i'd say it doesnt much matter if you did optical or hdmi however if your htib for some reason supported 5.1 over optical input (likely it doesnt, but some do) you might be able to get compressed 5.1 that way.
an expensive "fix" to the whole issue is picking up a used true AVR receiver which handles hdmi input for audio and video. you can pick models such as the vsx-522-k up for a little over $100 on the used market or a bit more for refurbished. the last user who had the lack of 5.1 issue you're having went this route although some others choose to just accept stereo.
That's a real bummer.
I've considered getting a real receiver, my issue is that my HTIB speakers are 3ohms. And from what I understand they won't work with your average AVR.
What about overriding my TVs EDID on my PCs end?
What if I used a good splitter and sent signal to both TV and receiver (over HDMI)?
you're right, the EDID of the tv being stereo is likely causing issues. there are threads all about EDID spoofing and how to fix but honestly i dont know much about the subject so you would need to do a little digging on your own.
3ohm speakers.. thats a problem. most cheap receivers wont handle them and most 4ohm rated receivers which would likely handle 3ohm fine are expensive.
one thing does come to mind... perhaps an hdmi arc adapter could be used between pc and receiver directly. i will note that i'm not sure if that will work and you will need to look into this on your own. just thought i'd mention that i saw such a device and that it might be a lead. may or may not be an alternative to edid spoofing.
unfortunately it sounds like you're in a bit of a pickle. too bad analog 5.1 audio to hdmi converters arent cheap or popular compared with the reverse of which...that are so cheap.