How to tell if my laptop can play TRUE 5.1 surround sound??

jclayyy

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Nov 23, 2016
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Does anyone know how I can check if my laptop sound card supports true 5.1 surround sound? I’ve tried looking around but can’t seem to find the info I need. Here’s a screenshot of my RealTek audio manager – it suggests I only have two channels, but is this just because I don’t (yet!) have 5.1 speakers connected?



I have a HDMI output socket (which for some reason relates to 4 separate audio devices – see screenshot below), so does that mean my laptop can automatically handle 5.1? Or might I need to get some kind of external soundcard or audio interface? If so, any recommendations?



And a follow-up question… does any of this depend on which input I use in the receiver? Hdmi seems the easiest, but some I’m looking at only have optical input or 6 separate cables (is there a name for that type of input?). My budget is very limited, so I can’t be too fussy about inputs… as long as it works with my laptop I’m happy!
 
Digital Audio (HDMI) as your audio device should support multi-channel audio output. The speakers device won't. Your monitor or TV would probably have to be connected to the surround system so just speakers won't work.
Optical audio out is very rare on laptops and 5.1 analog audio out is never available on laptops.
You could get a USB to optical audio out. That would use the surround processing in the audio system. This would probably be better for movies.
You could get a USB to 5.1 analog audio out. That would use the surround processing in the laptop. This might be better for gaming. This one has both combined.
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=945107&gclid=COHEisnExNACFZZMDQodHyoONA&Q=&ap=y&m=Y&c3api=1876%2C92051677562%2C&is=REG&A=details
 
Digital Audio (HDMI) as your audio device should support multi-channel audio output. The speakers device won't. Your monitor or TV would probably have to be connected to the surround system so just speakers won't work.
Optical audio out is very rare on laptops and 5.1 analog audio out is never available on laptops.
You could get a USB to optical audio out. That would use the surround processing in the audio system. This would probably be better for movies.
You could get a USB to 5.1 analog audio out. That would use the surround processing in the laptop. This might be better for gaming. This one has both combined.
https://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/home?O=&sku=945107&gclid=COHEisnExNACFZZMDQodHyoONA&Q=&ap=y&m=Y&c3api=1876%2C92051677562%2C&is=REG&A=details
 

jclayyy

Commendable
Nov 23, 2016
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1,560
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Thanks for your help!!
So let me check if I understood correctly...

HDMI > If I get a receiver with HDMI input, this should be very simple, right? But does the fact that my laptop has an HDMI output guarantee that it is capable of processing surround sound signal (6 discrete channels, not just stereo sound across 6 speakers)? Or does it also depend on the sound card in my computer?

OPTICAL / ANALOG > I'll use this (with an adapter like the one you suggested) only if I can't find a cheap enough receiver with HDMI. Again though, how can I know if my laptop will be able to process the surround sound signal correctly? Or is it the adaptor itself that would do this?

(I'm curious... why is one option better for movies and the other for gaming?)
 
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