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Discussion Starter #1
I had one of the Asus cards (DS or DSx, I think) that supports optical 5.1. However, although it output 5 channels - the rear channels were lower-volume duplicates of the fronts - and I found nothing in the settings to change this.

What card will give me true 5.1 over optical audio?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
sounds like it is a configuration issue in software lol and are you sure source material is in 5.1 ?
Yes. As I recall, it did this with both games (5.1) and music (2.0/2.1).

I couldn't find any option to fix this in the asus panel, or in windows playback devices.

With my analog creative card, I can enable or disable this.
 

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For optical 5.1 you need to enable DTS on the Xonar DS.
DTS or Dolby Digital are requirements if you want to use 5.1 through optical cable, and Xonar DS has only DTS support.

Also, ditch the awful Asus drivers and use Unixonar.
And the issue you are having is stereo upmix.

Unixonar features said:
Fixed 5.1 stereo upmix issue, stereo sounds won’t be upmixed to 4.0, 5.1 or 7.1 anymore (stereo is played in 2.0, surround is played in 4.0/5.1/7.1). This is a general problem on Win XP. While on Win Vista/7/8 if number of channels and number of speakers are set correctly, then it is only a problem when using S/PDIF output – since v1.0
TL;DR: Install Unixonar drivers and everything should get fixed.
 

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Optical is S/PDIF and does not natively support multichannel sound. You need a compressed (DTS?) signal for multichannel.

Wikipedia
S/PDIF is based on the AES3 interconnect standard.[3] S/PDIF can carry two channels of uncompressed PCM audio or compressed 5.1/7.1 surround sound (such as DTS audio codec); it cannot support lossless formats (other than 2ch LPCM) such as Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio, that require greater bandwidth[4] like that available with HDMI or DisplayPort.

S/PDIF - Step away!
 
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