Intel / Realtek HD / AC 97 MultiChannel (5.1,6.1,7.1) Audio and Front Panel Solutions

So, after months of inactivity, I have an article worth posting. I have been playing video games on my PC lately. I have been a console gamer all my life but since now I have a good enough PC, I decided it was about time I tried playing on the PC. Now, while I was at it. I already stated once that I have all my gaming and computer gear connected together. This time, it was the audio. I have a 5.1 Audio Speaker System. This is where the story starts :P .

Intel / Realtek Integrated Multichannel Audio How to

Previously, on Windows XP, one could get a multichannel audio from a single Line Out, but that changed when Vista was introduced. If you scroll around the internet and try to find solutions on how to connect multichannel audio speakers with Vista or Windows 7. You’d be amazed that people almost give up on this. I faced the same kind of issues, when I connected my 5.1 audio to my Realtek High Definition Back Panel.

The issue seemed quite strange at first. It seemed that as if the system only output 2.0 channel audio i.e. Stereo. The other speakers remained silent, no matter what I did.

Yes, many people think that it is a problem with either their motherboard, the audio system or the Realtek hardware / software solution. May be some people do have a broken system but I am sure this is not the case here. Here’s where things get interesting. I immediately scrolled through the Intel High Definition Audio manuals and found out that Intel has explained this problem in quite some detail. This entirely depends on your Motherboard’s Audio capabilities.  For starters, take a look at your motherboard’s specs and see how many channels of audio does it support. Mine supports 5.1 audio at it’s best. For this reason, my back panel has three output ports i.e. Line In (Blue), Line out (Green), Mic (Pink).

How to Identify your Desktop Board Audio Codec
The Technical Product Specification (TPS) for each Intel® Desktop Board will indicate whether your board supports AC’97 or HD Audio. To find the TPS for your board:

1. Go to
2. Select your desktop board.
3. Click Product Documentation in the left-hand navigation channel.
4. Select Technical Product Specification.

Now, if you are not using an SPDIF / Optical solution. This is for you. To configure your audio system according to your motherboard’s specifications:

Configuring 2-Channel Audio
The line out connector, located on the back panel, is designed to power either headphones or amplified speakers only. Poor audio quality may occur if passive (non-amplified) speakers are connected to this output.

Configuring 6-Channel Audio
Installing the audio driver from the Intel® Express Installer CD-ROM enables the flexible, analog audio system. The back panel audio connectors support up to six speakers and are retaskable using the audio driver interface.

Jack retasking is a feature that allows an audio jack to support more than one function. For example, the pink audio jack can support microphone input when the system configuration is set to Stereo Mode, and as Center/LFE or Rear Surround (depending on the audio solution used) when set as 6 channel.

Item Description
Line In [retaskable as Rear Left/Right Out]
Line Out [Front Left/Right Out]
Mic In [retaskable as Center/LFE (Subwoofer) Out]

Connect speakers as follows:

* If using two speakers, connect the pair to connector (B).
* If using four speakers:
o Connect the front left/right speakers to connector (B).
o Connect the rear left/right speakers to connector (A).
o Using the audio driver interface, retask connector (A) to be Rear Left/Right Out.
* If using six speakers:
o Connect the front left/right speakers to connector (B).
o Connect the rear left/right speakers to connector (A).
o Connect the center/subwoofer speakers to connector (C).
o Using the audio driver interface, retask connector (A) to be Rear Left/Right Out and retask connector (C) to be Center/LFE Out.

Configuring 8-Channel Audio
8-channel audio is available only on certain Intel Desktop Boards.

After installing the audio driver from the Intel Express Installer CD-ROM, multi-channel audio can be enabled:

* Connect speakers to A, B, C, D, or E as shown in the figure below, up to eight speakers.
* Two types of S/PDIF connectors are available: coaxial (G) and optical (F). Select the proper connector according to the style of S/PDIF speakers that will be used.
* The back panel may look like either of the following, depending on board model.

Item Description
Rear left/right out (multi-channel audio)
Line in
Line out (2-channel) or front left/right out (multi-channel)
Mic in (re-task for multi-channel)
Center/Low Frequency Effects (LFE) out (multi-channel)
Optical S/PDIF (Toslink) line out
Optical S/PDIF (RCA) line out

I configured my 5.1 Audio by using the 3 output jacks behind my computer chassis. Although, this also means that your Multichannel Audio System should have 3 (4 or 5) input jacks to accompany that. Most of them do. You’ll have to use 3 separate (4 or 5 depending on your system) 3.5mm jacks  to connect your system with your Realtek Device. Refer to the above diagrams for port configuration.

Fire up the Realtek HD Audio Manager in windows and double click on the jack icons on the right. You’ll notice that each one of them can be used in two different ways. Configure them as you have plugged the jacks (see above). Once you’re done. Check the speakers one by one and you will have sound coming out of all of them. Time to enjoy the Multichannel audio. You don’t need the Speaker Fill option. No more distorted audio. Go to this page and download some audio files. If you still have issues, you can refer to the Intel Audio page.

Further to this problem, I also came across another one. I was using Headphones on my computer before I attached my 5.1 Audio system and never used my Front Panel Audio Jacks before. So, when I moved my headphones to the front panel jacks,  both the Headphones and Mic were not working. This led me to another Internet searching adventure and people were annoyed as hell over this issue.

Front Panel Jacks don’t work / Realtek HD Audio Manager does not detect my Front Panel devices

Firstly, make sure you always have the latest Realtek drivers installed on your system. You can download them for your chipset from the Intel’s download center, or from the Realtek website. I’m going to list this down in steps for troubleshooting:

1. Make sure your Front Panel Audio Jack is connected to the HD Audio Front Panel Header on the motherboard.

2. Determine if your Front Panel Audio is HD or AC97.

How to Identify your Front Panel Audio Solution Codec
To identify your front panel audio solution’s audio codec, refer to the specifications or documentation for your PC chassis or front panel module. Note that AC’97 and HD Audio front panel solutions are different and may not be directly compatible or interchangeable.

You can also physically check the audio cable of the front panel audio solution. If there is a cable connected to Pin 4, you have an HD Audio module; if there is no cable to Pin 4, you have an AC97 module.

3. When you have connected your Front Panel jack to the motherboard and you still don’t get audio or the device detection to work. You certainly do have an AC97 audio jack.

If you have an HD Audio Motherboard Header and your Front Panel is AC97 compatible. You won’t be able to get sound out of your front panel jacks. There are two ways to do this depending on your system.

1. Check your motherboard bios, if you have an option that says Codec Driver is HD or AC 97. Set that to AC97. Usually, you can find that option in the Peripheral Section. When you’ll come back to windows, your Front Panel Jacks should be working.

2. If you don’t have such an option in the bios. Open up Realtek HD Audio Manager in Windows and find a folder shaped icon in the right panel. Click that and you’ll find an option that says “Disable Front Panel Jack Detection”. Enable that option and you’ll have a working Front Panel with both the Headphones and the Mic working. Refer to teh pic below:


Now, some people may get annoyed by the fact that you’ll lose front panel jack detection and HD Audio capabilities for the devices plugged into the Front Panel. So, I searched around and found a solution to that as well. There are two ways to go from here.

1. Replace the Front Panel with an HD Audio Panel. You can search for them on the internet or contact your Chassis manufacturer.

2. Make an HDA Dongle for Front Audio Support. You will need some parts for this and a little bit of electronics knowledge. You can follow this thread for the details.

I hope this should help many people out there trying to figure out how to configure Realtek  to work with their Multichannel Audio Systems and also have working Front Panel Audio Support.

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This entry was posted on Sunday, October 25th, 2009 at 10:16 am

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Tags: 5.1, ac97, front panel, integrated audio, intel, multichannel, realtek, Vista, windows 7

Posted in: linux, MicroHard, Misc, Tutorials