Vista's annoying DRM

By Steve Biddle, in , posted: 5-Dec-2007 09:56

I've been using Vista Ultimate as my PVR/HTPC machine for several months now after upgrading it from XP Pro. I run GB-PVR as my main PVR application and use this for all my TV recordings.

One thing I had been meaning to do for some time however was hook my PC up to my amp for 5.1 audio, I had this hooked up previously but when I changed motherboards I had not got around to making a SDDIF output cable to hook up to the motherboard pinout as my motherboard had no external connector.

My aim was to have both 5.1 and 2ch PCM stereo output via SPDIF and stereo audio simultaneously output via the 3.5mm line out which is hooked up to my TV. This means I can hear the audio my TV without running it through the amp but also allows me to turn on my amp for full 5.1 or 2ch stereo audio when I'm playing a DVD. This is easily done under XP but Vista is another story.

After spending numerous hours playing with my system configuration I did a quick Google search to find that this can't be done under Vista with a Realtek audio chipset. Infact it can't be done with most soundcards. Microsoft have changed Vista so that it's only possible to output via SPDIF and analogue simultaneously if you want stereo PCM from both. It is not possible to have a 5.1 feed via SPDIF and 2ch PCM stereo via analogue. This is one of the great new DRM "features" built into Vista that MS didn't tell is about!

So now I'm stuck unable to do what I want to do which I don't believe is an unreasonable configuration for anybody who uses a Vista machine as a HTPC/PVR. I don't always want to turn my amp on to watch a simple TV show and am happy with my TV's audio for many shows.

My only option is to find a cheap SPDIF->analogue converter so I can split the SPDIF feed both into my amp and adapter which will give me a stereo analogue feed. Unfortunately these aren't cheap. Even better would be for MS to fix this "bug" and restore the configuration that has worked for years but I don't see this happening. They dropped their pants for the motion picture and music industries to impose tough DRM and don't seem to care how these can affect end users.

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sbiddle's profile

Steve Biddle
New Zealand

I'm an engineer who loves building solutions to solve problems. I'll also a co-founder of the travel site. 

I also love sharing my views and analysis of the tech world on this blog, along with the odd story about aviation and the travel industry.

My interests and skillset include:

*VoIP (Voice over IP). I work with various brands of hardware and PBX's on a daily basis
  -Asterisk (incl PiaF, FreePBX, Elastix)

  -xDSL deployments

*Structured cabling
  -Home/office cabling
  -Phone & Data

*Computer networking
  -Mikrotik hardware
  -WAN/LAN solutions

*Wireless solutions
  -Motel/Hotel hotspot deployments
  -Outdoor wireless deployments, both small and large scale
  -Temporary wireless deployments
*CCTV solutions
  -Analogue and IP

I'm an #avgeek who loves to travel the world (preferably in seat 1A) and stay in nice hotels.

+My views do no represent my employer. I'm sure they'll be happy to give their own if you ask them.

You can contact me here or by email at