Most TVs can't forward DolbyDigital/DTS 5.1 streams from HDMI to the optical output or HDMI ARC. (They can only output 5.1 streams which are generated by the TV and 5.1 streams which come over HDMI are always converted to a 2.0 stream.)
So I wanted to have a optical output for my RaspberryPi media center (OpenElec/LibreElec) to get the 5.1 stream directly to my 5.1 surround system. (Buying a audio extractor which extracts the audio signal from HDMI would have been also a possibility but most of them cost more than 50USD and there are often problems with HDMI CEC if you use this.)
If you want to try it with Raspbian or any other distro just search the internet - there are lots of tutorials available for the HifiBerry Digi or PiFy modules (which all use the same drivers).
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