If you are running Kodi under Linux and you find that certain types of recordings, including many programs recorded from satellite feeds, will play in stereo only even though you know they were transmitted with multichannel audio, here’s a possible quick fix. Bring up a terminal window and start Kodi this way:
You might also need to tweak an audio setting or two in Kodi itself. This forces Kodi to use ALSA rather than PulseAudio, as it did in the (XBMC) Frodo version and probably some earlier versions. If this fixes the problem, you can create a shortcut or a shell script that starts Kodi up this way. Apparently some distributions such as Kodibuntu already use ALSA by default, but if you are a normal Linux desktop user, chances are that Kodi is using PulseAudio on your system.
On the following AskUbuntu page…
… it suggests that if forcing Kodi to use ALSA works, you may want to start it using this startup script:
It seems that this is particularly effective when the audio link between the system running Kodi and the receiver is via S/PDIF, but I’ve also observed it to help even when the link is via a HDMI connection.
(Article edited August, 2015 and January, 2017 to change most mentions of XBMC to Kodi, and to add information from the AskUbuntu site).