Gigabyte GA-880GM quiet audio

I've built a system with a Gigabyte GA-880GM mobo and use a pair of mini passive speakers that have been plenty loud in the past but the sound output is way below what it should be (straining to hear).

Has anyone else come across this?

The mobo has an allegedly intelligent driver that detects a jack being plugged in and asks what mode you want the output to be in, eg line out or headphone/spkr.

All possible software settings are maxed out where in the past I have usually had to drop wave to 50% and usually sit with the volume setting at about a quarter.

Chipset is Realtek Azalia, drivers are latest avail form GigaByte (audio (inc MS-UAA) _v6409_110708), OS is XP sp3.

Googledar has failed me.
it's a ba-na-na . . . .