For some users, sound in Linux is nothing short of a nightmare. Even once beyond the initial setup of your hardware (a task that is usually handled automatically at install) some still have trouble trying to figure out where and how to manage their sound.
In this tutorial I will show you which tools to use to help troubleshoot sound on your Ubuntu-based machine as well as make that sound sound as good as possible. This article will focus not only on Ubuntu but GNOME as well. The reason being is that the GNOME tools are outstanding.
Before we get into managing the sound on your system, let's take a look at some troubleshooting tools you can use. The first thing you need to do is to check to make sure your sound card was detected. To do this you can open up a terminal window and issue the command:
which should output something like:
**** List of PLAYBACK Hardware Devices ****
card 0: Intel [HDA Intel], device 0: ALC262 Analog [ALC262 Analog]
Subdevice #0: subdevice #0
What you see above is a listing for an on-board Intel soundchip which was recognized by the Ubuntu installation. If you don't, however, see your card listed you should issue the command:
Which will list ALL of your PCI devices. If you see your sound card listed, that is a good thing. But if you are still not getting any sound it could mean no drivers are present. If this is the case, head over to the Alsa Project and search for suitable drivers. On this site you will want to match your sound card chipset with a compatible driver. When you have found the compatible driver install it and then you will have to add it to the kernel. Type the command:
sudo modprobe snd-
and hit the Tab key twice. You will want to view all of the listings to make sure the module you need is there. When you find the exact name of the module you need you can load it with the command:
sudo modprobe snd-XXX
Where XXX is the actual name of the module you need to load. You should now have sound loaded for your current session. The problem will be if and when you reboot your machine you will lose the sound (because that module will not reload).
In order to ensure that your module is loaded when you boot, you can add it to the file /etc/modules. All you will want to do is add the name of the module (the same name you loaded with the modprobe command) at the end of the file. Save that file and now, when you reboot, you will have sound.
One of the biggest problems I see with sound is a muted volume. For some installations this wants to be the default setting. Figure 1 shows muted sound by way of the speaker with an X to the right of it. to unmute this all you need to left click on the speaker icon and then drag the volume control up. This will unmute the sound for you. Or you can right click the speaker icon and uncheck the Mute option.
If you have a need to dig deeper into the preferences of your sound go to System > Preferences > Sound to open up the graphical sound tool (see Figure 2). With this tool you can manage:
This is one of those tools you will most likely never see. But when you need it, you'll be glad it's there.
Linux sound is not as difficult as it is made out to be. Even when your sound card doesn't seem to be working, there are plenty of ways to resolve the issue - you just have to know where to look. And of course, there are plenty more tools available than shown here. We haven't touched upon the KDE sound options (we'll look at those on a later date).
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Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.