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Thread: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Mississauga, ON, Canada
    Kubuntu 6.10 Edgy

    Arrow Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    This thread, dating back to 2006, has now served its purpose. A lot of what is written here is obsolete, and the thread is now closed.

    A new sticky thread is available at


    Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide v0.5e

    Version History (DD-MM-YY)

    28-06-06 - version 0.1 - initial creation
    28-06-06 - version 0.2 - alsa-source guide added
    28-06-06 - version 0.3 - alsa-drivers from alsa-project guide added
    29-06-06 - version 0.4 - multiple sounds and multiple cards support added
    02-07-06 - version 0.4 - fixed mistake spotted by Jvaldezjr
    04-07-06 - version 0.5a - layout changes - starting on MIDI guide - Read *EXPERIMENTAL*
    04-07-06 - version 0.5a - added part on saving sound settings so they are restored after reboot.
    11-07-06 - version 0.5b - added guide for doing a *fresh* kernel installation
    13-07-06 - version 0.5c - minor layout edit - moved *fresh* kernel above compilation to see if it is more help and if it solves more problems.
    15-07-06 - version 0.5d - usage update
    17-07-06 - version 0.5e - added Advanced Guides by other Ubuntuers
    21-08-06 - Initial phase of moving page to UDSF
    23-08-06 - Added a Further Reading section - first link thanks to segalion.
    12-11-06 - version 0.6 - finally added "Adding the current user to the audio group" - and a few formatting fixes

    Background / Notes / Warnings
    • I can't guarantee if these instructions will work for everybody, and this is definitely a work in progress. But if these instructions can at least help one person out, I'll be happy.
    • If anyone has any suggestions or tips in making this post better, feel free to PM me or post below. Credits will be given regardless of how small the improvement.
    • If you find that you have followed the instructions on this post that something did not and you don't know why, it will be better if you start a new post and cite the fact that you used the instructions on this guide to solve your problem. Your post might get lost in all the other posts and you might not get help.
    • If you however find a solution to your problem, and you fee that the solution should be here, don't hesistate to post. However, please be specific.
    • If you cannot use hear anything, and you have just installed Ubuntu, then it could very possibly be a bug. It could be something as simple as not detecting your hardware the first time or evidence of a deeper problem. As fun as it is to find workarounds and fixes on your own or with help, Ubuntu developers need your feedback to see what is not working for you. That's right ladies and gentlemen, they would really really like it if you would file bug reports on under the Ubuntu distribution.
    • Note: To make it absolutely clear, when I say 'Ubuntu', I mean Ubuntu AND Kubuntu AND Xubuntu (for people who find this confusing - just accept it and don't feel bad - I and probably a whole lot others got confused when we started out).
    • Important syntax note: ALSA modules are denoted by the prefix 'snd' followed by the dash ' - ', followed by the module name (i.e. 'via82xx'). So the full name might be something like snd-via82xx. However, in some cases you will see an underscore ' _ ' instead of the dash. This is OK, do not let it confuse you. For all intensive purposes (installing modules or posting on forums) only use the dash ' - '.
    General Help - Start here if you have no idea why sound is not playing

    (1) Go to a shell and type:
    aplay -l
    • Success - You will get a list of the all the soundcards installed on your system. Your sound just might be muted. See alsamixer section.
    • Failure - You will get a message like
      aplay: device_list:221: no soundcard found...
      Move on to step 2.
    (2) Type this into the shell:
    lspci -v
    • Success - At this point, you should see your sound card listed. This is a positive sign because it means that Ubuntu is detecting the presence of your soundcard, but the drivers are not installed/running. Leave your shell running since you will need it.
    • Failure - If it is not listed, then there are a few things that you can do.
      • If your soundcard is an onboard sound card, then it might be disabled in the system's BIOS. You will have to reboot and hit the key that lets you enter into the BIOS (usually Delete, F2, or F8).
      • If your soundcard is not onboard, make sure that it is properly seated in the PCI slot. If your card is working under Windows then this is not a problem.
    (3) Check to see if the ALSA driver for your sound card exists. Go to and search for your sound card (chipset) manufacturer in the dropdown box. You'll be given a matrix of the sound cards made by the manufacturer. Try to match the chipset you found in step 2 with the driver(green hyperlink text).
    • Success - You will have found the driver for your soundcard's chipset.
    • Failure - You will have not found the driver for your soundcard chipset. (at the moment I cannot help you, but stay tuned!)
    (4) Now go back to the shell and type
    sudo modprobe snd-
    Now, press the TAB key BEFORE pressing the ENTER key to see a list of modules. Try to find the module that matches the driver you found in step 3.

    For example, my driver is a via82xx so I would type, sudo modprobe snd-via82xx.
    • Success
      • A success here means that your soundcard was installed, but it was not being loaded. Now you have loaded it for the current session.
      • To load it for all sessions (you will probably want to do this) you will have to edit /etc/modules (I think this is the file, I'll check once I get to my Dapper PC).
      • Type this into the shell
         sudo nano /etc/modules
      • Add only the name of the module to be loaded at the end of the file. In my case, the via82xx module gave me sound so I added "snd-via82xx" to the end of the file.(iii) Make sure that you have all channels unmuted in alsamixer
      • See the alsamixer section
      • Play media using your favorite media player. Set your audio engine to alsa. In some cases, you have to configure your audio engine within another (media engine) like in Kaffiene in Kubuntu. If you hear sound, hurray!
      • One final step. Go onto Saving Sound Settings
    • Failure -You have two options
    • Move on to Getting the ALSA drivers from a *fresh* kernel. This step is easier and is recommended to users who might have been tinkering with their sound settings and want to revert back to the way it was just after installing Ubuntu (without reinstalling Ubuntu of course )
    • Move on to ALSA driver Compilation, if you have not done so already. If you have, please post a new thread with your problem.

    Getting the ALSA drivers from a *fresh* kernel

    Sometimes, sound might be configured correctly, but for some reason or another (tinkering) it stops working. One way to go back to the old setup is to reinstall Ubuntu. However, this step is actually quite unnecessary since you are reinstalling everything because of one thing.

    A faster way, is to just remove the problematic packages and reinstall them cleanly.

    (1) Remove these packages
    sudo apt-get --purge remove linux-sound-base alsa-base alsa-utils

    (2) Reinstall those same packages

    sudo apt-get install linux-sound-base alsa-base alsa-utils

    VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Ubuntu (GNOME) users have reported that packages 'gdm' and 'ubuntu-desktop' are removed after removing the linux-sound-base packages. If this happens, then do the following
    sudo apt-get install gdm ubuntu-desktop

    (3) Reboot
    VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Xubuntu (XFCE) users have reported that packages 'gdm' and 'xubuntu-desktop' are removed after removing the linux-sound-base packages. If this happens, then do the following
    sudo apt-get install gdm xubuntu-desktop

    (3) Reboot
    Now you may ask "I already had the packages, so why did I go through the trouble of removing them, then installing them". The answer lies in the --purge option which removes all the extra information that accumulated from tinkering and upgrading. After doing a purge then install, the packages are unpackaged as if it they are brand new.
    (4) At this point, try using
     aplay -l
    you should get your soundcard listed.
    • Success - Your soundcard is detected. Go onto the Using alsamixer section, then try playing something on your music or media player.
    • Failure - Your card was not detected. You should try compiling your driver, so go onto ALSA drive Compilation.
    ALSA driver Compilation
    • If you are here, then either your soundcard driver could not be loaded with modprobe, or you want to compile the drivers yourself from scratch. Good luck to you!
    • There are two main ways the sources of alsa-drivers are made available to you. One is though the apt-get system. Using this system would be the recommended system since most of the heavy lifting is done for you.
    • The other way, is getting the latest drivers from This page has the latest drivers available, which you might want to fix problems with. However, these have not been tested with Ubuntu and therefore should be used with caution.
    Using alsa-source
    1. Type the following to shell: (note: module-assistant is optional, it will compile the package for you)
      sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-$(uname -r) module-assistant alsa-source
    2. Code:
      sudo dpkg-reconfigure alsa-source
    3. You now have a big blue dialog box (left and right keys to choose 'Yes' and 'No', Enter key proceed). Answer yes (for ISA-PNP - recommended by package maintainers), then yes again (for debugging - recommended by package maintainers).
    4. Now you must pick which driver you want to install. Use space to select and deselect modules, and up and down to navigate.
    5. From General Help step 3, you should know the name of your driver. Deselect 'all' (the * will go away), and select your driver. In my case, I deselected 'all' then selected 'via82xx'. Hit Enter. Almost home free!
      • If you chose module-assistant
        sudo module-assistant a-i   alsa-source
        If the progress bar reaches 100% with no errors, you will have installed the drivers successfully. Resume this guide from General Help step 4.
      • If you did not choose module-assistant - Remember the name of your soundcard driver and use it place of the blue text below.

         cd /usr/src sudo tar xjvf alsa-driver.tar.bz2 cd modules/alsa-driver
        sudo ./configure  --with-kernel=/usr/src/linux-headers-$(uname -r) --with-cards=<enter driver name here e.g. via82xx> --with-oss=yes 
        sudo make  
        sudo make install
      • Code:

    If you get no error messages, you will have installed the drivers successfully.
    • Success - Resume this guide from General Help step 4.
    • Failure - Start a new thread in this thread of the forum. Paste the error message that you get and state that you were following instructions on this page.
    Using drivers from alsa-project - update I now recommend using the stable version 1.0.12
    • The alsa-project route is very similar to the alsa-source route without the module-assistant.
    • First you would have to get the alsa-driver tar from alsa-project then pretty much do configure, make and make install again.
    • However, I do recommend that you make a specific directory when you compile something from source. Remember the name of your soundcard driver and use it place of the blue text below.
    mkdir src cd src
    mkdir alsa
    cd alsa
    sudo apt-get install build-essential linux-headers-$(uname -r)
    tar xvjf alsa-driver-1.0.12rc2.tar.bz2 cd alsa-driver-1.0.12rc1 sudo ./configure --with-kernel=/usr/src/linux-headers-$(uname -r) --with-cards=<enter driver name here e.g. via82xx> --with-oss=yes sudo make sudo make install
    If you get no errors from doing the above then you have successfully compiled alsa-drivers from source. Resume this guide from General Help step 4.

    Using alsamixer
    • Type this into a shell
    You will now see what appears to be a graphical equalizer. It is more like ten different volume controls in the sample place.
    • To navigate around:
      • Left and Right Arrow Keys - Move left and right (if you move long enough in one direction you will get back to where you started - you will not fall off the screen )
      • Up and Down Arrow Keys - Increase and decrease volume respectively.
      • Letter M Key - Mutes/unmutes. If a channel is unmuted, then there is a green box underneath the volume slider. If the channel is muted, the box is grey.
    Saving Sound Settings
    Do this step to ensure that your alsamixer settings are reloaded with each boot. First make sure you have your settings just the way you like them in alsamixer. Then do
    sudo alsactl store 0
    or if this is your nth sound card (where n is the number of soundcards in your computer) replace 0 with n-1. Many thanks to xpix for trying this out.-

    Getting more than one application to use the soundcard at the same time
    • You might want to play a game and listen to music on your favorite music player at the same time. To do this successfully, you will have to use ALSA since it supports this feature the best. On all the music players I know of, you can configure the sound engine, to any module that is available.
    • The setting is usually found under something like Tools >>> Configure >>> Player Engines.
    • For games, it is a bit more tricky since there is not always a way to configure the player engine directly. Most games, however, do support the OSS. ALSA has an OSS module that allows OSS applications to use the ALSA driver.
    • To do this you will need the alsa-oss package
      sudo apt-get install alsa-oss
    • After doing this step, it is very easy to use alsa-oss. In the shell, you can type 'aoss' then the name of the program name you want to use with alsa-oss.
    Configuring default soundcards / stopping multiple soundcards from switching

    Note: This section assumes that you have installed each soundcard properly.
    • In a shell, type
      cat /proc/asound/modules
    • This will give the the name and index of each soundcard you have currently. Make a note of the names, and decide which one you want to be the default card.
    • Now type
      sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base
    • At the very end of the file, add the following (assuming you have 3 cards with module names A, B and C and you want to have them in the order CAB)
    options snd-C index=0
    options snd-A index=1 options snd-B index=2
    Adding the current user to the audio group

    A very common cause for a user to not have sound is not having his/her username in the /etc/group.

    Thanks to rustybutt for this simple check.

    grep 'audio' /etc/group
    You should see a line similar to
    followed by a username i.e. if the username is "ubuntu" then you should see
    . If you see something else i.e.
    you should add your username to the file by doing
     sudo nano /etc/group
    . Now find the line that looks like
    and change it to
    only replacing moocow with your real username.

    Hit CTRL + 0 to save, then CTRL + X to exit. That's the end of that

    Getting MIDI To Work - *EXPERIMENTAL*

    This section assumes you can successfully hear sound from your soundcard.
    First of all, make sure that you actually have a MIDI port on your soundcard. Most onboard soundcards do not have a MIDI port.

    Next, open up this file:

    sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base

    Then add this options line

     options <snd module name here i.e. snd-via82xx> mpu_port=0x330

    OR if you already have a options line for this soundcard add
    to the line.

    The default MIDI port is 330. You should verify this number in your BIOS if you are not sure. If the number is not listed, it is most likely that the number is 330 (add the 0x for the file).

    If you get no errors, you have successfully installed your MIDI port. At the moment, I do not know if any further configuration is necessary.

    Miscellaneous Tips and Tricks

    Here are a few things that other people have dug up over the course of this guide. Not all tips are meant to work for all hardware (believe me hda-intel will probably have like a mini guide of it's own one day).
    I wasn't getting any sound out of my Sony Vaio PCG-4B1L ...
    The crucial thing is to enable everything in alsamixer EXCEPT "external amplifier." (I had to turn off microphone too, to stop feedback).
    • Useff had a very annoying problem where he could get sound through alsa from one user, but not through is main account. Him and I managed to fix the problem by making sure the main account was in the audio group in /etc/groups (which he was) and deleting the .asoundrc file in the main account's /home directory.
    • Bo Rosén solved his ISA problem the following way. Thanks to FarEast for his help in the matter.
      Thanks to this post I got soundblaster 16 isa working. In short add
      to /etc/modules then create a new file:
      gedit /etc/modprobe.d/sound
      and enter this line:
      options snd-sb16 isapnp=0 port=0x220 irq=5 dma8=1 dma16=5
      sudo update-modules
    • webbca01 figured out how to get AC'97 work with the help of the second last post here and this post. Basically, if you have an intel8x0 module, you can get AC'97 working by
      sudo nano /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base
      and adding this as the last line:
      "options snd-intel8x0 ac97_quirk=3"
    Advanced Guides by other Ubuntuers
    Further Reading - Some advanced reading on ALSA - thanks segalion

    To Do:

    Important - no particular order
    • Getting MIDI to work
    • Compiling alsa entirely (drivers, utils, oss, etc)
    • Getting line input to work if it does not already - for microphones, etc.
    • Getting SPDIF output to work if it does not already - for amplifiers, speakers with digital in.
    On the backburner
    • Scripts for getting configuration that needs to be done in this post to be done automatically

    Getting keyboard multimedia keys to work -

    (I personally like the non-keytouch route - configuring xmodmap and then using gnome-keybindings or for KDE (System Settings >> Regional and Language Settings >> Keyboard Shortcuts). The xmodmap route also works for XFCE, but I do not how to configure XFCE application keybindings.

    Posts / References /Credits

    MultipleCards from

    Every single sound problem error post I have read

    The Ubuntu community for being energetic, dynamic, and polite providers of help with Ubuntu Linux in all its flavours.
    Last edited by mörgæs; April 1st, 2012 at 06:30 AM. Reason: Pointer to new thread

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Mississauga, ON, Canada
    Kubuntu 6.10 Edgy

    Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    Bumping this post since I think it is ready to be used by people having trouble with sound. I'll do my best to field questions and make changes to this guide as needed. If you are an experienced Ubuntu user, please help out with testing, verifying, and helping people who use this guide.

    Thanks in advance

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2006

    Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    Excellent. Thank you.
    I had a problem with multiple card switching and reported it as a bug. Are options in alsa-base (also suggested to me on launchpad) workaround or solution?
    Im definitely interested in midi (new yamaha dx-305 sitting just next to pc).

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Mississauga, ON, Canada
    Kubuntu 6.10 Edgy

    Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    Options in alsa-base would be a solution. alsa-base is a part of the official Ubuntu Repositories, so they would be considered a solution. The alsa-drivers from alsa-project would be considered a workaround until Ubuntu incorporates the official 1.0.11 stable into alsa-base.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2006

    Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    it just helped ma mute computer to speak there sum comprehensive graphx driver problem solutions guide too...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2004
    Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

    Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    great guide! I'm sure this will help a lot of users!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Kubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron

    Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    Excellent guide- I've just reinstalled Dapper, so I'll retry my sound issues with this guide, and see what happens.

    I went through the steps like you mentioned, and I believe it is working like it is supposed to. I'll post if I have more problems in another thread, but as of right now I'm getting 5.1 sound. The only problem I had was when I rebuilding the alsa drivers with alsa-source. The command "dpkg-reconfigure alsa-base" didn't produce anything- there was a pause at the prompt, then that was it. Something ran, but I got no feedback as to what it did. So I went through the steps with the module-assistant method, and so far so good.

    Also, I never was able to get any output when I did "sudo modprobe snd-" and hit tab. So I went through with the loading the module anyway (my case it was snd-intel8x0). When I added that module to my /etc/modules file and rebooted, I believe that fixed it. However, when I checked to see if the module was loaded (lsmod | grep snd) the only thing I saw that was close to snd-intel8x0 was snd_intel8x0. Is there a different between using the - and the _ , or is it still the same module, and should I have added snd_intel8x0 to /etc/modules?

    Last edited by Jvaldezjr; July 2nd, 2006 at 10:09 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2006
    central US
    Ubuntu 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope

    Lightbulb Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide


    If only all howto type things where broken down into the nice "tree" you made. (I'm refering to the succes/failure thing)

    It was very easy to understand, even for a noob like me

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Ubuntu 10.10 Maverick Meerkat

    Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    Tried it, and have yet to have success. I am using a Gigabyte nVidia nForce 4 motherboard, and the alsa-project has nothing set for it, or what I can make of it.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Mississauga, ON, Canada
    Kubuntu 6.10 Edgy

    Re: Comprehensive Sound Problem Solutions Guide

    Jvaldezjr - Thanks for the comments - you found an error in my instructions - it was supposed to read
    sudo apt-get dpkg-reconfigure alsa-source
    not alsa-base. In the alsa-project wiki, using a - and a _ are the same thing. They just appear in different areas.

    ubuntu_demon - thanks for the comments and the sticky!!!

    linish - glad I could help. Video gets a bit tricky and most of the work has been done. I might make a guide that links to all the relevant guides for ATI/NVIDIA/free drivers.

    acorn22 - thanks for the comments. I tried to make it as new-user friendly as possible and I assume that the new-user has no previous knowledge whatsoever. This characteristic, IMO, makes the guide longer, but more thorough and less ambiguous.

    starmartyr - I think your sound card driver is th intel8x0.
    Last edited by LordRaiden; July 3rd, 2006 at 08:34 PM.

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