An issue often faced by Ubuntu users after installing Ubuntu or upgrading to a new version is the sound problem, or more specifically, the “no-sound” problem. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it is related to a misconfiguration in the speaker settings, or maybe your hardware is not well-supported.
For most people, it’s usually a pretty easy problem to resolve. This is because most problems stem from an issue with services running on the system. In this article we go through a few simple fixes you can try. You don’t necessarily have to try them all. Just start at the top of the list and work your way down.
- Install Volume Control for PulseAudio
- Check Your Speaker Settings
- Check the ALSA Mixer
- Reload ALSA
- Reinstall ALSA and PulseAudio
- Advanced Troubleshooting
- Frequently Asked Questions
Install Volume Control for PulseAudio
PulseAudio is a default sound service for Ubuntu as well as a few others. It’s open source and generally reliable, working with ALSA and OSS drivers to make sure the sound signals your system generates get passed on to your speakers.
But while applications and desktop environments come with their own volume controls for PulseAudio, it’s not that granular and doesn’t let you control each playback stream individually. Pavucontrol gives you more control over each audio device on your PC, so you can play around with those sliders to make sure that your speaker or headphone volume is set to what it should be, for instance.
pavucontrol, open the Terminal and enter the following commands:
pulseaudio --startsudo apt install pavucontrol
After that, run
pavucontrol either from the terminal or looking up “PulseAudio Volume Control” in your desktop environment’s launch menu. Go to the “Output Devices” tab and make sure your default speakers are selected.
Check Your Speaker Settings
When experiencing sound issues on your Ubuntu machine, you first need to is check out your headphones and speakers for connection problems. It could be that a audio cable is connected to the wrong port or not connected at all.
If you’re using a Bluetooth device, check to see if it’s paired correctly. Don’t forget to take a look at the volume controls of your devices to make sure they’re at acceptable levels. You should also verify that the output volume is not muted on your computer and that the correct output device is selected.
Check the ALSA Mixer
Under the hood PulseAudio uses ALSA, a kernel module that directly controls your sound devices. If you need more fine-grained control over your ALSA-level volume, follow the steps below:
- Open the terminal.
alsamixerand press the Enter key. You will see the following output in your terminal.
- Select your correct sound card by pressing F6. For me, the defaults work just fine, but feel free to try other options if it doesn’t work.
- Use the left arrow and right arrow keys to select a volume control. The currently selected item is shown in red at the bottom.
- Use the up arrow and down arrow keys to increase and decrease volume levels for each control.
- When a mixer control is muted, “MM” appears below the volume bar. Note that a bar can be 100% full but still be muted, so do check for this. You can unmute a control by pressing the m key. This changes “MM” to “OO.”
- To exit alsamixer, press the Esc key.
Note: when you mute or unmute a control, pulseaudio may pick it up and mute and unmute other controls as well. Make sure to confirm that the relevant controls as well as the master control are unmuted before exiting.
Another thing you can try if the sound issue persists is to reload ALSA. To do that, use the following command in the terminal:
sudo alsa force-reload
The output looks like the following image.
Once it’s done, if you still have trouble getting the sound working, try
pulseaudio -k && pulseaudio -D
You may have trouble after reloading ALSA if pulseaudio does not register that the modules were reloaded.
If you’re still not getting audio, try this one-shot ALSA command directly:
Reinstall ALSA and PulseAudio
If the above methods did not fix your issue, try reinstalling ALSA and PulseAudio in the following manner. Open your terminal and enter the following commands:
sudo apt remove --purge alsa-base pulseaudiosudo apt install alsa-base pulseaudio
Reload ALSA again and reboot your computer.
To properly troubleshoot your audio after all else fails, we have to get our hands just a bit dirtier and go into more advanced troubleshooting:
Your Output Might Trigger ALSA but Not PulseAudio
Ultimately, if PulseAudio mutes an output, it doesn’t matter what ALSA says. The sound coming out to your devices will be processed through ALSA but won’t be served to them through PulseAudio.
To get around this, we need to force ALSA to talk to PulseAudio when the master volume shifts to ensure that the latter follows along.
amixer -D pulse sset Master toggle
Devices whose volume can only interact with ALSA for some odd reason will also interact with PulseAudio.
Are You Sure It’s Not Just One Application?
A misbehaving application can cause more problems than you think in ways that would surprise you. It may even be an application you didn’t open!
To have a look at everything using your audio control, type:
If you want to be more surgical about it, type:
pacmd list-sink-inputs | grep application.name
In my case, as in the image, Firefox is the only thing I’m listening to. If you used
grep to narrow down the output in terminal, use the original command again and pay attention to the values “muted:”, “index:” and “volume:”.
You might have had volume in the application and it could still be muted or on zero volume!
To fix a muted application, type (replace
application_index with the index number you found in “index:”):
pacmd set-sink-input-mute application_index false
To fix applications with unusually low volume, type:
pacmd set-sink-input-volume application_index 0x10000
No Audio When Resuming After Suspend/Sleep
Sometimes PulseAudio just isn’t in the mood to wake up with the rest of your computer. In this case, running
brings your audio back from the dead, but don’t get too excited. This will not survive another reboot or suspend/sleep. Carefully follow this mini-guide to make the problem go away permanently:
- In the terminal, type
sudo touch /etc/systemd/system/pulseaudio-sleep-fix@.service
to create a systemd service manager file.
- Open the file for editing:
sudo nano /etc/systemd/system/pulseaudio-sleep-fix.service
Paste (Ctrl + Shift + V for terminal paste) this into it:
[Unit]Description=Fix PulseAudio after resume from suspendAfter=suspend.target [Service]User=%IType=oneshotEnvironment="XDG_RUNTIME_DIR=/run/user/%U"ExecStart=/usr/bin/pasuspender /bin/true [Install]WantedBy=suspend.target
- Press Ctrl + X to exit and Y in the prompt asking you whether you want to save the modified buffer.
- Type the following to register this as a systemd service.
sudo systemctl enable pulseaudio-sleep-fix@your_username.service
Remember to replace your_username with the appropriate value.
Are You Running Timidity?
If you run the timidity package in Ubuntu (check by running
apt search timidity and checking for
[installed] at the end of the appropriate entry), you may have problems running PulseAudio with it due to the funky way it handles audio processing.
To get timidity to run properly, start by adding it to autostart (sometimes called Startup Applications in desktop environments like GNOME) and modifying the command that runs the application to be:
timidity -iA -Os
Taking things a little further, type the following to add root to the pulse-access group
sudo usermod -a -G pulse-access root
Once you reboot, your audio should work fine. If it still fails, the only other solution within reach is to remove timidity from Ubuntu.
Now you’ll have a service that’s meant to run only when you resume after suspend, immediately shutting down once it’s done its job to avoid adding bloat.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Can I remove ALSA and keep PulseAudio?
Tread very carefully here! PulseAudio needs a kernel-level audio module to work. If you’re planning on replacing ALSA with something else that operates in the kernel (like Open Sound System), then by all means, go ahead and do that. The process is a bit more complex than replacing a Realtek kernel module for networking, so be aware that you may be sitting for a very long time trying to sort out issues.
2. Does PulseAudio have alternatives?
Yes! The most popular (and most viable, if you plan on using a desktop) alternative to PulseAudio is PipeWire. It contains better integrated support for Bluetooth devices and improves PulseAudio’s wonky way of handling sampling and post-processing. Many distributions now make it available in official repositories, and its stability has improved significantly in recent years.
If you want a more professional setup with your audio, however, you may want to opt for something like JACK.
3. Can I run PulseAudio alongside other services?
While some services have libraries and setup options in place to get PulseAudio working with them, it’s highly recommended that you stick to one service on your system at a time. Most services will simply compete with PulseAudio for your system’s applications, and it can cause unpredictable behavior. Others will simply not work at all without getting rid of PulseAudio entirely. (PipeWire uses the
pipewire-pulse service, which replaces
Hopefully, the advice we’ve provided here got the sound running on Ubuntu again, so that you can start enjoying your operating system again. Have you tried turning a website into an app in Linux and casting the screen of your Android phone to Linux?
Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.
Subscribe to our newsletter!
Our latest tutorials delivered straight to your inbox
It could be that a audio cable is connected to the wrong port or not connected at all. If you're using a Bluetooth device, check to see if it's paired correctly. Don't forget to take a look at the volume controls of your devices to make sure they're at acceptable levels.Why is there no sound on my Ubuntu? ›
Make sure that the sound is not muted
The application may have a mute or volume button in its main window, so check that. Also, you can check the volume slider in the Sound panel: Open the Activities overview and start typing Sound. Click on Sound to open the panel.
- Step 1 – Open the terminal / console.
- Step 2 – Open Alsamixer. We will use alsamixer to tweak the audio settings. ...
- Step 3 – Set Preferred Sound Card. Now you need to select your preferred sound card. ...
- Step 4 – Save Settings.
Open Settings from the application menu and go to the Sound tab. Then enable the “Over Amplification” switch. The moment you enable you should see the volume bar is expanded.How to reinstall audio drivers Ubuntu? ›
- Install pavucontrol sudo apt-get install pavucontrol.
- Install PulseAudio. 2.1 sudo apt update. 2.2 sudo apt install pulseaudio. 2.3 Now reboot your computer. 2.4 Check if PulseAudio was installed pulseaudio --version , terminal should output something similar to mine.
Right click on the panel, from the contextual menu, click on "Reset panel", on the dialog box that comes up, confirm by clicking on "Reset panel". The defaults, including the volume, is restored.How to enable PulseAudio in Ubuntu? ›
- Open the ~/.pulse/client.conf file to enable PulseAudio for the current user, OR. Open the /etc/pulse/client. ...
- Set the following attribute and ensure the line is not commented out: autospawn = yes.
- Call pulseaudio --start to start the PulseAudio daemon.
- Check your speaker output. ...
- Run the audio troubleshooter. ...
- Verify that all Windows Updates are installed. ...
- Check your cables, plugs, jacks, volume, speaker, and headphone connections. ...
- Check sound settings. ...
- Fix your audio drivers. ...
- Set your audio device as the default device.
- Type: "sudo su" and enter root password.
- Type: "tar -xjf LinuxPkg_XXX. ...
- Type: "cd realtek-linux-audiopack-YYY" , where YYY is the version of your downloaded driver (as shown if folder name, example: "cd realtek-linux-audiopack-5.17" ).
- Type "tar -xjf alsa-driver-ZZZ.
Open the Activities overview and start typing Sound. Click on Sound to open the panel. Under Volume Levels, use the volume slider for each application to set its volume. Click the speaker button at the end of the slider to mute or unmute the application.
Sound in Ubuntu is based on PulseAudio. On both phone and PC, its user interface includes a “Sound” panel in System Settings (which also covers vibrations on the phone), volume notification bubbles, and the sound menu. For help with using sound in Ubuntu, see Ubuntu Help online.Should I use Pipewire or PulseAudio? ›
So, probably, for most non intensive use, both work flawlessly. Most probably the time will arrive in which pulseaudio will start to become abandoned, and pipewire will be the default and active option, and changing into it will be recommended or even needed. But probably not before a couple of years, or longer.How to install Realtek driver on Ubuntu? ›
- sudo apt-get install linux-headers-generic build-essential git.
- cd rtlwifi_new.
- sudo make install.
- sudo modprobe rtl8723be.
Double-click "Sound, Video and Game Controllers." Right-click the sound driver and click "Enable" to restart the device.How do I reinstall Realtek audio driver? ›
At the top of your Device Manager, select the Action menu option. Under Action, choose the option to Scan for hardware changes. Windows automatically scans and detects the uninstall of your Realtek HD Definition Audio driver and prompts you to reinstall. Follow the on-screen prompts to complete the reinstallation.How do I get audio volume on Ubuntu? ›
To change the sound volume, open the system menu from the right side of the top bar and move the volume slider left or right. You can completely turn off sound by dragging the slider to the left.How do I check audio input in Ubuntu? ›
First, open the “Settings” option from the application menu. Now, click on the “Sound” tab from the left pane. Then, select the input device: You can check the current input device and the volume to change them accordingly.Why do my speakers make noise when I have no sound Linux? ›
The reason behind the buzzing noise from speakers in Linux
It is because of capacitor discharge in the speakers. And it can be solved by turning off the power-saving setting of a sound card. By turning off power saving, you are allowing the system to charge those capacitors when they get discharged.