Pulseaudio

Without pulseaudio programs have to access the sound hardware directly and prevent other programs to access it. pulseaudio allows to configure what sound cards are used and allow to mute and adjust the volume also when the soundcard does not support it (as modern HDMI output)

Unfortunately what program can access the hardware problem existed a long time so many programs got enhanced to be more flexible and autonomous. The backside is that those "historical" features might get in conflict with a central sound server as pulseaudio

Obviously pulsaudio puts also a middleware between ALSA and the application and get a more standard soundinterface. https://www.freedesktop.org/wiki/Software/PulseAudio/Documentation/User/PerfectSetup/

The programs should be made aware of the pulseaudio sound server.

Under gentoo there is the pulseaudio useflag to let the system be aware of pulsaudio.https://wiki.gentoo.org/wiki/PulseAudio

mplayer needs to set /etc/mplayer.conf

ao=pulse

mplayer /usr/share/sounds/alsa/* is a good test to see if it runs

For Desktop systems do not use system wide configuration, since every user might have its own setup.

Try to not use a /etc/asound.conf file let pulseaudio do it for you using a gui tool as pavucontrol.

There are also some tools as pavucontrol, pavucontrol-qt or pulsemixer for volume control of pulse and paprefs for it preferences.

pactl set-sink-mute <n> toggle toggles mute <n> is the sink (= output device) number shown in pactl list

pactl set-sink-mute alsa_output.pci-0000_01_05.1.hdmi-stereo toggle does the same using the name

pactl set-sink-volume 1 70% set the volume

pactl set-sink-volume 1 +5% increases it

https://gavv.github.io/articles/pulseaudio-under-the-hood/

Pulseaudio might to start without any sound. pavucontrol might show in the Configuration the profiles Off. So it simply does not know what to do and does not restore settings. To help the config file ~/.config/pulse/default.pa can be created as:

.include /etc/pulse/default.pa
set-default-sink alsa_output.pci-0000_01_05.1.hdmi-stereo
set-card-profile alsa_card.pci-0000_01_05.1 output:hdmi-stereo

The first line loads the system default settings that might get lost if a ~/.config/pulse/default.pa exists. It is worth to set a default sink and have the card set a profile other than off.

killall pulseaudio might to get done followed by pulseaudio --daemonize to have the following commands showing information.

pacmd list-sinks|egrep -i 'index:|name:' lists the names of the sinks

pacmd list-cards|egrep -i 'index:|name:' lists the names of the cards

pacmd list-cards shows all profiles


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