How-To Geek

How To Fix Sound Issues in Ubuntu 9.10

Many users have had problems with audio upon upgrading from Ubuntu 9.04 to 9.10. This How-To will show you how to fix some of those audio issues, including:

  • No audio in Flash videos.
  • Audio stops entirely after opening a Flash video.
  • No audio at all.
  • Audio plays out of speakers but not headphones plugged into the front of the computer (go to step 5).

Quick Ubuntu Audio Primer

By default, Ubuntu 9.10 uses two complementary programs to pump sound through your speakers or headphones.

  1. ALSA
    The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) provides direct access to your sound card.
    One issue with ALSA is that only one program can output sound to ALSA at one time. Because of this, Ubuntu includes a second program called…
  2. PulseAudio
    PulseAudio is a sound server that takes audio data from all of your applications and passes it onto ALSA.
    PulseAudio lets you do some cool things like control the volume level of each application separately, and stream audio to another computer over a network.

A common problem in Ubuntu 9.10 occurs when an application attempts to use ALSA directly, instead of going through PulseAudio as it should. The following steps will solve that problem.

Step 1: Install some utilities

In this step, we will install the Gnome ALSA Mixer and the Default Sound Chooser.

To install the Gnome ALSA Mixer, open a terminal and type in:

sudo apt-get install gnome-alsamixer

Installing the Default Sound Chooser is a bit more complicated. It used to be in the alsa-utils package, but it was removed in Ubuntu 9.10. Luckily, a helpful Ubuntu forum user has provided directions to install this utility.

  1. Download an old version of alsa-utils (make sure you choose the correct architecture: i386 for a 32-bit system and amd64 for a 64-bit system).
  2. Open a terminal window.
  3. Navigate to the directory that you saved the .deb file in.
  4. Perform the following commands:

# Install the .deb
sudo dpkg -i alsa-utils_1.0.18-1ubuntu11*.deb
# Copy asoundconf
sudo cp /usr/bin/asoundconf /usr/
# Install the graphical front-end to the Default Sound Card chooser
sudo apt-get install asoundconf-gtk
# Update alsa-utils now that you have asoundconf copied
sudo apt-get upgrade alsa-utils
# Move asoundconf to the right place
sudo mv /usr/asoundconf /usr/bin/

At this point you should now have a utility called Default Sound Card in System > Preferences.


Step 2: Update PulseAudio and ALSA

To ensure that you have the latest versions of PulseAudio and ALSA, open a terminal and perform the following commands.

sudo apt-get upgrade pulseaudio gstreamer0.10-pulseaudio
sudo apt-get upgrade alsa-base alsa-utils

If these packages are not yet installed, then replace “upgrade” in the above commands with “install” and run them again.

If your packages are already updated, you will see something like this.


Step 3: Choose PulseAudio as your default sound card

Open up the Default Sound Card utility you installed in Step 1. It will be in System > Preferences.


Choose PulseAudio. Click Quit.

Step 4: Reboot

Save anything you have open and reboot your computer.

Step 5: Set the volume

Open the Gnome ALSA Mixer, which is in Applications > Sound & Video.


Ensure that nothing is muted and set the volume at a comfortable level. In most cases, you can put it at the maximum, as most applications that play audio have their own volume controls. In particular, ensure that the Master and PCM volumes are not muted.


Note that there are separate volume controls for the audio plugs in the back and front of your computer, if your motherboard has both. Having one muted but not the other may be why audio will play out of the speakers, but not out of headphones plugged into the front of the computer.

Step 6: Test the audio

Open up your favorite music playing application (we’re partial to RhythmBox). Make sure the volume control is at a reasonable level. Play a song. Do you hear it? If not, proceed to step 7.

Open up your favorite web browser. Open up a Youtube video. Do you hear both the Youtube video and your music? If so, then audio is working properly!

If not, proceed to step 7.

Step 7: Get the latest version of ALSA

If audio is still not working, or not working for multiple applications, then you may need to update to the latest version of ALSA.

Again, a helpful Ubuntu forum user provides an easy method to do this.

  1. Download the ALSA upgrade script (requires forum registration).
  2. Open a terminal.
  3. Navigate to the directory that you saved the .tar file in.
  4. Perform the following commands:

tar xvf AlsaUpgrade-
sudo ./ –d
sudo ./ –c
sudo ./ -i

Step 8: Reboot and test

Save anything you have open and reboot your computer.

Once you’re back into Ubuntu, test out your audio as described in step 6. If your audio still doesn’t work, there’s still one last resort…

Step 9: Switch to the Open Sound System

ALSA was designed as a replacement to a similar program called the Open Sound System (OSS). Even though many distributions adopted ALSA, development of OSS continued, and current versions are perfectly capable of delivering high-quality sound in Ubuntu.

Switching to OSS is an article in itself. Fortunately, the Ubuntu community maintains just such an article.


Hopefully by following these steps you’ve been able to get sound working properly in Ubuntu 9.10. Let us know if these steps worked for you in the comments!

Trevor is our resident Linux geek, but always keeps his eyes open for neat Windows tricks too.

  • Published 02/17/10

Comments (35)

  1. Alexander Sverdlov

    Thanks for the amazing article! I wish it did not have to be done after an upgrade, but.. it’s a common Ubuntu issue. That’s why it’s always best to backup your data (/home), install a clean new version and restore the data. At least the system will work as it should.

  2. vasiauvi

    Thanks for the tutorial!
    It’s very well explained and very helpful for me! I’ve tried to make something with Pulse Audio after reading a tutorial from ubuntuforum.oeg and now my AudioVolume applet from panel has disappeared :).
    Well, I have Alsa Mixer and Alsa but is not upgraded to the latest version. This tutorial will help me to try upgrading it!

  3. Fabio

    I have noise on some games, i fixed pulseaudio like you but when i try to play Urban Terror the game sound has a lot of noise.

    it’s a common issue or what?

  4. calebstein

    Great article, but will it work with kubuntu?

  5. Trevor Bekolay


    Good question! I unfortunately can’t answer as I haven’t used Kubuntu for a few years, but this KDE forum thread seems to advocate removing PulseAudio to get sound working.

    Gnome and KDE use different backends for audio (Gstreamer and Phonon respectively) so I’m not sure how they each interact with PulseAudio and ALSA. It’s possible that these steps would work for KDE, but I can’t say for sure. You would definitely have to find a different ALSA mixer (or you can use the command line alsamixer).

  6. Trevor Bekolay


    My guess is you have an HDA-Intel sound card? Most motherboards produced in the past few years have them. Unfortunately it seems like PulseAudio and HDA-Intel cards don’t get along too well.

    You can try the fix mentioned in this post:
    “Those clicks are caused by the power saving option introduced in karmic. You can solve this problem by commenting out the last line in the /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf”

    I think a while ago I tried it and it knocked out sound, but that could have been an unrelated issue… in any case, you’d just need to uncomment the line and reboot to get sound back if that happens.

    Other ubuntu forums posters mentioned fixes like lowering the PCM volume in the ALSA mixer, so you can try playing around with that as well.

  7. Kyle2595

    For some reason, when I open “GNOME ALSA Mixer”, nothing shows up. Did I do something wrong?

  8. tony

    burp….if you have no sound, and you have one of these infamous intel audio chipset, just boot with kernel option acpi=off and it does the trick….

  9. Trevor Bekolay


    This means ALSA is probably having a problem finding or using your sound card.

    Enter “aplay -l” in a terminal. Does it give you a list of soundcards? If it says none found, then google around for issues with your sound card and Ubuntu.

  10. Don Birdsall

    Good article. My sound finally works as it should. I had one problem with the directions.

    I could not install the older version of alsa-utils, as the latest version was already installed. However, I was able to unpack the .deb file with the Archive Manager. After some poking around I found the asoundconf script and I moved it to /usr/bin/ as directed. Finally, I was able to select PulseAudio as my sound card.

    I am puzzled why the asoundconf script is not included in the latest version and why it hasn’t shown up as a bug fix?

  11. Mr. X

    ‘For some reason, when I open “GNOME ALSA Mixer”, nothing shows up. Did I do something wrong?’

    Install the corresponding alsa-lib first then alsa-driver…Alsamixergui is nicer but still the same functionality as Gnome Alsa Mixer.

  12. Trevor Bekolay

    @Don Birdsall

    Yeah, it’s quite puzzling, I agree. What happened was the person who was maintaining asoundconf couldn’t maintain it anymore, and no one else stepped up to be listed as the maintainer, so it was removed from alsa-utils. In the open source world, you can’t really force someone to work on something they don’t want to work on, I suppose. Hopefully someone steps up to maintain the script soon!

  13. Sarah

    Didn’t work for me – still no sound :( – very frustrated! Think it’s something to do with AMD64, had it fixed before then upgraded to Karmic and the upgrade broke it, and now I can’t remember how I fixed it in the first place.

  14. Anton

    Great tutorial. Thanks a lot! Sound works perfect now!

  15. jason chang

    Didn’t work for me with my laptop dell studio with 5.1 intel idt 92hd73c sound card that has installed i i i i
    i install ubuntu 9.10 64 bits
    i follow all the steps in this site &For some reason, when I open “GNOME ALSA Mixer”, nothing shows up & Default Sound Card nothing shows
    i put aplay -l on terminal & this is what i get
    max@max-pc:~$ aplay -l
    aplay: device_list:223: no se encontraron tarjetas de sonido…
    the sound only work with my usb headset

  16. Trevor Bekolay

    @jason chang

    Seems like ALSA is not recognizing your sound card properly.

    Goto Preferences > Sound and then the Hardware tab. Do you see anything in the list of devices to configure?

    Check out this page and see if your sound card is supported by ALSA.

  17. maxwell

    wget -c
    wget -c
    wget -c
    tar xvf alsa-driver-1.0.21.tar.bz2
    tar xvf alsa-lib-1.0.21.tar.bz2
    tar xvf alsa-utils-1.0.21.tar.bz2
    cd alsa-driver-1.0.21/
    ./configure –with-cards=hda-intel
    sudo make install
    cd ..

    cd alsa-lib-1.0.21/
    sudo make install
    cd ..
    cd alsa-utils-1.0.21/
    sudo make install

    sudo apt-get -y install build-essential ncurses-dev gettext xmlto libasound2-dev
    sudo apt-get -y install linux-headers-`uname -r` libncursesw5-dev

    y listo ya debe servir con radeon hd 400 y r700 radeon hd 400 series para makinas dell

  18. CK

    Thanks SO much. I was about to kill myself out of frustration. This is the third time I’ve had to change ALSA around because of an Ubuntu upgrade. You’re a lifesaver.

  19. punti

    This is perfect. It works!!!! Thank you!

  20. cholly

    Thanks Sooo much for this! I tried everything else and nothing worked. My problem was intermittent upon booting. Sometimes sound, other times ‘Dummy’. Also, the gnome alsamixer would not launch.
    This seems to have done the trick.

  21. Glenglen13

    Thank-you Thank-you! Seems to have solved the many intermittent problems I was having with ubuntu 9-10. My soundblaster card works great now Good work.

  22. Feanor93

    When I try and start up the Default Sound Card program, nothing happens. What should I do? When I log into my root account, it starts up fine.


  23. Kevin

    I tried Ubuntu 9.10 and had problems with sound and I finally gave up and reverted back to 9.04. I hope Lucid Lynx 10.04 does not have the same problems as Karmic 9.10.

  24. RCG

    Still no fix for me… I have Ubuntu 9.10 and ran through the entire process but still no luck. Through the speakers I get nothing but if I plug in headphones they work just fine.

  25. coco

    thanks a lot for excellent article, i almost lost hope, but one weird thing is the sound icon i have on my latest ubuntu version upgrade , it shows that it s muted ( no soud) but after i finished step 6 and test my audio it works fine, well i dont care as long as i have sound but it s annoying that the audio icon shows me it s not working but actually is working. i just want to know and if there is a way of fixing.

    thanks again

  26. Don Birdsall

    It was nice to have sound issues fixed for awhile. Unfortunately, after upgrading to Ubuntu 10.04 some problems returned. After watching a Flash video in Firefox my media player (VLC) is muted. Killing Firefox usually fixes the problem. Similarly, Flash is muted in Firefox after using VLC. I am back to rebooting several times a day which usually temporarily returns sound to either application.

    Another workaround is to watch the same videos on my Apple iPad using Safari instead. This is strange, as Safari does not support Flash. The web site ( is smart enough to recognize my browser and deliver the content in a supported format.

    This is very annoying.

  27. Kenneth Mlelwa

    Thanx it work

  28. Aknahtan

    Thanks been without sound for a while now, worked like a charm.

  29. tarek-aec

    Thanks been without sound for a while now, worked like a charm.
    it’s Greatest!

  30. rajan

    there is a sound after i apply this tutorial,but the sound is not clear. the sound have added noise

  31. plurga

    hi Trevor

    thanks a lot !!!

    this workaround is amazing , my speakers sound pretty good.

  32. Jolicoeur

    Confused by this part
    “Download an old version of alsa-utils (make sure you choose the correct architecture: i386 for a 32-bit system and amd64 for a 64-bit system). I clicked the link but did not understand the choices, which do I choose for “old version” thanks

  33. pockets

    in response to Don Birdsall:

    Instead of rebooting, try going into Sound Preferences (click the speaker icon that adjusts volume, but choose “Sound Preferences” instead of adjusting the volume), then select the hardware tab, and change the profile from analog to digital, then back again. It seems to reset the audio stream, and usually re-enables sound for me without having to reboot.

  34. Mel

    The rest of us who are just starting on Linux shouldn’t be subjected to these processes. Yes, I can follow the above instructions, no problem. I just wish these could all be fixed by a simple update manager, so I can recommend this OS to my friends. My other problem is that 1024X768 resolution on my old CRT doesn’t appear on Linux Ubuntu. I’ve had sound problems and video resolution problems since v 8.+

  35. Jeremy

    Easier to just replace it with a USB audio card. They are so cheap it isn’t worth the time and energy. has some cheap ones that work well.

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