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Should Pulseaudio Die? What do you think?

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When I was installing and testing Mandriva 2010 Cooker (new development) releases this last Fall season, I kept having persistent problems with sound. Eventually, the advice in the Mandriva Cooker forum for KDE users became: "Disable Pulseaudio, and set Xine as the preferred back end over GStreamer (in the KDE multimedia settings).

Unlike the latest 'buntu, Mandriva does supply a checkbox in their Control Center Sound configuration utility to enable/disable Pulseaudio.

Then Mandriva 2010 final came out, and Pulseaudio more or less works, (and GStreamer works fine for the KDE back end). Some users report that flash videos have no sound with Pulseaudio enabled. Certainly there's some sound lag with Pulseaudio.

Today I was listening to the latest tllts podcast (The Linux Link Tech Show). Tllts member Patrick Davila started his "rant" segment, and said:

Pulseaudio sucks. The experiment [with Pulseaudio] has gone far too long. It's time to admit that it's a f*ing failure and every implementation sucks. The guy who runs it [Pulseaudio]--any time anybody tries to talk to him, is very negative and tells you you're an idiot. Canonical should hire Paul Davis, the developer of Jack and Ardour and Jack should become the default sound daemon."

What do you think? I tend to agree with Davila, however Linux sound is not my area of expertise. But I've certainly been plagued and frustrated over the years with Linux sound issues, and Pulseaudio seems to make things worse.

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I use Sidux AMD64 with KDE

I use Sidux AMD64 with KDE 4.3 and I have a proper sound card - an M-Audio Revolution 5.1. I do not have any Pulseaudio installed. My sound works perfectly. In part this is because my sound card supports hardware mixing. KDE uses Phonon not Pulse.

Now, this week I built a second machine from old bits for the purpose of video editing. I wanted to try OpenShot so I installed Karmic Koala, as OpenShot requires Python 2.6 and so it will not run on anything Debian (yet). After installation I had no sound at all. The Pulseaudio controlled sound applet showed everything was working, but nothing emanated from the speakers. I installed Gnome Alsamixer and found that the output was not selected, a simple click of the mouse and music poured forth. To me the biggest fault here is Gnome using this new mixer applet instead of the traditional Alsa one. Ubuntu, or Gnome in general, have also removed the older Gnome Sound properties dialog with a Pulse based one. You can no longer change the default output easily. If it does not work there is now nowhere to go unless you are an experienced Linux user. I removed Pulseaudio as I had other issues with input from Aux (but that one was an ALSA issue), but in doing so lost the speaker applet. I disabled the onboard sound and put in a PCI sound card and reinstalled Pulseaudio and now it all works.

Is this the fault of Pulseaudo, Gnome or Ubuntu - or all of them. When Pulseaudio works it is a good tool, when it does not it is an utter pain. Unfortunately it seems to fail way too often for my liking. The failures are often simple and can be overcome with simple access to good Alsa based mixer. This then is the fault of Gnome and the distro builders. Bring back the old sound properties dialog and install Gnome Alsamixer by default. Give the noobs a fighting chance.

My last peeve is definitley distro based. Why is my sound constantly muted by updates? Not Sidux - the others. Why on earth would you set mute as the default? Ever?

enough ranting

It is junk.

I agree too. Pulse audio is junk just like udev, hal, dbus and polkit. Useless crap that don't work right.

Depends on the distro

I have an older Creative card that uses the snd-emu* drivers. It and PA (PulseAudio) work fine with certain distros, like Mandriva 2010 and Ubuntu 9.10. It and PA don't work well with others, like Fedora 12 and openSUSE 11.2. In those distros, system sounds come out layered in static. Flash and other audio playback can sometimes be staticky as well. Why one distro gives me no problems while another does, I have no idea.

The reaction of the PulseAudio dev is as follows: "Regarding snd-emu*: Creative doesn't like Open Source -- there are no docs available. If you buy Creative it is hence a bit your own fault."

Fair enough, except the card works fine with ALSA. Why the difference? The PulseAudio dev again: "As long as you only play MP3 music directly on the device and use the traditional sound card interrupt based wakeups the bogus timing information the sound drivers export doesn't matter. That's why you won't notice this issue without PA but it becomes very visible (or audible...) when PA is used."


PulseAudio can do all kinds of cool things, but I'd just like to have an alternative to using it. I've tried but I can't replace it with any other backend in openSUSE 11.2 and have working sound, even in KDE 3/4.

re: depends distro

Yeah, I had trouble with a creative card and opensuse 11.2 too. Sound would only come out of one of the four speakers. That didn't go over too well with me.

I haven't had too much trouble with most of others distros except that Flash sound wouldn't work in the latest Mandriva. The only solution really offered was to disable pulseaudio. That did indeed do the trick.

Distros' fault

Pay attention to what PulseAudio's dev has said many times. Ubuntu in particular, he argues, does a HUGE disservice to the reputation of PulseAudio.

re: Distros fault

Yes, Linux Excuses 101.

Whenever something sucks, blame everyone (the distro, the user, the girlscouts) but the monkey who codes it.

its every distro?

I've only read the horror stories of PA but I've no experience myself. However, its constantly repeated that it is the distros' fault in their implementations. Perhaps the developer needs to provide more-clear examples or documentation so that his product doesn't get such a bad reputation?

On the flip side, which distros are implementing this correctly according to the PA developer(s)?


I've been using Linux on and off for the past four years and since my first stab at it, everyone always suggest that I stay away from PulseAudio. Because of that, I've always stuck with Alsa. It works and it works great. I'm personally a fan of building minimal Debian systems and I've always relied Alsa for sound. Most of it is because I've heard nothing but bad stories about PulseAudio. Lots of promise but just as much letdown. Does this project really lack that much direction/ it clearly isn't moving forward if this debate is still going on four years later.


Pulse audio is garbage. I actually do blame the distros a little bit. If the crap isn't tested and working on common hardware, why put it in a so called stable release.The developer can test it all he wants, can ask for testers, or keep it on his hard drive for all I care. When the major distros release new versions, something as basic as sound should work. Period. I suppose the community working together on improving what we already have working would be too much to ask.


I'm going to be murdered for posting this, but I think we should all go back to OSS, with version 4 and later version 5. I'm on Arch, so I can pick and choose from the beginning what I want to use. I have tried PulseAudio, which seems to lag, ALSA works but it sounds weak, compared to sound in OSS4 and Windows 7. I dare say it sounds better in OSS4 than Windows 7. I even have a Creative card and it works better in OSS than the rest with BETA drivers. Granted I don't do any recording or anything complicated that doesn't involve listening to FLAC audio, movies and youtube, with a 5.1 surround system. Adding to this, OSS is so easy to configure, everything residing in /usr/lib/oss and while the wiki is not updated as often, it has the usual problems that I encountered listed and in the forums, there are friendly people who have helped me, up to the extent of modifying source code and recompiling OSS on Arch in order to get a USB sound card working. I know what the developer did in the past still makes some people angry or distrustful but I don't think that's going to happen again, everyone can make mistakes and I think if we show more support with development and testing, OSS can be the greatest thing for sound in Linux and all of *nix systems. Freebsd uses it, maybe a modified version but to me OSS is both user and developer friendly.

I have not tried JACK, but if that works good, I don't have any complaints. I just want to move to something that is not ALSA or Pulseaudio and more importantly, that it works as intended.

I agree

I find PC-BSD with OSS has the best sound on my system. I should try this with Chakra. JACK sounds interesting as well.

I also agree with Anonymo

I read "State of Sound in Linux not so Sorry After All"

I switched Ubuntu to OSS and everything was better / cooler / easier. i.e. the sound quality was better, the user interface was nicer too. (Although there was no OSS HDMI driver at the time.)

I also have used OSS on Solaris. It was the exact same experience. I plugged in a USB DAC and viola! It just worked.

Pulse made me busy all this year

Hi. I don't know if pulse have to die, but I sure hate its guts. I work for an OEM company who sell various machines with Linux/KDE installed. Pulse failed on basically all the HW configs that I saw.

At home, here's what I have to say : Pulse is not ready. When I manage to get it to work, it hangs.

I totally agree with the guy who proposed to replace pulse with jack, maybe with a simple frontend ? Jack is the only software that I know of that actually aknowledge that a user can have more than ONE soundcard.

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