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Ubuntu Karmic: 5.1 sound on external sound card

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Most laptops usually come with stereo audio output. I bought an external USB 5.1 channel sound card and was trying to get 5.1 sound out of it. By default in Ubuntu 9.10, pulseaudio is configured to output stereo. It doesn’t automatically switch to 5.1 if a sound card which supports it is connected. Here is how I got 5.1 audio output through my external sound card:

First edit /etc/pulse/daemon.conf and uncomment this line (delete the ; before the line):

default-sample-channels = 6

Restart. Now if your external sound card is plugged in, pulseaudio will enable 5.1 output on it. All you need to do is go to sound preferences (System -> Preferences -> Sound) and select 5.1 profile for the external sound card in the Hardware tab:

5.1 profile in sound preferences

5.1 profile in sound preferences

and select the external sound card as default output device:

Default output device

Default output device

If your external sound card was not connected while Ubuntu starts, pulseaudio defaults to stereo as the integrated sound card in the laptop is stereo. Now if you connect the sound card, 5.1 options are not available. Only stereo is available:

stereo profile in sound preferences

stereo profile in sound preferences

You have to restart pulseaudio for it to enable 5.1 output. Kill pulseaudio with this command:

pulseaudio -k

In my Ubuntu installation, when I kill pulseaudio, it starts again automatically. If it doesn’t do so, start pulseaudio with this command:

pulseaudio -D

Once pulseaudio restarts, it should have enabled 5.1 output.

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Written by anonir

February 17, 2010 at 21:51

Posted in Ubuntu

Tagged with , , ,