Update on audio, call for testers, and ponies

Mike Pontillo pontillo at gmail.com
Wed Sep 9 05:45:22 BST 2009

Hi all,

   Since I am part of the "vocal minority" I thought I'd speak up. I
am using an HP laptop with an integrated Intel 82801G controller. I
imagine there are a lot of similar laptops out there since HP likes to
mass produce things. =) The speakers on this system sound *terrible*
unless the PCM volume is turned down to ~75%-90%. It sounded so awful
that I thought it might be a driver issue (perhaps it is, at least

   The problem for me is actually worse than was described by
LoonyPhoenix in the quoted message. Turning the volume down per
application was not a viable workaround for me. The sound just got
quieter, but still sounded terrible. So I am using the volume=ignore
option as a workaround, which seems to fix the problem.

   I like the concept of how "volume=merge" works, and I think it
would work for the majority of users with a minor tweak: allow the
"maximum" PCM volume to be set at a level specified by the user (so if
the master volume was set to 100%, that would map to, say 70%). I am
probably oversimplifying things; I imagine the solution may be more
difficult with surround sound setups, etc...

   I am not sure if the workaround of using "volume=ignore" is perfect
(for example, I'd need to test further to see how the settings
persist, or not, across a reboot) but it at least allows me to get
decent sound out of this system, whereas with "volume=merge"
pulseaudio would annoyingly readjust the PCM volume for me every time
I tried to turn it down.


On Tue, Sep 8, 2009 at 7:16 PM, Daniel Chen<seven.steps at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Wed, Aug 19, 2009 at 7:04 PM, LoonyPhoenix<loonyphoenix at gmail.com> wrote:
>> all I liked. Then PCM disappeared and only master volume and per-application
>> volumes remained, and I had to be careful not to go above 85% when setting
>> master volume and I was all right. However, now I have to make sure all
>> applications don't go over 85%, and it's a pain, so I'll wind up disabling
>> flat volumes even though I like them better now. Also, I think the feature
> I have not seen or heard resounding protest regarding the upstream
> default to use volume=merge[0]. The handful of Karmic testers (less
> than one half-dozen who have contacted me directly, though I encourage
> everyone to publicise her/his discontent with the default on
> ubuntu-devel-discuss) who are annoyed by it have modified the
> necessary conffile[0].
> However, I am concerned with avoiding serious use case regressions.
> Many people don't test Karmic until RC, so if they get volume=merge
> and are dismayed, it will be a bit late to get an idea whether they
> are "just" the vocal minority.
> PulseAudio itself is very, very near to 0.9.16 final, and just about
> every major set of hourly git commits have been in the
> ubuntu-audio-dev PPA.
> The next PA upload to Karmic will break with upstream in that we will
> set volume=ignore, which is the closest to existing behaviour for all
> Ubuntu releases shipping PulseAudio. If this behaviour is undesirable,
> speak now or forever hold your peace.
> -Dan
> [0] Quoting from
> /usr/share/pulseaudio/alsa-mixer/paths/analog-output.conf.common:
> ; When a device shall change its volume, PA will got through the list
> ; of all elements with "volume = merge" and set the volume on the
> ; first element. If that element does not support dB volumes, this is
> ; where the story ends. If it does support dB volumes, PA divides the
> ; requested volume by the volume that was set on this element, and
> ; then go on to the next element with "volume = merge" and then set
> ; that there, and so on.  That way the first volume element in the
> ; path will be the one that does the 'biggest' part of the overall
> ; volume adjustment, with the remaining elements usually being set to
> ; some value next to 0dB. This logic makes sure we get the full range
> ; over all volume sliders and a very high granularity of volumes
> ; already in hardware.
> ...
> ; volume = ignore | merge | off | zero   # What to do with this
> volume: ignore it, merge it into the device
> ;                                        # volume slider, always set
> it to the lowest value possible, or always
> ;                                        # set it to 0 dB (for
> whatever that means)
> --
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