alsa mixers

Len Ovens len at
Wed May 8 04:06:35 UTC 2013

On Tue, May 7, 2013 7:08 pm, lukefromdc at wrote:
> Volti has another feature: you get both the mixer and the tray applet,
> all the features of the default GNOME sound applet with a far better mixer,

The default gnome sound applet must be truly abysmal. On Volti I have 10
channels with two faders all with the same label... some of them are off
the screen at any one time so I can't even count to find out which is

> and working fine with ALSA by itself, with Jack not running and PA not
running/not installed.

xfce4-mixer works fine this way as well as does qasmixer, while fitting on
one screen.

> Evejn the media sound up/down keys work, though
> they are press and hold rather than multi-press, which is a little
counterintuitive. You will hear the sound level change and see the tray
> reflect the change, though GNOME's overlay won't open to show it.

That is hardly a requirement for setting input levels, which is the major
use for an alsa mixer. Handy for desktop audio though... which is what
pulse is for. desktop audio can be made to work without pulse, but in that
case xfce4-mixer can do these things too. (and worked the last time I

> Haven't tested controlling either through it, but I would imagine the
> (which the tray applet controls, set it in "preferences if it does not)
> control ALSA's output just fine with no mattter what is using the sound
> PA or Jack included.

except if you are using something like an ice1712 based audio card, in
which case it can be set to control either the left or the right channel
but not both. (Pulse has a HW specific profile just to make this work)

> The onboard sound on my motherboard does give a wide mixer window, but
you can slide it off the left or right of the screen. No matter how wide
it is,
> you can therefore get to everything.

Two and a half screens worth is a bit much... Thats how wide the window is
on this machine (remember over 30 faders). You have to move the window
carefully or you end up pushing it onto the next workspace :P  In my
opinion, this alone makes the application broken.

> The only real quirks are that you have to drop a script in one of the
> directories to start Volti at login, and you can quit it from the bottom
of 4 options
> on the right click menu on the applet. That could confuse a new user who
> accidently quit their volume control and not know how to restart it
(from terminal
> or from run dialog).

XFCE would have no problem starting it at login, there is a settings
dialog for that. I expect the user would only exit it once before learning
not to do that :) however it does go in the menu and is not hard to find.

> For a pretty GUI around alsamixer, alsamixergui is still out there, I've

Ya... but in many ways it is actually harder to use than alsamixer in a
terminal. Having to restart to change audio card is not nice either.

> kept it
> installed since my first audio editing machines for old time's sake.
> sliders, shows EVERYTHING by default. Works no matter what happens to
any other program, so long as ALSA is available. When I was last using
> it's claim on the soundcard made alsamixergui show only the master
slider, don't
> know if that's still the case when running PA.
when pulse is running, it seems to create a "fake" alsa audio card and
makes it default. So any alsa mixer (except alsamixer) seems to load that
card by default. This is so Pulse can replace alsa for those programs that
that only know how to talk with alsa and so that when pulse is not there,
the same app will just work with alsa.

Volti would be good for most HDA sound apps, I think, but once we start
adding the kinds of cards that many of the ubuntustudio users have, it
becomes a problem.

The problem in many ways is that alsa is not made for as wide a range of
cards as there are. some of the alsa drivers that have non-standard
features have named them whatever seemed right to the dev at the time.
Then the same feature on another card may have been named something else.
What does a mixer do with that? A mixer app with profiles would be the
best thing. The profile would decide which faders appeared and what they
are named. It would decide if a control was input or output. (right now
alsa offers both an input and an output fader for both my ADCs and my
DACS... 16 faders for 4 channels) I have an old ensoniq... the inputs come
with one fader, but that fader can be controlled as the input level with
input enable or as an output with mute. But the output has to be unmuted
before the input can be enabled... except the mic where the input can be
enabled with output muted... but the output level still follows the input

I would think that a mixer with user settable profiles, where the
collection of profiles could be built up over time by users who had the
cards would be the best way of doing this. I would like to see all the
controls and switches available in this case. I would like to see the
ports show even when there are no controls available for ports, like
inputs where the levels are controlled by knobs or digital inputs like
aes3, aes10 or ADAT. It would be a lot less confusing if the input showed
on the mixer with a note that says level forced full or something like

Len Ovens

Len Ovens

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