max volume setting won't "stick"

Karl Auer kauer at
Fri Mar 16 12:00:10 UTC 2012

Hopefully someone out there can save me a bit of searching time:

Ubuntu 10.10, the sound applet on the task bar. If I open the "sound
preferences" dialogue, I see the output level is at about 60%. The
applet itself, and all other applications, treat that as the maximum
volume. That is, the most I can get out of my computer is about 60% of
the maximum volume I know it is capable of.

If I change the output level in the sound applet's "sound preferences"
to 100%, all sound gets much louder. I can do the same thing via
Applications->Preferences->Sound - it's the identical dialogue. However,
the change does not "stick". As soon as I change the sound level (by
adjusting the applet slider), the volume drops back. Opening the applet
"sound preferences" dialogue then shows the output level back at about

Interestingly, if I use the keyboard buttons to change the volume, the
volume goes backwards in small increments OK, but as long as it is above
about 60% it cannot be increased. Once it goes below about 60%, it can
be increased up to about 60%, but there is no way back up beyond about

What is limiting the maximum volume?

My googling reveals some bugs and comments that seem similar. Most boil
down to pulseaudio operating via a lower-level ALSA layer which limits
the volume. When I run amixer to look at the ALSA settings, I see this
for the master volume control:

Simple mixer control 'Master',0
  Capabilities: pvolume pvolume-joined pswitch pswitch-joined penum
  Playback channels: Mono
  Limits: Playback 0 - 64
  Mono: Playback 64 [100%] [0.00dB] [on]

That playback *limit* of 64 looks a bit suspicious. Setting the volume
lower than 60% makes that "Playback 64" change to "Playback XX" where XX
is some value lower than 64. Setting the volume higher will not change
that "Playback" value to anything higher than 64. BUT! The volume can
clearly go higher, and indeed DOES go higher if I set the output level
high in sound preferences.

So the limit shown in amixer does seem to be the problem - I can't set
that value higher than 64. But I *can* increase the volume via

In short, the problem is not that I can't get a high volume, it is that
the setting for high volume won't "stick".

Any ideas?

Regards, K.

Karl Auer (kauer at

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