Pulseaudio Sucks!

Wed 07 April 2010

Either that, or Ubuntu hasn’t implemented it well either on Karmic or Lucid. Many people complain all over the Web about problems like the ones I’ve experienced:

  • Skips, skips, skips. Launch an apllication, skip; open a new page on the browser, skip; switch worskpaces, skip; do almost anything but stay still, skip.
  • Moving the balance control changed the volume, and made the balance jump to wherever it wanted.
  • The audio options in Skype were all Pulse Audio Server, which had me jump through hoops every time I wanted to set up an audio conference using my headset.
  • Volume and equalizer settings got lost after logout.
  • The equalizer worked or didn’t at its own discresion.
  • Etc.

The almost unanimous advice about how to solve to the above problems according to the Web is to get rid of Pulseaudioand make ALSA and ESound take over, so that’s what I did… not without problems, because Ubuntu has been embedding Pulseaudio into the desktop the hard way:

  • The volume control on the toolbar disappears, and System/Preferences/Sound stops working. To work around that I installed the GNome Alsa Mixer, and docked it to the toolbar. I haven’t been able (haven’t known how) to make the GNome Volume Control work again.
  • No more equalizer. To fix that I ditched the Rhythmbox Music Player that Ubuntu installs, and started using Banshee instead. That not only gave me an equalizer, but also inter-song gain control, and randomization that works, all with an interface very similar to that of Rhythmbox, and with all the goodies.
  • The sound is great.
  • Skype keeps the correct settings for teleconferencing between sessions.

I’m running the first beta of the Lucid Lynx now, but the issues were the same with Karmic. The feeling I get after having had to work hard to get my audio the way I wanted it is that having distributions couple to one specific option when there are many is very much agains the freedom to choose that has always characterized Linux.