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How to manage audio devices on Linux with Pavucontrol

On Linux, sound is delivered through Pulse Audio. It’s a revolutionary sound system that allows users to do many things, including swapping inputs on the fly, and even transmit sound over a network.

Pulse is a fantastic technology, that’s for sure, but it’s confusing to understand for the average user. For this reason, apps like Pavucontrol have popped up. They take the Pulse audio system, simplify it, and make it easier to understand.

In this article, we’ll go over how to manage your audio devices on Linux with the Pavucontrol sound manager. We’ll cover how to manage applications using the sound server, how to disable and enable microphones, and much more!

Install Pavucontrol

Pavucontrol is the gold-standard for managing the Pulse Audio sound server on Linux. Despite this, it’s not the default sound manager tool on mainstream Linux distributions. As a result, before we can continue with this tutorial, we’ll need to go over how to install the Pavucontrol audio manager.

To install Pavucontrol, launch a terminal window and follow the instructions that correspond with your Linux operating system.

Ubuntu

Ubuntu users can quickly install the Pavucontrol application using the Apt package manager.

sudo apt install pavucontrol

Alternatively, if you use Kbuntu or another Ubuntu Linux distribution that makes use of Qt, rather than GTK, install Pavucontrol-Qt.

sudo apt install pavucontrol-qt

Debian

Both Pavucontrol GTK and QT are available on all versions of Debian. To install either of these programs use the Apt-get package tool.

sudo apt-get install pavucontrol

or

sudo apt-get install pavucontrol-qt

Arch Linux

Need to get Pavucontrol or Pavucontrol Qt on your Arch Linux PC? Open up a terminal and use the Pacman packaging app to install it.

sudo pacman -S pavucontrol

or

sudo pacman -S pavucontrol-qt

Fedora

Fedora Linux has both versions of the Pavucontrol audio management program in its software repositories. To get the app working, launch a terminal and use the DNF package manager.

sudo dnf install pavucontrol

or

sudo dnf install pavucontrol-qt

OpenSUSE

OpenSUSE has Pavucontrol and Pavucontrol Qt for all versions of the operating system, and it can be installed using the Zypper command.

sudo zypper install pavucontrol

or

sudo zypper install pavucontrol-qt

Generic Linux

Pavucontrol is one of the most well-known audio managers for Pulse Audio on Linux, so you should be able to find it by searching for “pavucontrol.” Alternatively, feel free to download and build the source code for the program.

Manage audio playback

To manage the audio output of any application using the Pulse sound server on Linux, you’ll need to open up the Pavucontrol app and click on the “playback” tab.

Inside the “Playback” tab of Pavucontrol, you’ll be able to see what applications are using your sound system in a neat list. At the top of the list, you’ll see “system sounds.” To silence all system sounds on your Linux desktop, click the speaker icon. Alternatively, drag the audio slider to adjust its volume.

Note: the Playback tab only shows applications currently using audio. If a program isn’t actively playing sound, it will not be manageable in Pavucontrol.

Managing audio playback for individual applications in the Pavucontrol playback tab works the same as the “system sounds” entry. Press the speaker icon on the right to mute, or drag the slider to adjust the volume.

Manage recording levels

Need to change how apps on your Linux desktop are recording? Open up Pavucontrol, and click the “Recording” tab. In the recording area, you’ll see every program currently recording sound through the Pulse sound system.

To lower the input volume for an app, drag the slider to the left. To increase volume drag the slider to the right. It’s also possible to mute the recording entirely by clicking the speaker icon.

Control output devices (speakers)

Pavucontrol allows for excellent control over the output of audio devices. To manage them, open up the Pavucontrol app and find “Output devices.”

In “Output devices,” you’ll see a list of all sound playback devices on your Linux PC. Scan through the list of playback devices and find the one you want to modify. Then, use the slider to adjust its volume.

Want to make a new playback device the default? Click the icon to the right of the lock button.

Control input devices (microphones)

Pavucontrol lets users manipulate an input device, as well as outputs. To find your audio input devices in the app, click the “Input devices” tab.

In the “Input devices” tab, you’ll see all microphones and sound recording devices in a neat list. From there, you can manipulate the audio input level by dragging the volume level left or right. Additionally, it’s possible to mute any input device by clicking the speaker icon and set a microphone as default by clicking the “Set as fallback” button.

Disabling audio devices

Have an audio device you want to disable permanently? Open up Pavucontrol and Click the “Configuration” button. Then, look through the list of sound devices on screen and find the one you want to turn off.

Once you’ve located the device you want to shut off, click the drop-down menu next to it. Look through the menu, find “disable” and click on it. From this point on, Pulse Audio will not have access to the sound device.

To re-enable your audio device, go back to “Configuration”, click on the menu next to the device and change it from “disabled” to one of the available sound configurations listed.

If you need to manage audio files on Linux, check out our detailed post on the best audio tools for Linux.

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