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How to switch between speakers and USB gaming headset on Linux

Those that play video games on Linux computers typically (but not always) use USB gaming headsets to listen to the sounds coming from games they play. The reason that most Linux gamers go with headsets is that they come with stellar headphone speakers and allow for a better, more clear audio experience. They also come with pretty good microphones, and these are used for team chat during gameplay.

USB gaming headsets is excellent, and they make playing video games on Linux a much better experience. However, they’ve got some issues. The main problem with these gaming headsets is that they plug in via USB. These types of headsets aren’t bad on Linux, but since these devices are powered by USB, they have their sound system and register as a different device from the main sound card on the PC. As a result, the Linux system often doesn’t switch to it when it’s plugged in, and it can force game audio to go through speakers, rather than the headset.

Switch between speakers and USB gaming headset

To fix the problem of game sound going through the speakers instead of your USB gaming headset on Linux, you’ll need to install a pulse audio sound tool called Pavucontrol. It gives you an easy, all in one place to control every aspect of the Linux sound system very easily.

To install the Pavucontrol app, open up a terminal window with Ctrl + Alt + T or Ctrl + Shift + T on the keyboard. Then, follow the command-line instructions below that match the Linux OS you use.

Ubuntu

The Pavucontrol volume app is available to all Ubuntu Linux users through primary software sources. If you’re using Ubuntu and need to install it, use the Apt command below.

sudo apt install pavucontrol

Debian

Debian users looking to get the Pavucontrol tool can install it through the “Main” software repo. To start the installation, use the Apt-get command below.

sudo apt-get install pavucontrol

Arch Linux

On Arch Linux, the Pavucontrol application is in the “Extra” software repository. To install it, ensure you have “Extra” enabled. Then, use the Pacman command below to start the installation process.

sudo pacman -S pavucontrol

Fedora

Using Fedora Linux and need to install Pavucontrol? Lucky for you, the app is ready to install via the default Fedora Linux software repositories. To start the installation, use theĀ Dnf command below.

sudo dnf install pavucontrol

OpenSUSE

Pavucontrol is ready to install for all OpenSUSE users via the “Oss all” software repo. If you’d like to install it on your system, use the Zypper command below.

sudo zypper install epiphany

Once the Pavucontrol tool is installed on your Linux PC, open it up by searching for “pavucontrol.” Or, press Alt + F2, type in “pavucontrol” and launch it with your desktop’s quick launcher.

Set headset as default

To switch audio interfaces from the default sound system on your Linux PC, you must navigate to the “Configuration” tab in the app. Once in the “Configuration” area of Pavucontrol, you’ll see a list of sound devices that Linux can detect and use. Look through this list for your computer speakers, HDMI audio out, or other audio devices not related to the USB gaming headset.

Click the drop-down menu next to each device that isn’t your USB gaming headset, and set it to “off.” Setting it to this option may seem like a bit much, but by shutting it off, your Linux OS will not try to switch audio back to other audio devices when using the headset.

After disabling all other sound devices, look for your USB headset, and ensure that it’s enabled with default audio settings (like Digital Output + Digital Input, Analog Output + Analog Input, Analog Stereo Duplex, etc.) From here on out, the Linux sound system will only use your USB gaming headset to play sounds.

Switch sound devices back

After playing video games, you may wish to stop using the USB gaming headset as the default sound device on your Linux PC, and switch everything back to normal.

To switch everything back to normal, open up the Pavucontrol application on your Linux desktop. From there, find the “Configuration” tab and select it to show your list of available sound devices.

In the “Configuration” area of Pavucontrol, set the USB gaming headset profile to “Off.” Configuring the USB gaming headset’s profile so that it’s set to “Off” will tell the Linux sound system to stop using it entirely.

When you’ve disabled the USB gaming headset in Pavucontrol, look through for your computer speakers that were previously disabled and turn them on with one of the available profiles in the drop-down menu.

As soon as the speakers are turned back on in Pavucontrol, the audio output should switch from the USB gaming headset back to your speakers!

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