We need better audio support in Linux

Yesterday I had the frustrating experience of trying to configure a machine so I could use the internal soundcard while simultaneously recording sound from a USB iMic.

While ALSA appears to fully support this setup, I discovered quite a few annoyances about what should be trivial:

  • There appear to be no GUI sound recording apps that support ALSA directly.
  • KDE’s artsd normally provides good ALSA support, but it provides neither a systemwide nor an app-specific way to select either the recording or the playback source with ALSA.
  • Some apps appear to use Jack, but configuration of it is extraordinarily complex and it seems to die in subtle and odd ways from time to time.
  • ecawave segfaults on start, every time.
  • audacity doesn’t even support anything other than OSS! (A shame from what’s otherwise a great program)
  • The mechanics of OSS support in ALSA are anything but clear. There is the aoss LD_PRELOAD wrapper, and then there is also a kernel module, which appears to be rather under-documented. For whatever reason, ALSA is managing only one PCM device under /dev, despite having two PCM cards in the system.

Now this is probably no worse than the situation in Windows, but it is certainly not where we should be, and isn’t where MacOS X is either.

Note that most of these problems are with the apps not supporting the second audio source *at all*.

4 thoughts on “We need better audio support in Linux

  1. Probably youl could find some useful info about audacity here:
    http://audacityteam.org/wiki/index.pl?LinuxIssues

    Reply

    jgoerzen Reply:

    Yup, I had found that, as well as the information in the Debian BTS.

    I finally did let it select the proper inputs — turns out I have to rmmod and then re-modprobe snd_pcm_oss whenever I add an audio device. That’s silly, but I can do that.

    I had one positive surprise — linphone has seen some development activity finally, and has absolutely excellent support for ALSA. Full support for picking an individual source for playback and a separate one for record, across all audio cards. It actually has better sound support than any sound recording application I have tried yet.

    So kudos to the linphone people.

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