Fix: erratic volume control meter in Jessie -gnome desktop

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Fix: erratic volume control meter in Jessie -gnome desktop

Postby Monsie » January 18th, 2016, 3:44 am

Hi all,

I am running debian jessie with the gnome desktop on my old workhorse of a notebook: an eight year old Lenovo R61 Thinkpad. It still serves me well for my daily computing needs.

That said, I noticed a minor issue with the volume control meter: on occasion the slider would drop to a low level or to the lowest level. This did not happen often, and it took me a while to figure out what was triggering this action. It turned out that every time I used my headset, and, after I logged out of my session and then logged in again, I would find an erratic event. It did not seem to matter whether I left the headset plugged in or not; this behaviour would still occur.

Finally, last weekend I decided to troubleshoot this issue. After doing a lot of reading on-line about similar problems, and after reading some of the documentation regarding pulseaudio, with a bit of trial and error I came up with a fix that works for me.

I logged in as root at the terminal and → /usr/share/pulseaudio/alsa-mixer/paths directory. There, I used gedit to open and edit analog-output.conf In so doing, I found the following section:
Code: Select all
[Element Speaker]
switch=mute
volume=off


and changed the last line:
Code: Select all
volume=zero


After logging off and on again, I tested my volume control meter. While I found the level was steady after using my headset, the applet showed the speaker icon instead of the headphones icon when I had the headset plugged in.

So, in the same directory, I opened and edited analog-output-headphones.conf Once again, I found the following section:
Code: Select all
[Element Speaker]
switch=mute
volume=off

and changed the last line:
Code: Select all
volume=zero


I logged off and on again, and this time the headphones icon showed up when I had the headset plugged in.

I thought I had the problem solved, but the next day I noticed my sound was not working even though everything appeared to be set up properly. Investigating further, I went to the sound control applet and found that the digital component of my audio device was sometimes being selected as the default... Note: my laptop has an Intel High Definition Audio device. It is designed to provide analog output. The audio device is also capable of digital output and so the S/PDIF component is also detected hardware. However, there is no jack or other connection to provide such digital output, so this capability (although present in the audio device itself) cannot be used. Therefore the solution was to disable this component in pulseaudio.

The final fix was to get the profile name of the digital component and look for the matching file in the same directory I had been working in all along. The profile name was given when I selected the digital component in the sound control applet: Digital Stereo (iec958) Output and sure enough there was a matching file: iec958-stereo-output.conf in the /usr/share/pulseaudio/alsa-mixer/paths directory. Using gedit, I opened the file to find the following section:

Code: Select all
[Element IEC958]
switch=off


I added the following line to that section:
Code: Select all
volume=off


Now my digital component was disabled completely. I rebooted my system and found that I was good to go. It has been six days now since my last adjustment, and I have not noticed any glitches. :D

Once again, this took some reading and some trial and error. I am not a hardware expert, but I found some helpful documentation in: analog-output.conf.common After perusing some of the possible settings, I reasoned that muting a component such as a speaker or headphones still allows it to be functional so that audio signals can be redirected to whatever accessory is being used whether that is headphones, external speakers, or whatever. Turning the volume off would appear to disable that function, therefore the best setting would be to set the volume level at zero in keeping with the mute status of the component. In my testing, I found that setting the parameter to: volume=merge in those aforementioned sections appeared to work initially, but did not have a lasting effect.

Of course, I have no idea how widespread this sound issue is within the gnome desktop and/or debian at large, but I would find it very hard to believe that I am the only one who has experienced this problem. For those who run debian on a desktop computer, it may be a matter of modifying the sections pertaining to desktop speakers in those files I edited. Hopefully, my fix makes sense and will help a few other folks out there...

Edit: just for clarity, my headset has the standard audio jack plugs for connecting the headphones and microphone to the sound ports provided by my notebook. In other words, I am not using a headset with a usb connection. If I am correct, a usb headset has its own audio controllers and does not use the audio hardware that is built in to the computer. Given that is the case, the latter type of headset would not apply in this situation.

Cheers,
Monsie
My username is pronounced: "Munsee" and is based on my nick name in High School.
Monsie
 
Posts: 67
Joined: January 17th, 2016, 11:11 pm

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