Drivers are low level software code that connects the hardware to the software operating system so applications can make use of it. The sound drivers live in the kernel which is the heart of the operating system. ALSA sound drivers are included in the installation. New and updated hardware drivers for sound are generally provided through automatic updates and version upgrades to ALSA. This means that, for the most part, you do not have to worry about hunting down drivers and installing them yourself to get your hardware working. It can also mean that if there is no open source linux driver and your hardware manufacturer does not supply a proprietary one you could just be out of luck with your hardware but that is a pretty rare circumstance.
Sound Cards/On Board Chips and other Devices
If you want to find out if your sound card is supported by ALSA and other information you should try the ALSA Wiki ( According to the ALSA developers all usb compliant sound devices should work with no special setup.):
If you are having trouble determining which module or module option you need for your sound card the entire list of supported cards and options is already on your computer ( the driver directory where this file resides also has all sorts of miscellaneous information on specific sound cards/devices):
Getting Information from your Machine
Much of the information you will need for further troubleshooting you will need to gather yourself from your machine. This will involve using a few very simple and easy commands from the terminal. Do not be afraid, just follow this guide here. It is written for total noobs.
HDA sound chips
The Intel Hda sound chip is widely used and can be found on almost every desktop and laptop PC manufactured over the last few years. There are numerous versions of this chip and a zillion configurations that OEMs have made by programming them for their particular needs. This has created a nightmare for the driver writers since the OEMs are very lazy about publishing the details. Nevertheless the driver writers are forging on in the total pitch black using only sputtering candles to light their way and have come up with numerous options you can use to configure this driver for your particular machine. You should send them roses, or candy, or beer, or even just a thank you for taking on this near-impossible task.
If you are having problems with the HDA card/chip on your laptop or aplay -l reports one of these:
HD Audio (ICH6, ICH6M, ESB2, ICH7, ICH8, ICH9, ICH10 ),
ATI SB, SB450, SB600, RS600,
SIS966, ULI M5461
Many people have reported success with their problematic HDA sound problems by upgrading to ALSA 1.0.17, 1.0.18 or 1.0.19 and/or Intrepid 8.10 which includes ALSA1.0.17. You might want to consider one of these options if you continue to have difficulties after trying the following. If you have an ALC 861 or ALC 888 chip people have reported that ALSA 1.0.17 provides more switches and options than 1.0.16. if you experience very low volumes with your ICH8-10 you should consider upgrading. The drivers are being updated regularly and each release supports more chips/cards and options so if your card/chip or some option is missing from your current driver you should seriously consider upgrading. (Directions for that are in the ALSA Trouble Section below)
First, you should get some information from your machine. The section immediately above has a link to how to do that. Next, open this file with your file manager
Scroll down to the Module snd-hda-intel section and, using the information you just got, look for your sound chip. If you are lucky you will find a listing for your particular machine. If not, at least you know which options are available for that chip. You can also look here which has a list by manufacturer I am trying to get together. If you fix your machine but it is not on any of the lists, please post there so we can add you to the list.
Once you find something that looks hopeful you need to get it into the /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base file. Save it in a notepad. Open a terminal and copy this into it. In Jaunty the file name has been changed to alsa-base.conf to conform to configuration file naming conventions.
sudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base
It will ask for your password and then open the file for you to edit. Add this to the end of the file
options snd-hda-intel xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Replace the xxxxxxxxx with whatever option you want to use.
Reboot or restart alsa (directions for that are below in ALSA Trouble). If it works you should now have your sound working, YAY! If it doesn’t you may need to try the other options until you find one that does, meh. You can also try this option which seems to work for some machines where the listed options fail.
options snd-hda-intel probe_mask=1
If you are having problems with headphone/speaker control with your HDA sound device you can try this thread:
If you have an ALC 1200 sound chip (ASUS P5QL-EM mobo) you need ALSA 1.0.17 or 1.0.18 or 1.0.19 which there is a link to below. Upgrade and add the following line to the end of the /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base file:
options snd-hda-intel probe_mask=1
If you have a new Nvidia HDA sound chip and it sounds scratchy, this is a known problem and is fixed in the 2.6.27 kernel( It is part of Intrepid so you may want to consider upgrading):
Creative Soundblaster Cards
Creative cards have been nothing but a big pain in linux forever. Creative has been completely unwilling to make any technical information about their cards available to driver the open source community so drivers have had to be reverse engineered. Creative has released a few proprietary linux drivers but these have proven to be generally unusable. Just recently, after the latest fiasco with their proprietary X-FI driver, Creative has thrown in the towel and announced that they will make technical information available so the open source community can write proper drivers. OSS4 has drivers for the X_Fi cards now but there is no ALSA driver included in the ALSA packages yet.
If you are having problems getting your Creative X-FI card to work you can try the newest driver from creative, it seems to actually work for a few people:
Or you can switch to OSS4:
Or you can recompile your kernel with a patch. To recompile your kernel and apply the patch (take extreme care doing this, recompiling a kernel is serious business and can break your system. Do not do this unless you are absolutely sure you know what you are doing):
The ALSA x-fi driver has finally been completed and will be released in the 2.6.31 kernel.
If your Creative Audigy card is not giving you any sound, make sure the analog/digital check box in your sound mixer is unchecked. Updates seem to reset this switch regularly so keep this in mind.
If you have dug out an old Soundblaster AWE 64 or SB16 ISA card and were wondering if you could get it to work
If you have a sound card with the ICE1712 chip, like a M-audio Delta 44, M-Audio 2496, ST Audio Media 7.1 and others and are having trouble getting it working with pulseaudio you can try this:
Cards that need firmware
The following devices do not come with the software necessary for them to function (firmware) embedded into the device. It must be loaded each time the device is attached or turned on. Newer versions of ALSA should automatically load this firmware upon detecting the device but there are some exceptions…If you seem to have an unsupported device and are dual booting with windows one trick that people use is to boot up with windows and load the firmware and then soft restart the computer and boot into Ubuntu while leaving the device plugged in and powered up.
MobilePre, Sonica. Ozone, Transit. Audiophile USB devices
Firmware needs to be loaded into these devices before they will work properly. Here are directions for doing that for older devices(newer devices should work without needing to do this):
Tascam US 122
If you have a Tascam US122 you also need a firmware loader:
If you have an EMU404 and it does not work chances are that it is an early model. If that is the case you are out of luck because there is no firmware loader for that card or any plans to make one. Later models should work without problems.Cards that will work have a hardware identifier 1102:0008. Cards that do not work have an identifier of 1102:0004. There is an ongoing discussion about this issue here
Other Sound card and chip Drivers
Most other sound cards and chips should work without any problems but if you are having problems getting you AC’97 chip or any other card or chip working, the file
also contains many options for those. You can follow the directions in the HDA sound chip section to apply them. Of course, you need to replace snd-hda-intel with the name of the driver you are using. Many AC’97 chips can be made to work with the “quirk” options.