[blfs-support] ALSA and No Sound

Bruce Dubbs bruce.dubbs at gmail.com
Fri Dec 20 09:34:57 PST 2013

Dan McGhee wrote:
> On 12/19/2013 08:27 AM, Dan McGhee wrote:
>> On 12/18/2013 04:14 PM, Dan McGhee wrote:
>>> The only addition and possibly relevant info is that my HP laptop, HP
>>> ENVY m6 Sleekbook, has "Beats Audio."  I don't know if I need to install
>>> or do anything other than alsa.  I want to use the minimal number of
>>> packages to get the functionality that I'd like.  I do know that Ubuntu
>>> uses pulse-audio.  Additionally, I found this "HowTo"
>>> http://www.reddit.com/r/linux/comments/17sov5/
>>> It uses "jack" to "re-pin" the speakers.  "JACK" and pulseaudio are
>>> listed as "optional" dependencies for alsa-plugins.  If I need one or
>>> both of these, I want to install them.  If they're not absolutely
>>> necessary, I'd like to get this configured "as is."
>> Yup, this is it. I misread the "HowTo." It doesn't use "Jack" it uses an
>> application called "hda-jack-retask." Apparently, Beats Audio is a
>> super-duper, laptop, surround sound setup. The way I understand what I
>> have read is that ALSA, and the current hda-intel drivers, are set up to
>> use the two "front" speakers of a laptop. In Beats Audio these speakers
>> are used for something else than standard "right-left" channels--maybe
>> LFE and woofer, I can't remember right now.
>> The trick is in knowing which motherboard pin goes to what speaker. I
>> did something like this in a previous life when I had an Audigy sound
>> card on my PC. It had 7.1 capability and all the sound stuff at the time
>> had either 3.1 or 4.1 abilities. I ended up inserting a signal to the
>> card and listening for the speaker that contained the sound. There's
>> nothing new under the sun.
>> This application exists as an Ubuntu or Debian package right now. I did
>> finally find the "source" tarball, but it installs a binary. The info
>> about this application says that in Ubuntu 13.10, to which I just
>> updated, hda-jack-retask is now part of the alsa-tools package. This
>> must be an Ubuntu thing because I couldn't find any patches or upstream
>> releases at ALSA that had this.
>> The actual, "re-pinning" is a platform specific thing and is
>> trial-and-error. I'm hoping that someone else who monitors this list
>> might have some experience with this application either installing it or
>> using it. If so, I sure would like some pointers or at least someone
>> with whom to compare notes. In any case, I will share my
>> experience--good, bad or ugly--with the list.
> I am still trying to get sound. I'm hoping, even if someone doesn't have
> any experience at this, to get some comments on my logic and approach. I
> like to have a plan, with a reasonable chance for success, based on
> knowledge and understanding before I go charging off and install
> packages and do things in an "easter egging" sort of way. I don't like,
> "Try this," "No, try that." The key is, "based on knowledge and
> understanding." I need to "know what I don't know" so I can ask
> questions. In this case I have very little knowledge and understanding.
> For example, I don't know how "hda-jack-retask" works. I'm just working
> from a couple of wiki posts that say, in essence, "If you have a Beats
> Audio System on your HP laptop, you need to do this."
> At any rate, thanks for listening. :) I studied the particular "HowTo"
> I'm using and realized I had glossed over this statement:
>> Apply now, [Dan NOTE: The pin remapping that was outlined in previous
>> steps.] then test with your favorite audio program (some may not work
>> due to Pulse reset, so find one that does, verify sound is coming from
>> all speakers). Note - on Debian I couldn't get any test sound to play,
>> so I had to skip this step, apply boot override, and reboot before the
>> speakers would make sound again, but they definitely all work after
>> rebooting!
> Here is the link for the "HowTo:"
> http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=105284
> What's happening for me is that I do the steps for hda-jack-retask and
> then run <speaker-test> with no success. The quoted remark seems to be
> saying to use some audio program, other than alsa, and that PulseAudio
> is installed. This "HowTo" appears both on Ubuntu and Debian sites, and
> both of those distros employ PulseAudio. The author of hda-jack-retask
> is an Ubuntu--maybe Debian--developer. No where in anything I've seen so
> far have I read that PulseAudio is needed for this.
> I also don't know when the author of the "HowTo" says, "...on Debian I
> couldn't get any test sound to play...," if he was referring to
> <speaker-test> or not.
> This whole process is aimed at changing the way the "snd_hda_intel"
> module works. I can't see that any app could reach down to the bowels of
> that module and change it. This "retask" package may operate at a higher
> level and need something like PulseAudio to "interpret" the changes as
> the info comes off the sound harware. My picture is that this works
> similarly to the way NdisWrapper works for some wireless drivers.
> So the question becomes, "Do I need higher level operations to get
> sound?" I'm about to install PulseAudio, beef up Gstreamer and install a
> music player to test all of this.
> Comments? Thoughts? Encouragement? Analysis?

I've used pulseaudio and plain alsa.  Pulseaudio is useful if you want 
to control the audio via a command line interface includign things like 
volume, playing multiple streams (e.g. music and beeps), etc.  For 
speaker test, it sounds like the system may not be playing on the device 
you expect.  Have you looked at the man page for speaker-test?

   -- Bruce

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