Guest post from Full Circle Magazine Issue 60. Written by: Ronnie Tucker (KDE), Jan Mussche (Gnome), Elizabeth Krumbach (XFCE), Mark Boyajian (LXDE), David Tigue (Unity)
Windows XP has several different ways of adjusting your sound volume. The easiest and quickest method is by left clicking the small speaker icon in your taskbar. This will give you access to the volume control and, by clicking a box, you can quickly mute your volume. Muting can also be done by lowering your volume to zero. More in-depth configuration is done by using Start > Control Panel > Sounds & Audio Devices. From this one window you can adjust the volume, choose which sound devices to use for playback/recording, and adjust various hardware settings.
Similar to Windows XP, you can click the speaker icon in the taskbar to gain access to the volume. Clicking the speaker icon in the popup will mute/unmute the volume. The device settings can be altered in K > Application > Settings > System Settings by double-clicking the Multimedia icon in that System Settings window.
The ‘Audio CD’ tab lets you configure encoding/decoding of audio CDs (MP3, OGG, etc.) while the ‘Phonon’ tab is where the audio
devices can be configured. The ‘Device Preference’ tab at the top of the window lets you choose which hardware to use for playback, recording, and video recording (webcam usually).
Clicking ‘Apply’ will accept your current settings, and clicking ‘Overview’ will take you back to the System Settings main window.
The Gnome-Shell has a similar program, although not as extensive as in KDE. It can be reached by clicking: System > Preferences >
Sound, or clicking on the loudspeaker in the top panel and choosing “Sound Preferences”.
The sound preferences window has 5 tabs: Sound effects, Hardware, Input, Output, and Applications. No matter which TAB you use,
on top of the window is always the master volume bar, together with the tick box to Mute the sound. The master volume can be set here, can be set by clicking the loudspeaker icon in the top panel, or by simply placing your mouse over the loudspeaker icon and use the scroll-wheel.
For sound effects, you can chose either “No sounds” or “Ubuntu” as your sound theme. An alert sound can be chosen separately – which makes the sound theme change into “Custom”. The alerts have a separate volume bar.
On the next tab, Hardware, you can choose which hardware you want to use, and change the setting for the loudspeakers to match the ones you have.
On the third tab, Input, it is possible to choose your microphone – should you have more than one. Also the volume can be changed here. The output tab is similar to the previous one – with the difference that here you can select your out device, and set the balance between left and right. The 5th tab, Applications, shows information about currently used programs. Here the volume for each program can be changed.
Volume control in LXDE can most easily be adjusted by clicking the speaker icon on the right-hand side (default location) of the panel. Clicking this icon will open a slider control that can be dragged up or down to adjust the volume accordingly. There is also a “Mute” check box; click in this box to mute the volume – independent of the volume slider setting. By default, this box is unchecked.
For more granular control over volume and gain settings, you use Alsamixer (the default application). Open Alsamixer from the Lubuntu Control Center (from the Main Menu select: System Tools > Lubuntu Control Center) by clicking the “sound” icon. Alsamixer looks “primitive” compared with other GUI sound control applications, but it is chosen as the default because it is
very “lightweight”, which is what LXDE is all about. There are other apps. You can choose to install from the LXDE repositories that look more “finished” (such as gnome-alsamixer, shown below), but they require more overhead. As you can see, Gnome Alsa Mixer has the same functionality as Alsamixer, but looks a little “nicer”.
That said, they both do the same job in much the same way, but Alsamixer does it using a lot less system resources, and on older machines this can make a significant difference in performance.
Since Alsamixer is the default LXDE master volume controller, we will focus on that. Also, it differs from other “GUI” apps (such as Gnome Alsa Mixer) in that it cannot be operated with a mouse; you must use the keyboard (how quaint!). This is a surprisingly simple and efficient application. At the top of the window you’ll find the name of the currently selected sound card, the name of the sound chipset in use, the currently selected view (the default is “playback”), and detailed information about the currently selected item (volume, device, or gain control). There is also a “key” defining the operation of several function keys and the “Esc” key; using these keys gives you access to help, system information and sound card selection, as well as exiting the program.
By default, the “playback” volumes are displayed. You can display the Capture gain controls by pressing the F4 key. All controls can be displayed by pressing the F5 key. Each control has a name (at the bottom of the window), immediately above which is a pair of numbers (each representing the percent volume per channel – left and right, respectively), and a vertical “bar” that is “filled” to a percent that corresponds to the percent volume setting. To select a control, press the right (or left) arrow key on the keyboard. To increase or decrease the volume for the selected control, press the up or down arrow keys, respectively. If the control you select governs multiple available devices (such as microphones), pressing the up/down arrow keys will change the selected device (rather than altering the volume, which is a separate control). When you are done making adjustments/selections, press the “Esc” key to close the program.
By default, you can open the most basic volume control in Xubuntu by clicking on the speaker icon in the top right hand side of your panel. The first selection on the menu is “Mute” which you can select to mute your sound. Once muted, a little red “x” will show up on your speaker in the panel. To unmute you can open the menu again and instead of “Mute” you will see “Unmute” and you just select that. The volume scrollbar in this menu can be used to directly adjust the Master volume.
For more control than just your main volume, select “Sound Settings…” from that menu, this will launch the xfce4-mixer. If you don’t see any controls coming up automatically, click on “Select Controls…” to select additional controls that you may be able to manipulate for your card.
From this menu you can adjust the sound levels, click on the speaker icon under the levels to mute any controls, and click on the link icon under the levels to adjust the left and right speakers independently. You may also click on the “Sound card:” dropdown at the top to change settings for other audio cards, if you have them) and settings for microphones
If you need to make adjustments to the main volume in Unity you can either hover over the
speaker icon in the top left and use your scroll wheel to make the volume go up and down, or you can click the icon to see the volume slider and adjust it from there.
When you click on the speaker icon, you will see the mute button, the main volume slider, buttons for your music apps (the default in 12.04 will be Rhythmbox), and Sound Settings. Clicking on ‘Sound Settings…’ will open a window where you can make more in-depth sound changes. It defaults to the ‘Sound Effects’ tab where you can change the default sound-effect theme, and change the Alert Volume. Also you will notice there is a volume slider at the top of this window labelled ‘Output Volume’, this is the same as the main volume slider. Now, if you look at the tabs on that window, you will see four more tabs other than the default ‘Sound Effects’ tab. The ‘Hardware’ tab will allow you to change which sound device (if your computer has more than one) to use, and it will also allow you to change the settings for the selected device.
You will also notice a button that says ‘Test Speakers’. Guess what that one does? The next tab is ‘Input’, and within this tab you can change the input volume.
Next month we’ll discuss adding/removing software, PPA’s, and .deb files.