Linux Audio Problems? Try this.

(On Ubuntu 21.04 with a USB audio interface – ymmv)

For general use, sound on any modern Linux distribution Just Works. But when you start attaching audio interfaces and playing with things like digital audio workstations (DAWs) or video editing, things can get very confusing very fast.

Historically, things like soundcards were an absolute pain on Linux. While manufacturers would provide Microsoft Windows drivers, it would take months or even years for the open source community to catch up. Happily, this is no longer the case. Pretty much any standard hardware that works with MS products will also work with Linux out of the box.

But configuration of the system can be far from obvious. Getting software to play nicely – to play anything, can be a struggle. I’ve been using this kind of thing for more than two decades, but still remain pretty clueless about a lot of the setup. Only a handful of core systems in total : ALSA, Jack, PulseAudio, OSS… but how they work is still a mystery to me.

I recently got a new USB audio interface (a Behringer UMC404HD, 4 in/4 out + a MIDI in & out, remarkably good for the price). I was able to get it running with a DAW very quickly. After a fashion. Took a lot of trial & error to see all 4+4 channels.

But when I tried to use Audacity (brilliant audio file editor/processor), no playback. Hmm… At some point stumbled on a pair of tools I’d not seen before which helped a lot.

A few weeks later video editing – no audio. Grr. And couldn’t remember the name of the utils I’d had success with before. So here, note to self :


That’s it really. Bit of trial-and-error, sound appears.

I lifted that shot from this useful article – Ubuntu Studio 20.10: Audio Setup Tutorial

There’s also an associated application :


This can be used as a plugin rack, but also has a patchbay that seems a little more intuitive than that of QJackctl.

I believe I initially installed these as part of the Ubuntu Studio metapackage. I’m more familiar with the default desktop of Ubuntu than XFCE which Studio defaults to, so did a regular Ubuntu install first, added the metapackage and also the lowlatency kernel. They are all available in the standard distros. (I also find Synaptic the easiest tool for finding packages, can only apt install if you know the name ahead of time…).

All this was prompted by a total reboot of my music room. I started going through the available (open source) DAWs again. For now at least have settled on Qtractor. It’s pretty comprehensive, as intuitive as any DAW (hah!) and seems generally reliable. For video stuff I’m using kdenlive, same rationale.

Any related suggestions much appreciated.


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