Sound system

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This article is about basic sound management. For advanced topics see professional audio.

General information

The Arch sound system consists of several levels:

  • Drivers and interface – hardware support and control
  • Usermode API (libraries) – utilized and required by applications
  • (optional) Usermode sound servers – best for the complex desktop, needed for multiple simultaneous audio apps, and vital for more advanced capabilities e.g. pro audio
  • (optional) Sound frameworks – higher-level application environments not involving server processes

A default Arch installation already includes the kernel sound system (ALSA), and lots of utilities for it can be installed from the official repositories. If you want additional features you can switch to OSS or install one of several sound servers.

Drivers and interface

  • ALSA — A Linux kernel component providing device drivers and lowest-level support for audio hardware. || present in stock kernel
  • Open Sound System (OSS) — An alternative sound architecture for Unix-like and POSIX-compatible systems. OSS version 3 was the original sound system for Linux and is in the kernel, but was superseded by ALSA in 2002 when OSS version 4 became proprietary software. OSSv4 became free software again in 2007 when 4Front Technologies released its source code and provided it under the GPL. OSS does not support as wide a variety of hardware as ALSA, but does better for some. || ossAUR

Sound servers

  • PulseAudio — A very popular sound server, usable by most common desktop Linux applications today. Very good at handling multiple simultaneous inputs, and can do network audio as well. Very easy to get working, in fact very often all one has to do is install the package and it will automatically run. Not intended for pro audio low-latency applications. || pulseaudio

Tango-inaccurate.pngThe factual accuracy of this article or section is disputed.Tango-inaccurate.png

Reason: The descriptions of JACK and JACK2 may be invalid according to FAQ: what are the differences between JACK 1 and JACK2 which states, "Jack 1 and Jack 2 are equivalent implementations of the same protocol." The FAQ also addresses, "Why would I choose one or the other? For most folks, it does not matter. For others, there is typically one or two features that cause them to prefer one or the other." See the the FAQ for more info. (Discuss in Talk:Sound system#)
  • JACK Audio Connection Kit — The older edition of a sound server for pro audio use, especially for low-latency applications including recording, effects, realtime synthesis, and many others. Although this edition is the older, it retains a very active and devoted development team, and which edition to use is not clear, trial and error is often helpful. || jack
  • JACK2 — This is the newer edition of JACK, designed explicitly towards multi-processor systems, and also includes transport over network. || jack2
  • NAS — This is a sound server supported by some major applications. || nasAUR

See also