Sound playback, recording, and mixing in Debian is provided by the ALSA kernel interface, almost always in combination with a sound server. These sound-related services can, usually, be run in parallel without conflicting, and can often be integrated.
For a list of sound applications, see Multimedia
Sound servers and APIs
ALSA - The "Advanced Linux Sound Architecture" (ALSA) is a part of the Linux kernel that provides an interface to the kernel audio drivers. It is also a userspace library ("alsa-lib") that provides more advanced features. All sound servers ultimately rely on the ALSA kernel API, and as such, it cannot be substituted. The userspace library, however, can be replaced.
PipeWire - A modern multimedia server looking to eventually unify and replace PulseAudio and JACK. Also a drop-in replacement for alsa-lib.
PulseAudio - A sound server that sits between ALSA and user applications, aiming to provide easy automatic sound configuration for users. It also provides a more advanced application interface than ALSA and can glue ALSA and JACK together. This is the most common sound server, and is often installed by default.
JACK - A sound server API and sound server daemon ("jackd") aimed at professional usage that provides real-time, low-latency connections for audio and MIDI between applications.
OSS (Legacy) - used to be the default sound subsystem before Linux 2.4
BluetoothUser/a2dp - Guide for setting up Bluetooth audio on Debian.
MIDI - MIDI is a communication protocol to connect electronic musical instruments, computers, and audio devices. This page documents its usage in Debian.
SoundFormats - Information about various audio file formats/codecs, and how to work with them in Debian.
No sound: go through these steps while audio is playing in an application (music player, web browser...):
- Check proper connection of the output jack
- Check that your amplifier/speakers are powered on and working
Check that the audio playback program is unmuted/volume is raised, from inside the application, and in the system audio mixer (eg. PulseAudio volume control or alsamixer)
Check that your soundcard is visible, enabled, and is selected as default in the Configuration tab of the audio mixer
- Disable any other output devices like HDMI, only enable the desired output
Check that your soundcard is detected by ALSA: aplay -l
Verify that /var/tmp/ directory has the correct permissions (1777).
A list of all pages related to Sound playback and recording:
Portal refactoring/merging in progress below this point