Linux Equalization & Sound Servers: PulseAudio & ALSA

Linux has great opportunity to flourish for the moment on specific sound servers, there’s not just one, but many available. There are also many available configurations but knowing how to set these configurations up with the current installation and if there are any bugs preventing the usage of these configurations. It’s really all the handy work of knowing what to do, and implementing the configuration.

My overall reasoning for trying to set up a specific sound server is for system-wide equalization. There’s still a fork in the road because I’ve yet to figure out how to implement a proper usage or perhaps there really isn’t a proper use-case right now, but hopefully there will be in the future.

ALSA

I just tried to install and configure alsaequal for alsamixer but failed to realize that I am using pulseaudio as the sound server(I should have known). So nonetheless the configuration failed to work. I’ve been looking around the internet for some Ubuntu tutorials, I came across a few for Arch Linux and Debian Linux, but it still did not work. It could have been a number of things. My hardware address was not set proper in the configuration, or the configuration didn’t override the pulseaudio configuration, or I’m just using old deprecated techniques to get what I want. If I’m using a deprecated configuration, it really just means there is some other better use-case.

Here are a few links referring to what I want to do:
1. http://crunchbang.org/forums/viewtopic.php?pid=330973#p330973
2. http://forums.debian.net/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=47899
3. http://www.thedigitalmachine.net/alsaequal.html

So these tutorials or manuals refer to the configuration of getting alsaequal to work with an ALSA sound server. Roughtly dated around 2008-2013. Which did not work for me. It’s all really subjective. WFM or not, it’s subjective to how you’ve set up your system. If it “Works For Me,” if may not “Work For You”. Though, I think Ubuntu is past that mindset of instruction because they’re trying to succumb to an equilateral playing field providing ease of use and providing a use-case for desktop Linux. Much like OSX or Windows has done for years.

PULSEAUDIO

Since Ubuntu is configured with pulseaudio in mind nowadays(2016). I’m unsure when the implementation started. Probably just a few years ago. Between 2013-2014 at least. There’s a simpler configuration that should just work by enabling a PPA, and installing a package and its dependencies:

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:nilarimogard/webupd8
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install pulseaudio-equalizer

As mentioned on http://www.webupd8.org, the website also suggests a few more options to remove stuttering.

As mentioned on the website above, this configuration is no  longer maintained but still works. As it’s not maintained, bugs will not be fixed.

Here‘s another article by the same developers doing the same thing. Same idea of implementation, updated, unsure if it’s still being maintained since the post is from 2013, and proceeding comments are from then, too. Though, there are some recent comments from two months ago.

CONCLUSION

With these areas of Linux, it’s often debatable what is best because not every use-case is the best solution. There’s just not one solution, there are many. Whether or right or wrong, I think we’re heading towards the right direction. I’d love to have a system-wide solution, but I would also like to have a solution that I can pick and choose which size fits the right shoe.

With system-wide equalization it’s great to have perfect sounding audio with NCURSES audio applications like MOC, or CMUS. This is my current use-case since cmus does not have an equalizer built-in. I want to be able to tune my sound to make it sound better than default but have the option to disable the EQ in an applet. Though, I’m beginning to think that it’s just not implemented to its fullest yet and development is going in that directive since there are utilities out there to do just that. They’re just half-baked. But do think we’re in early development stages towards a great solution.

In a proper use-case, I would want to select which applications use the system-wide equalization so if my use-case changes tomorrow or some other day, I’d want to disable the EQ if I’m doing sound design or recording in audio applications. Say with working in Ardour or some other audio workstation, I would not want to have system-wide equalization enabled because the raw sound would be far more comprehensible and non-impeding. I wouldn’t want to colour the audio while in a production environment because I would be essentially doing post production work for audio/ video systems.

For further implication, in a real-time solution, if your Linux kernel has it enabled, you could also void the system-wide equalizer, and go directly to a LV2 or LADSPA plugin for professional sound colouring. But, with such an ideal solution for curtailing default sound application, I would not want to have a VST applet hanging out on my desktop panel. But it would definitely be great to have a professionally made Equalizer, Compressor, stereo width, etc., VST or plugin enabled as a solution.

Let’s face it. We’re in the digital era where consumer analog devices are almost non-existent unless you’re looking for a specialized device like a tubed receiver, DAC, or other devices to make lossless audio sound amazing. Movies are subscription-based nowadays, but I don’t see a way to configure the audio in a web-browser of choice, or a choice within a BR-Player. An audio server within an Operating System, the use-case would be to determine which type of sound you want or what is needed. It makes me ask, “Why would someone have a 5.1 channel audio system if they’re not harnessing an essential sound medium? The optimal approach would be to configure the sound for the 5.1 audio system which is the reason why someone would pay the extra money for what they want in the first place.” Though, if you’re using a Lossy format, you’re still not getting the best sound no matter the sound configuration. But that’s too critical to deviate.

My upcoming posts will reflect a mockup design for a Linux use-case scenario to better visualize and reflect my ideas. Hopefully with my reflection, development will be forwarded. Or at least, would hope that I’ve influenced some sort of agreement between users and developers to determine a future approach to an absolute.

 

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