For some reason I have a problem with the Ubuntu volume control. It’s probably my hardware (HP DC7100, onboard Intel ICH6 Analog Devices AD1981B), but it’s still annoying. The volume control with default settings has limited use. It goes from off, to quiet then stays quiet until suddenly it’s full volume, which is great when you’re playing some music at 1am.
I googled an awful lot for this, and the best explanation seems to be to with the way the volume control tries to be intelligent by changing all the channels (PCM, Master etc) at the same time at the same scale. My hardware will have no truck with this and only listens to PCM. My solution below will probably leave some sort of problem with MIDI playback volume, but I haven’t played a MIDI file in 10 years.
If you have the same problem you’re probably going to need to update your /usr/share/pulseaudio/alsa-mixer/paths/analog-output.conf to include the following snippet under the [master] section
[Element PCM] switch = mute volume = merge override-map.1 = all override-map.2 = all-left,all-right
If all else fails you can make a copy of yours and write over it with my current one. Just don’t whinge if it breaks things.
The volume control is even more brain dead than that. To see just how braindead, try running the Alsa mixer terminal application whilst doing volume control, and you’ll see what’s going on.
It’s something along the following lines:
Say you’ve turned down the volume control to mute everything.
If you slowly turn up the volume, PCM and headphone are increased first – PCM will go up until 100% whereas headphone volume goes up to half.
Once you get to that point and headphone volume is still too low, you’re out of luck- you can turn up the volume further but this will include master volume.
It’s one of those things where somebody had a bright idea, “Let’s make the volume control intelligent!” and apparently got enough buy-in from others that it got included in the distro before they noticed it’s a Really Bad Idea: Headphones and speakers should be controllable independently. I don’t want others to have to listen in to my music just because the headphone volume is otherwise too low. What’s worse, they’ve insisted on keeping volume control braindead like this for three consecutive versions now. I mean, COME ON.
Fortunately there’s Volti.