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I have the left speaker dropping out intermittently. It seems to be occurring after a boatload of updates (including a kernel update) today. I am sure it is Ubuntu problem and not a hardware fault because using another input device it works OK. I can still hear a very faint sound from the left speaker, it is almost as if the balance is shifted very far to the right (but I checked that slider, it's in the center).

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I think I'm experiencing the same. I'll put my hardware details below to make it easier for others to find this. Here is how I fix it:

When the balance is shifted to the right, I hear only a very weak sound on the left side. I can take countermeasures by adjusting the balance in the sound-menu to the left. However, sometimes the left side is completely dead. I discovered that raising the volume dramatically brings the sound back on both sides. Same loudness on both ears. I have to move the slider for the volume at least 80% up (to the left). CAUTION: if you use headphones this will blow your drums. So better take them out. I need to do this for one second or so. Not longer. This is strange, it feels like something is stuck in a pipe and applying more pressure helps to push it through - although we are talking about drivers and hardware of a computer. Anyway, try it! I have not permanent fix. The balance shifts to left again after a reboot. Not always, but randomly. Then I just repeat the procedure.

I also found out about Bug # 106945 which describes also a problem with the balance, but is from 2007 and obviously fixed.

---- My hardware ----

lspci

00:1b.0 Audio device: Intel Corporation 82801JD/DO (ICH10 Family) HD Audio Controller (rev 02) 

lshw

description: Audio device product: 82801JD/DO (ICH10 Family) 
HD Audio Controller vendor: Intel Corporation physical 
id: 1b 
bus info: pci@0000:00:1b.0 
version: 02 
width: 64 bits 
clock: 33MHz 
capabilities: pm msi pciexpress bus_master cap_list 
configuration: driver=snd_hda_intel latency=0 
resources: irq:52 
memory:f7adc000-f7adffff

cat /proc/asound/card...

cat /proc/asound/card0/codec*

Codec: Analog Devices AD1984A
Address: 2
AFG Function Id: 0x1 (unsol 0)
Vendor Id: 0x11d4194a
Subsystem Id: 0x10280420
Revision Id: 0x100400
No Modem Function Group found 
... 
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