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My system volume is muted in general, but when I plug in my headphones, the volume gets set to about 50% of its range. If I change the system volume to another value, the volume still gets reset when I plug in my headphones. It is as if I have 2 distinct volume settings, the main one getting overridden by the other when headphones are plugged in. Is this normal behaviour? Is there a way I can change it so that volume is the same regardless of what is plugged in or not?

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Your pulseaudio server may try to restore settings of a device (in your case your headphones), which is generally a good idea.

In a default setup this is done by module-device-restore. You can test if this is so in your case by unloading this module. You will first have to find out the index number of the module-device-restore. Look for its index in the long list of modules loaded that will be displayed with

pacmd list-modules

We then can temporarily unload a module by replacing <index> with the one found above in the following command:

pacmd unload-module <index>

We then can see if the issue we are having is resolved. No harm done so far, the module will be loaded again with every restart of pulseaudio.

To avoid loading this module in case it undesiredly restores settings we may comment out the following line in /etc/pulse/default.pa:

# load-module module-device-restore

Alternatively we may also load this module with option restore_muted=false to avoid restoring the muted state or with option restore_volume=false to avoid restoring a volume. Note that then this will affect all audio devices in your system.

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