When I want to adjust the volume of anything I'm doing, I find that using the volume controls built into Ubuntu is little but confusion. When the volume is around 100%, dropping it several increments has almost no effect on apparent volume, but when it's around 0%, the effect of one click of my mouse wheel is probably a good 3 decibels. I have observed this behavior on tens of different UC's, since I convert about one Ubuntu user a month (NE team contact).

This has proven so frustrating to me that I tend to use the volume knob on my guitar amp ( mono audio :| ) instead of the volume indicator. What can I do to make my volume indicator behave properly until this is fixed? I want each volume increment to be one half or one third decibel.

Is there a different piece of software I should use for system volume configuration perhaps?

  • 2
    I have to say, this is an excellent question. The thing is, i think this also includes what type of sound card you are using, what type of output speakers you are using, etc.. But apart from that this is an excellent question. Dec 31 '10 at 22:19
  • Agreed it is a good question as I've always had the same problem pretty independently of sound card, driver, or even computer speaker gain knobs. This is annoyingly different than studio gear where -3dB attenuation is always -3dB. Perhaps an uncalibrated yet logarithmic-oid volume control is far more easily achievable.
    – msw
    Jan 1 '11 at 3:13
  • 1
    alsamixer shows db gain, so it should be achievable, but i have no idea how to get that data into the gnome widget Jan 1 '11 at 6:36

According to pulseaudio's volume control page:


The first problem might be the software doing some log calculations it's not supposed to do. (if it is then we need a bug report for that)

The second problem is impossible to fix, and that's the fact that the software can't know for sure what effect changing the volume by one degree will have in the real world. It can't know because of all sorts of factors.

  • Any sound device that didn't maintain some kind of linear volume relation with a given signal would reveal itself by distortion, right? Software doesn't need to know end volume, because the user can theoretically adjust that. I don't expect end users to care a bit about the actual units by which volume delta is measured either.. The documentation you linked shows that volume can be done with PA in either linear or logarithmic fashion. It seems to me that my system and applications' volume is linear, when logarithmic is what I need, because I'm a human being.
    – ethana2
    Jan 2 '11 at 4:12
  • Then perhaps pulse audio has a bug in it, it's supposed to deal with log. Jan 2 '11 at 4:32
  • It would be neat if a user could specify one/two/three parameters to define the midpoint/range/gain/etc to have a nicer volume curve that adheres to human perception... Oct 1 '20 at 10:40


547 Ubuntu users have voted in favor of resolving this issue, and I think its about time that someone did something about it..

Maybe the problem is being caused by a log calculation happening twice, at two different places in the chain. I'm not an audio engineer (or a mathematician), so correct me if I'm wrong, but heres how I understand it:

  • A linear scale would be quiet from 0% ~ 85%, and most of the control would be within the 85% ~ 100% bracket.

  • A logarithmic scale would cause the dB or 'loudness', to increment evenly for each step of the slider.

  • A 'double' logarithmic scale would overcompensate, and cause the effect of a linear scale in reverse (ie. the 0% ~ 15% bracket controls most of the volume).

This is what the Ubuntu volume slider seems to be doing at the moment. Again, I'm not an expert. I just know that theres a problem, and me and 547 other users would like it to be fixed :)

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