PulseAudio is the standard audio server in desktop installations. However in a server installation audio services and thus PulseAudio are not provided.

How do I install and make use of PulseAudio in a headless server?

1 Answer 1


Install ALSA

$ sudo apt-get install libasound2 libasound2-plugins alsa-utils alsa-oss

Install PulseAudio:

$ sudo apt-get install pulseaudio pulseaudio-utils

Set Group Memberships for PA:

$ sudo usermod -aG pulse,pulse-access <username>

Run the PulseaudioServer:

$ pulseaudio -D

Following command tells us if a sink is recognized by PulseAudio:

$ pacmd list-sinks

Remember sinkname for output below.

This command will play a sound file to a given sink:

$ pacmd play-file <filename> <sinkname>

We may need to unmute audio devices:

  • for ALSA: use alsamixer
  • for Pulseaudio: use pacmd set-sink-mute n 0 where n is the sink index (likely 0)

For further CLI commands see also the Pulse Audio Wiki

To configure Pulseaudio Server to our needs we may need to edit /etc/pulse/default.pa and /etc/pulse/daemon.conf that come with self-explanatory. notes.

For testing the soundsystem see alsoSound Troubleshooting Guide

  • Thanks! It works great! But in server installations the pulsaudio didn't started automatically. I also tried add "/usr/bin/pulseaudio -D" to /etc/rc.local, but it not helped. Do you know how to fix it? Aug 23, 2017 at 18:55
  • 2
    Pulseaudio is designed to run in userspace after login. To run it as a service you need to run pulseaudio system-wide
    – Takkat
    Aug 23, 2017 at 19:56
  • are you running in root? could you try pulseaudio --system?
    – Steve
    Jul 18, 2018 at 14:50
  • Can you be more specific
    – user63726
    May 7, 2020 at 4:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.