I'm looking for a way to configure HDMI audio output via the command line using pulseaudio. I was able to get it running by using pavucontrol and changing it in the configuration tab, but I need a way to automate the process. I haven't been able to find any documentation at all so far. The system is a lucid install.

Edit: From what I've found, I can use pacmd set-card-profile to do this. However, whenever I try, I get an error like the following (using the default profiles as defined in /usr/share/pulseaudio/alsa-mixer/profile-sets/default.conf)

# pacmd set-card-profile 0 hdmi-stereo
Welcome to PulseAudio! Use "help" for usage information.
>>> Failed to set card profile to 'hdmi-stereo'.

# pacmd set-card-profile 0 analog-stereo
Welcome to PulseAudio! Use "help" for usage information.
>>> Failed to set card profile to 'analog-stereo'.

Why can't I change these from command line when pavucontrol works to change them?


3 Answers 3


I was using the tool wrong. The correct way to do it was pactl set-card-profile 0 output:hdmi-audio. You can get a list of avilable profile names by running pacmd list-cards.

  • the 2nd argument (0) is the index of the card (>>> 1 card(s) available. index: 0). the 3rd argument (output:hdmi-audio) is the part before the second semicolon under "profiles:" (e.g. it's "output:hdmi-stereo" from the line output:hdmi-stereo: Digital Stereo (HDMI) Output (priority 5400))
    – Elvis
    Nov 4, 2012 at 2:31
  • 1
    it's pactl list cards at least in pulseaudio-utils 1:4.0-0ubuntu22
    – int_ua
    Nov 7, 2014 at 9:31
  • @int_ua: pactl list cards and pacmd list-cards are both correct, the two tools use different syntax but provide most of the same functionality. In theory, the command to change the output profile could be pacmd set-card-profile 0 output:hdmi-audio (or ... output:hdmi-stereo or whatever), either will work.
    – FeRD
    Aug 19, 2015 at 12:21

Open a terminal and type:

sudo apt-get install alsamixergui

Then run it (Alt+F2 or press super key):


A window will open for sound cofiguration...

  • 1
    I'm not looking to edit mixer levels, I'm looking to configure the audio to use HDMI. I also said I'm not looking for a GUI tool, I need something that I can automate.
    – Daenyth
    Sep 30, 2011 at 16:51
  • alsamixergui solution by @decent worked for me on Nvidia ION with 10.04 and now with 12.04, I just launched the command and unmute the channel IEC 958 1 now I have audio...
    – user69005
    Jun 7, 2012 at 8:54

I found a simpler way to do this - on the Hardware tab of the System Settings Sound control, right-click on the profile drop down and select Digital Stereo (HDMI) Output + Analog Stereo input from the list.

  • 2
    It needs to be from the command line.
    – Daenyth
    Dec 17, 2011 at 20:46

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