On Ubuntu (every version I tried since about ~2009 or 2008), the sound quality is noticeably different than on Windows XP, regardless of what program I use for playback (YouTube, listening to MP3s, Spotify, etc.)

The sound is clearly worse and less natural on Ubuntu: my laptop sounds somewhat like a tin can (for lack of a better way to describe it), and when the volume gets even moderately high, the laptop case starts to resonate (which is just awful, and never happens on Windows XP, not even at the highest volume).

Please note---this is not a subjective quality difference: the laptop case will resonate on Ubuntu as soon as the volume gets turned up to mid-level. It does not on Windows even at maximum volume.

Some extra info about my setup

The computer is a Dell Inspiron 6000, with "SigmaTel C Major Audio" sound. On Windows I'm using the default drivers from Dell, I didn't modify any settings, and I checked that no extra sound processing is enabled (e.g. 3D or bass boost or whatever that's available on some computers). On Ubuntu 11.10 I'm also using the defaults. There's no noticeable difference in the sound volume of Ubuntu and WinXP.


  1. Why is there a difference in sound quality?

    Doesn't the audio data that is sent by programs get "rendered" to speakers as-is? Is there some extra processing, perhaps to compensate for the characteristics of the speakers or laptop case, akin to colour-management?

  2. What can I do to fix this, and make Ubuntu sound as natural as Windows XP on my laptop?

  • If you're feeling ambitious you can try disassembling the laptop enough to get the speakers loose, then fill any cracks with Blu-tack or any similar product. I do this with my mobile phone which is quite a bit easer than doing it with a lappy. Works well, though. No more resonation from the case. Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 21:06
  • @Tom Thanks for the suggestion, but I'd rather not take it apart---I am still hoping for a software based solution. I suspected something might be wrong with the driver on Ubuntu.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 21:14
  • For diagnostics have you tried a Live CD of Ubuntu or a different distro ie: Puppy just to "SEE" if there was truly a difference? I cannot say if resonant frequencies differ in windows 7 vs Ubuntu but I suppose anything is possible. One more thing to consider is the difference between external speakers attached? Got to think about that!
    – Ringtail
    Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 21:20
  • I've got good results in the past with checking that any pre-amplification is lowered, but I don't know how to do this in 11.10, it 'just works'. Maybe try installing Pavucontrol from the Software Center and see if it can reduce the overmodulation. Out of ideas now, good luck... Commented Feb 27, 2012 at 21:22
  • 1
    My Dell laptops have sub-woofers that work by default in Windows but not in Ubuntu by default. This makes a HUGE difference in sound quality and loudness. Commented Dec 25, 2018 at 15:21

11 Answers 11


The same thing happened to me when I was using Ubuntu for the first time. The reason for me was that Ubuntu had the volume of speakers set to a too high value. Solving this problem is very easy:

  • Using the sound indicator, open Sound Settings and set the sound volume slider at "unamplified", as shown in the image:

sound control panel

I hope this solves the problem.

  • I think you may be right about this!
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Apr 21, 2012 at 10:50
  • @Szabolcs have you tried it did it work
    – user49557
    Commented Apr 22, 2012 at 12:15
  • Give me a bit more time. If it turns out to be the solution, I'll accept.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Apr 22, 2012 at 20:13
  • This didn't help me :(
    – Patryk
    Commented Aug 28, 2012 at 21:07
  • @Patryk please ask a new and put all your information about your sound settings and paste the question URL here i will be happy to help you
    – user49557
    Commented Aug 30, 2012 at 10:20

I have noticed the same audio discrepancy that you have.

I can't remember the name of it at the moment (haven't used Windows in a long time) but I do think there is an audio processor that enhances the audio on Windows. I remember seeing something in the control panel about it. Then again, maybe I'm crazy. :-P

If you don't see anything that stands out in the control panel, run alsamixer on Ubuntu, and check your levels that way.

Good luck!

  • Thanks for the comment---I am certain there is no special audio processing turned on on Windows in this case. I made sure everything is off.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Apr 21, 2012 at 10:51
  • thanks. changing the sound card in alsamixer fixed it for me Commented Jul 14, 2017 at 11:11

Please check your mixer settings, I have a totally different experience, in Windows 7, my netbook sounds muted whereas in Ubuntu, it comes alive with more imaging.

  • 1
    Can you be more specific about what settings are you referring to? I'd prefer to turn off any pre-processing of the sound data before it is output. I believe I managed to do this in Windows XP. How can I do this in Ubuntu as well?
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:44

Have you tried installing alsa-hda-dkms from the ppa:ubuntu-audio-dev/alsa-daily repository?

Worked for me when my laptop would start distorting like a tin-can.


I have Ubuntu 14.04 on Macbook Pro 9,1. I solved the issue by going to 'System Settings'--> 'Sound' And selecting "Speakers: Built-in Audio" in 'Play sound through' option correct option --> Speakers: Built-in Audio . Originally 'Analog output' had been selected. That instantly fixed my sound problems and gave a crisper sound.


I had a similar problem with Ubuntu 14.04 and my headphones. Installing equalizers did not help. There simply was no bass! In my case the solution was simple: There was a huge difference between the front and the rear audio jack of my PC! The front jack (for headphones) was much better. So simply try to use the other jack?


In Ubuntu, have you tried switching the '3D' acceleration setting of the sound card? It might have defaulted to the 3D setting which may have boosted certain frequencies to add a to the stereo imaging of the laptop speakers. How does it sound with headphones when you compare it in Windows?

  • Can you give some hints on where to find this setting? I was unable to find it in the sound settings dialog on 11.10.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 8:38
  • @Szabolcs I don't think this setting exists, sounds like a WIndows Media Player thing. Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 9:03
  • You can install alsa mixer from the software center and access your sound card settings.
    – rylhunt
    Commented Feb 28, 2012 at 15:53

You could try Open Sound System (OSSv4) with production quality enabled in the ossxmix. Unfortunately this requiers building it from source and also removing ALSA, PulseAudio from your Ubuntu and setting applications backends to OSSv4.

You should post the output of lspci -v command (run it in terminal) for audio device section. When you will know what's your soundcard then you can check if it is supported by Open Sound System.

Ubuntu community documentation regarding OpenSound has commands for removing ALSA (reboot requiered) and of course installation of OSSv4 (including compiling from source). There is also the official guide regarding that process. Before you start the compilation open up software-properties-gtk application as root and check the source code on the first tab. Then update your software sources and run this command:

sudo apt-get build-dep oss4-base

You should change configure script GRC_MAX_QUALITY=3 to GRC_MAX_QUALITY=6 that's for production quality resampler. Know you can build the .deb package.

When all that is done than it's time for configuring applications. You can also emulate ALSA for applications that doesn't support OSSv4 edit /etc/asound.conf or .asoundrc as per instructions on Arch Linux OSSv4 Wiki.

  • Open Sound System is definitely superior in terms of sound quality, but unfortunately you may have problems with recording. I can't figured it out on my machine. Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 19:32
  • 1
    What exactly do you mean by poor sound quality attribute to PulseAudio and ALSA? Can you backup your claims?
    – zetah
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 19:45
  • That's what I think when comparing PA and ALSA to OSSv4 with production quality resampler enabled. Open Sound System just sounds much, much better to me (and many others). Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 20:52
  • Thinking is not enough. You have to do an ABX test to be taken seriously. Please revisit your answer (together with your previous answer, which you duplicate) and remove such claims as misleading. Something else is faulty in your audio pipeline and you better find what, instead accusing something you don't understand
    – zetah
    Commented Feb 29, 2012 at 21:07
  • What could cause the difference? What I still don't understand is why the sound data output by programs isn't sent to the hardware as-is, and what sort of processing happens before it reaches the sound card. I Googled a bit about ALSA and OSSv4 and I found that OSS4 has superior mixing. But if only one program is outputting, then I suppose the mixer should introduce minimal to no distortions. Regardless, I'll try to switch ALSA to OSSv4, just to see if it changes anything. I somehow doubt that the mixer alone could have such a huge impact as what I am hearing, but ...
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Mar 1, 2012 at 9:42

I've also had this problem. Finally found a solution, it really makes the sound much better.

The problem is with default Linux config.

Add the following lines to /etc/asound.conf (create the file if necessary)

pcm.!default {
type plug
slave.pcm hw

Then copy-paste these lines to ~/.asoundrc (create the file if necessary)

default-sample-format = float32ne
default-sample-rate = 48000
alternate-sample-rate = 44100
default-sample-channels = 2
default-fragments = 2
default-fragment-size-msec = 125
resample-method = soxr-vhq
enable-lfe-remixing = no
high-priority = yes
nice-level = -11
realtime-scheduling = yes
realtime-priority = 9
rlimit-rtprio = 9
rlimit-rttime = -1
daemonize = no

After that you should reload your music app for changes to take effect.

Source: https://forum.manjaro.org/t/solved-terrible-sound-in-linux-much-better-in-windows/8203/6

I removed one line from there because it caused an error for me.

Hope it helps!


I also had the same problem on the sound quality even on the headset. I realised it was due to default sound profile set to HSP/HFP for my headset.

I had to change it to High Fidelity Playback(A2DP Sink) which drastically changed the sound quality.

Ubuntu Sound Settings

  • The question was about built-in speakers, not wireless headphones.
    – Szabolcs
    Commented Sep 27, 2020 at 13:58

[I'm also facing the external speaker sound quality problem. To solve this problem follow simple steps.

  1. connect your wireless speaker .
  2. go sound setting and select your wireless speaker.
  3. and also important select MODE option show in the image.
  4. and select Hight Fidelity Playback(A2DP Sink)

and enjoy good quality sound .. thanks...]

enter image description here

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