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Setting Up Surround Sound in Linux

It’s been a while since I bothered, the reason being it’s always seemed like an un-worthwhile struggle to get it working but either things changed or I was doing something to overcomplicate the process but it’s actually pretty simple to get surround sound up and running on your Linux machine. Now, I’m not going to go in to how to install the drivers for your specific sound card, because there are so many and I don’t have them all and most times on most popular distributions (Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, Fedora, OpenSuse etc) you’re going to notice that the sound card is actually already supported. What I will be doing is showing you how easy it was to get my 5.1’s set up (and the same will be said for 7.1’s).

Step 1:

First off you’re going to want to edit the pulseaudio configuration file to add the number of speakers you’re using, it’s default is set to 2.

sudo gedit /etc/pulse/daemon.conf

Near the bottom of the file, there will be a line which looks like this:

;default-sample-channels = 2

The semi-colon is a comment, so this line isn’t actually doing anything unless you remove that. I would suggest leaving that line alone and adding a new line at the bottom:

default-sample-channels = 6

If you’re using 5.1’s the number of channels will be 6, 7.1’s will be 8 and I think you get where I’m going with this? So in this example, I’m using 5.1’s.

Now save and close that file. You’ll need to reboot your system now too, so that these changes will take effect.

Step 2:

So you’re back? Good..

Now you’re going to want to open up the Sound Preferences, usually you can do this by clicking on the little sound icon in your panel, or System > Preference > Sounds from the menu.

From here, you’ll want to click on the Hardware tab. Near the bottom it’ll say Profile: with a drop down box next to it. Here you can select the type of set up you have, as you can see in the screenshot I have an “Analogue Surround 5.1 Output”, yours might be different and that’s cool and if you don’t know feel free to try a few out. Next to that drop down box is a button which says “Test Speakers”, this didn’t work for me so I have to use an online test but give it a try as it might work!

That’s it, you should be done!

7 replies on “Setting Up Surround Sound in Linux”

I tested this out because my headset, which is supposed to run in 7.1, will not display the necessary option. I can get 5.1 to appear but for some reason I cannot select 7.1 (in step 2). I set the channels to 8 using step one but that still didn’t work. Any idea why?

I’m using the Razer Megalodon with ubuntu 11.10. I tested the headset on my laptop and it worked perfectly fine. I have the necessary sound card (my headset has one built in), but still nothing I have tried has worked.

This worked perfectly in Ubuntu 12.10. This is such a quick way of resolving the probelm. I have just built a new Mini ITX system based on the Asus P8H77I motherboard with an intel i5 processor and was struggling with 5.1 sound as the on-board card is a little hard to configure in linux, so i got a USB card from Maplin as a work around. This initially started in stereo which was less than ideal but it is now working with full 5.1 sound. I really appreciate the clear instructions.

Hi Alex,

My OS is Linux Mint Maya 32 bit. My desktop board is Intel D915GAV with built-in audio driver. I use 5.1 speaker. Thing is this is my first encounter with linux OS and I just installed it few days back. Now I am getting audio only from my two front speakers. I tried the command that you mentioned here in terminal but it says ‘sudo: gedit: command not found’.

Any help would be much appreciated.


The command in use, gedit is actually a text editor that comes pre-installed with gnome. Since Linux Mint (apart from the Gnome version) doesn’t come with it, it won’t run. I believe most versions of Linux Mint come with a text editor called pluma.

You have 3 choices:

1. Replace gedit with pluma in the commands.
2. Install gedit – sudo apt-get install gedit and run the command as shown.
3. Find an alternative text editor, such as nano, vi, vim or whatever else.

I highly suggest you learn some basic command line tools, it isn’t safe to blindly copy and past commands from the internet if you don’t know what they’re doing.

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