Why Ubuntu uses PulseAudio

Since version 8.04, Ubuntu has used PulseAudio as its default sound system. After hearing of various problems people have had with PulseAudio (like this one and this one), one may wonder why Ubuntu uses PulseAudio at all, especially since these problems can often be fixed by turning off PulseAudio with no ill effects. The rationale for the switch to PulseAudio in Ubuntu is laid out on this page:

https://wiki.ubuntu.com/DesktopTeam/Specs/CleanupAudioJumble

I’m providing this link in the hopes that others don’t have to search as far for the answer as I did. Here are some highlights from that document, describing the benefits of PulseAudio:

Beyond the obvious sound mixing functionality it offers advanced audio features like “desktop bling”, hot-plug support, transparent network audio, hot moving of playback streams between audio devices, separate volume adjustments for all playback or record streams, very low latency, very precise latency estimation (even over the network), a modern zero-copy memory management, a wide range of extension modules, availability for many operating systems, and compatibility with 90% of all currently available audio applications for Linux in one way or another.

The document also has an extensive list of Use cases, which demonstrate where PulseAudio can be useful. While PulseAudio has many interesting features, the majority of these are not exposed to the user through a discoverable user interface so people don’t know they exist and, thus, don’t miss them if they disable PulseAudio.

For those that are interested, I found the above wiki page by searching for Hardy Heron release notes, leading me to this page, which linked to this blueprint, whose full specification is the wiki page.

7 Responses to “Why Ubuntu uses PulseAudio”


  • I’ve carefully read all of these and…. just removed PulseAudio, which prevented me from listening music in fresh installed Fedora 11 :)

  • OMG, I am thrilled with PulseAudio, I am using Karmic Koala and I have just had huge luckage with PulseAudio. I have two PCs with 9.10 and I used PulseAudio to send songs to the other PC through the network, it is flawless, no weird soulds like GGGGGG DGDGDGDG sort of like skipping, it works good, I am happy

  • edit, my huge 3 mile wide paw prevented me from typing ‘sounds’ properly, sorryness from me

  • I’m gonna let you finish imitating or worrying about Vista, that is indeed a very nice list of fancy and advanced features sir — but does it actually enable _normal_ users (you know; the ones making up about 99.999% of the total user base) who do not care about any of this to listen to their music?

  • PulseAudio works great with Karmic for me. I use a USB Soundblaster MP3+, and can mix output from several programs.

  • ubuntu trying to do what Windows can do, and fall off the ball form hand.
    low latency? who said that? lol?

  • In my ubuntu 10.04 first I do is remove the crap pulseaudio…

    As it is good for network streaming, But one of the worst thing for normal user… I’m very happy with my ALSA. I donot understand why ubuntu made it as mandatory for there build.. such a crap thing..

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