How can I change the default audio device from command line?

Ubuntu's desktop gui is great for changing audio settings (System->Preferences->Sound), like the default input/output device and setting the volume.

However, I would like to be able to do these things from the command-line. What tool is the gui using behind the scenes?

Answers 3

  • You can control PulseAudio thoroughly through the command line using pacmd and pactl commands. For options see man pages or the wiki at PulseAudio:

    pacmd list-sinks (or pactl list short sinks) for name or index number of possible sinks

    pacmd set-default-sink "SINKNAME" to set the default output sink

    pacmd set-default-source "SOURCENAME" to set the default input

    pacmd set-sink-volume index volume

    pacmd set-source-volume index volume for volume control (65536 = 100?%, 0 = mute; or a bit more intuitive 0x10000 = 100?%, 0x7500 = 75?%, 0x0 = 0?%)

    and many many more CLI options.

    Note: Changing the output sink through the command line interface can only take effect if stream target device reading is disabled. This can be done by editing the corresponding line in /etc/pulse/ to:

    load-module module-stream-restore restore_device=false

    Restart PulseAudio for changes to take effect:

    pulseaudio -k

    For a more elaborate tutorial on how to do this, and for instructions on how to change the sink during playback see this answer.

  • pavucontrol

    Not the actual Ubuntu volume control, but better! It lets you control default devices, and even devices per application/stream.

    You have to have the app actually be recording/playing for it to appear in the 'Playback' or 'Recording' tabs, but once you choose the device for that app, it seems to remember it forever.

    Also, (on a side note), for old (non pulse) applications, run them after padsp, eg:

    padsp some_old_app


Related Questions