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I want to understand the proper configuration of Linux sound when using DACs.

post #1 of 2
Thread Starter 

Hello all, I hope someone can give me some light into this because I am confused.

 

I use Linux Mint as my OS, and I have a FiiO Andes DAC. The sound that I get when using my DAC is at best lame when compared to what I get when using my Android phone, so I have started to read about Linux sound and I know now that Ubuntu/Mint uses two sound handling layers, ALSA and Pulseaudio on top which mixes all the audio sources into a single output, affecting sound quality in the process.

 

The part that I have not been able to clarify is whether by me using the DAC I am bypassing Pulseaudio and getting my sound directly out of ALSA, or if my sound still passes through Pulseaudio, which would would explain why my sound is not as good.

 

Thank you.

post #2 of 2

If your player software allows for selecting the output device, make sure that it is not "default" (which will usually use PulseAudio or dmix), but rather "hw:CARD,0" (replace CARD with the number of the card - use the command "cat /proc/asound/cards" to find out what the correct number is). Of course, using the device directly only works if it is not already busy because of something else playing audio through PulseAudio.

 

If you are using Windows software with WINE, run "winecfg", and on the "Audio" tab, select your actual DAC (e.g. something like "Xonar STX - Multichannel") as the output device instead of anything that includes "default" in its name. This will probably use the ALSA "plughw" devices, which are still fine, as long as you play audio at a sample rate that is supported by the hardware, otherwise sample rate conversion is applied. Try to avoid DirectSound output if possible, so, for example, in foobar2000, use the WASAPI (push) interface instead of the default DirectSound.

 

Finally, check if mixer settings are correct (run "alsamixer -c CARD", replacing CARD with the above mentioned card number), and that your phone is not using a non-flat EQ or other audio "enhancement" that would prevent a fair comparison.

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