Category archives: Ubuntu

Ubuntu HDMI Sound Configuration

Very recently, I built my very first PC from the ground up. It was fun but somewhat challenging experience. On my new PC, I’ve been running Ubuntu 8.10 intrepid ibex. I’ve really enjoyed using Ibex but getting everything to work the way I want has been a bit of a challenge.

One such challenge was getting my HD-TV to play sound while connected via a HDMI cable to my HIS HD 4850 IceQ4 Turbo. After a fair amount of searching and configuration changes, I got it to work.

Since the solution I found was spread across a couple of different forum posting that were not directly related to my problem, I thought I’d write a short tutorial for others who may run into the same situation as I did.

Install ATI HD 4850 Catalyst Drivers
Before I begin explaining the sound settings, I should also explain the process I used to install the ATI Catalyst drivers. I can’t remember all the pages I referenced to learn how to install the drivers, so I won’t be able to give credit to the websites that helped my like I’d like to.

To install the ATI HD 4850 Catalyst drivers, you need to go to System > Administration > Synaptic Package Monitor and install the envyng-core package. EnvyNG is an application written in Python which will download the latest ATI or NVIDIA driver or the Legacy driver (for older cards) (according to the model of your card) from ATI or Nvidia’s website and set it up for you handling dependencies (compilers, OpenGL, etc.) which are required in order to build and use the driver. If you don’t find the envyng-core package when you search, check to make sure that “Proprietary drivers for devices (restricted) is checked on the software sources menu.

Synaptic Package Manager - EnvyNG

Once this package is installed, you should restart you computer. Once you’ve restarted, the Hardware Drivers application located under System > Administration should find the ATI/AMD proprietary FGLRX graphics driver. This driver should be installed and activated. The driver is required to fully utilize the 3D potential of some ATI graphics cards, as well as provide 2D acceleration of newer cards. Once installed, it’s probably a good idea to restart you PC once more.

ATI/AMD proprietary FGLRX graphics driver

With the ATI Catalyst driver installed, you should be able to fully enjoy the Compiz-Fusion effects in Ubuntu 8.10. The driver version I’m using is 8.54.3 with Catalyst Control Center Version 2.1.

Update System Sound Settings
For your system to play sounds through your graphics card’s HDMI port, you need to tell Ubuntu to use the graphics card sound system VS your motherboard’s. This is the intuitive change. Go to System > Preferences > Sound. On the Devices tab, change all of the options excluding sound capture (e.g., Sound Events, Music and Movies, Audio Conferencing, and Default Mixer Tracks) to HDA ATI HDMI ATI HDMI (ALSA).

Ubuntu Sound Preferences - HDA ATI HDMI ATI HDMI (ALSA)

The next sound change is less intuitive; it requires you to double click on the speaker icon in your top panel to bring up the Volume Control menu. On this menu, change the Device drop down list option to “HDA ATI HDMI (Alsa mixer) and then select the Preferences button near the bottom right. On the preferences menu, check the IEC958 Switches track to be visible and then close the preferences screen. Back on the Volume Control screen, you should now have an IEC958 option on a Switches tab. Check this option and close the Volume Control menu.

HDA ATI HDMI (Alsa mixer) - IEC958

The sound tests available on the System > Preferences > Sound should now play sounds. If it works, you’ll be hearing the tests sounds on your TV using only the HDMI out cable on the HD 4850.

I owe a big thank you to the MediaBox Blog posting titled “HOWTO: Audio over HDMI with the HD3200 \ RS780 in Ubuntu” for these sound setting tips.

VLC Sound Settings
I prefer the VLC media player over Ibex’s default Totem movie player. However, in this particular case, Totem played the sounds through my video card without requiring any additional changes while VLC did not.

Finding the appropriate audio settings in VLC proved a bit more challenging than I expected. To save you the time, I’ll outline exactly what you need to change. Open up VLC preferences by selection preferences from the tools menu. Near the bottom left of the preferences screen, be sure to select all as the show settings option.

Expand the Audio menu and then the Output modules option. On the Output Modules option, select ALSA audio output form the drop down menu.

VLC Output Module ALSA

Then go to the ALSA option under the expanded Output modules section. Here you need to refresh the ALSA Device Name list. Once the list has refreshed, select HDA ATI HDMI: ATI HDMI (hw:1,3) and save all your settings.

VLC ALSA Preferences

VLC should now also play sounds through an HDMI cable.

For this VLC tip, I owe a big thank you to tie_dyed_sox on the Ubuntu forums.