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How to fix a sound problem in 30 easy steps.

I should share the troubleshooting experience I had tonight.

Problem: The center speaker doesn't work in a 5.1 channel speaker system.

Solution:

  1. Run speaker-test -c6. Only front left and front right work.
  2. Look up how to run speaker-test correctly.
  3. Run speaker-test -dsurround51 -c6. Only front and rear left and right work. No center sound.
  4. Run KDE's KMix. Make sure Center and PCM Center are unmuted. They are.
  5. Run alsamixer because you don't trust KMix. Check Center and PCM Center. They're fine.
  6. Check music player settings (Amarok). It's using the Xine engine.
  7. Check Xine engine compile flags. alsa is included. No apparently flag for 5.1 channel support.
  8. Play a DVD. Set it for 5.1 surround. Still no sound coming from speakers.
  9. Must be a lower-level problem. Check ALSA drivers built into the kernel. ALSA looks to be loaded OK.
  10. Check for updated versions of the kernel. There's a 4th revision of kernel version 2.6.17.
  11. While we're at it, check kernel built-in ALSA module version. It's 1.0.11 or so. But there's a standalone ALSA driver version 1.0.12rc1 in Portage.
  12. Compile the kernel, leaving out the built-in drivers. Install alsa-headers and alsa-driver packages, being sure to accept the latest experimental packages so you're sure you're up to date.
  13. Reboot. Failure. Reboot from an old kernel instead.
  14. Kernel filename had a typo. Fix and reboot again.
  15. Standalone ALSA drivers whine about the kernel having built-ins. Check kernel. Oops, we left the built-in ALSA drivers enabled after all. Fix. Recompile. Reboot.
  16. Check sound. Center speaker still dead. It's looking to be a VERY low-level software issue, or else a hardware issue. Time to start swapping cables at the subwoofer.
  17. Plug the center speaker into the front-left output. There's sound in the center speaker. Plug the front-right speaker into the center output. Nothing. Speakers are all fine, and speaker-to-subwoofer cables are fine.
  18. Check the cables at the computer. Orange-to-orange, black-to-black,, green-to-green. All appears well.
  19. Reboot to Windows. Ugh. Maybe it's a Linux problem.
  20. Check a music player. Center speaker still dead.
  21. Check Windows driver versions. Appears to be a Creative driver, but may be out of date. Check Creative.com for new drivers. Latest one is from January. Download anyways.
  22. Attempt to install new driver. "You must uninstall the old driver! Now reboot!". Reboot.
  23. "We've now installed the new driver! Now reboot!" Reboot.
  24. Check sound in a music player. Center speaker still dead.
  25. Make sure the Windows driver is set for 5.1 output. It wasn't. Make it so.
  26. Check sound in a music player. Center speaker still dead.
  27. Check Windows mixer to make sure the Center isn't muted. Windows mixer sucks and doesn't have Center volume control at all.
  28. Download extra mixer programs from Creative. Attempt install. "Blah blah blah some stupid error I can't install". Nice.
  29. Back to hardware checking. Maybe the computer-to-subwoofer cables are bad. Plug computer-front-out to subwoofer-center in. Behold, there's music from the Center speaker! So no cables are bad after all. 30. Notice that there are TWO orange ports on the sound card. Switch the orange cable to the OTHER orange hole. Fixed.
August 05, 2006 @ 4:02 PM PDT
Cateogory: Hardware

7 Comments

Wesley
Quoth Wesley on August 05, 2006 @ 6:01 PM PDT

Isn't the first thing you're supposed to do is make sure it's plugged in correctly? Some Asian guy on the phone with no computer knowledge and nothing but a list could've managed that better. Maybe you should call tech support next time. :P

Brian
Quoth Brian on August 05, 2006 @ 6:19 PM PDT

Maybe you should shut your yap.

Hussam
Quoth Hussam on August 08, 2006 @ 6:17 AM PDT
  1. Compile the kernel, leaving out the built-in drivers. Install alsa-headers and alsa-driver packages, being sure to accept the latest experimental packages so you?re sure you?re up to date.

  2. Reboot. Failure. Reboot from an old kernel instead.

Haha! Imagining the look on your face :-D. But if you're interested, instead of removing the kernel driver and installing the package, you can simply upgrade the version in the kernel. The patches are available at alsa-project's ftp repository : ftp://www.alsa-project.org/pub/kernel-patches/

But looking at it now it seems like they are using 'git', which I have no experience with. So perhaps I should just 'shut my yap' >_

Hussam
Quoth Hussam on August 08, 2006 @ 6:18 AM PDT

GREAT! Cut me off in the middle of things.

  1. Attempt to install new driver. ?You must uninstall the old driver! Now reboot!?. Reboot.

  2. ?We?ve now installed the new driver! Now reboot!? Reboot.

I don't know if this is ironic but when I owned a creative sound card that's exactly what I had to do. I think Creative is just being 'creative'. They try to distract the user from faulty equipment with all those restarts.

  1. Check Windows mixer to make sure the Center isn?t muted. Windows mixer sucks and doesn?t have Center volume control at all.

  2. Download extra mixer programs from Creative. Attempt install. ?Blah blah blah some stupid error I can?t install?. Nice.

Haha! This just proves to you that it's a cover up! All in all, great laugh. I'm sorry it's at your misery but whatever makes me happy :-D

Brian
Quoth Brian on August 08, 2006 @ 6:31 AM PDT

I'm somewhat afraid of experimental kernel patches. The kernel is one place I try to stay as stable as possible. Or at least let someone else test thigns before I mess with them.

Swordy
Quoth Swordy on January 02, 2007 @ 1:03 AM PST

I have the same problem. I done what you said at the end, but the 4. hole isnt orange but blue on my Audigy card. I have installed the other patches, but it seem of what you writen that they dont repair my problem. Please inform me if I done something wrong.

Swordy
Quoth Swordy on January 02, 2007 @ 1:05 AM PST

If someone knows anything that can help, plese drop me an e-mail to:swordfish1946@hotmail.com