back to article New audio server Pipewire coming to next version of Ubuntu

The next release of Ubuntu, version 22.10 and codenamed Kinetic Kudu, will switch audio servers to the relatively new PipeWire. Don't panic. As J M Barrie said: "All of this has happened before, and it will all happen again." Fedora switched to PipeWire in version 34, over a year ago now. Users who aren't pro-level creators or …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

    which prevents me from using my Mint laptop as a grown up VOIP client ? Once again, something Windows "just does" (see also:Miracast).

    1. Tom 38

      Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

      No, it won't. The fixes for that would come from the BlueZ project, which is the bluetooth protocol stack in linux, and creates the sound devices that pipewire (etc) connect to.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

        The problem is the bluez project have told me it's pulseaudio that can't handle the HSP.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

          It's always the others' fault. A polite way to say "f*** off, you're bothering us".

      2. Tom 38

        Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

        No, it won't. The fixes for that would come from the BlueZ project,

        I'm wrong, the two need to interact in a meaningful way for this to work. So its a combination of features from BlueZ, and from the sound daemon (pipewire or pulseaudio) are required for bluetooth audio/headsets to function properly.

        Maybe grab a Ubuntu 22.10 daily build and try it out on a usb stick.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Maybe grab a Ubuntu 22.10 daily build

          OR

          grab a relevant Fedora distro... Ubuntu is not the only distro out there worth using.

          Ubuntu lost me as a user around 14.10. Far too much broke in the new release that worked in 14.04. I moved to Fedora and didn't regret it.

        2. VoiceOfTruth

          Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

          -> I'm wrong, the two need to interact in a meaningful way for this to work.

          Why is this so in the Linux world? How many Bluetooth devices and sound devices are there for Windows?

          I turn on my BT headset and it works on Mac and Windows. On Linux I have to wait until two groups of people knock their heads together in a meaningful way?

          1. sreynolds Silver badge

            Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

            Probably because nobody really cared so much so as to fix it. I mean the source is there, there is no propriety non-GPL blob etc.

          2. AdamWill

            Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

            I mean, it's very likely the case behind the scenes in Windows too. Microsoft has Bluetooth devs and audio devs.

            You just don't get to see inside the sausage factory in that case.

            Apple and Microsoft also have a hell of a lot more resources to fund paid developers on these things, and the makers of the hardware generally don't care whether it works on Linux and so don't work to fix it if it doesn't, leaving it all up to the maintainers of the stacks to figure out the problems and fix them.

          3. Maventi

            Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

            FWIW my Bluetooth headsets just work in on my Ubuntu laptop. *shrug*

    2. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

      I hear you on that. My BlueTooth headset did 'Just Work' on Void Linux, then an update borked it a few months back. All the Googling on the subject claimed that it never has worked, and gave the sort of setup destructions that give us a bad name. Since the first claim was clearly not true I'm not inclined to even try to follow their advice.

      1. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

        You get a thumbs up for using Void Linux. Why does Void Linux garner a thumbs up from your humble VoiceOfTruth? Because, as it states on the web site Void Linux is 'Not a fork!'. That's right, it's not just another Ubu clone with some new awesome desktop wallpaper.

        I may be given to mild hyperbole when I refer to tens of thousands of Linux distros. Void Linux goes one further than me! 'Unlike trillions of other existing distros, Void is not a modification of an existing distribution.' There you have it. Trillions of other distros.

        1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

          Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

          They put their effort where their mouths are, that's for sure. In three years this is the biggest problem I've had, it's pretty solid.

    3. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

      Try it!

      Try it! I hear pipewire is a lot better at handling Bluetooth codecs.

      1. VoiceOfTruth

        Re: Try it!

        Is that what you have heard on the grapevine, or what you have heard with your own Mk1 ears?

        1. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

          Re: Try it!

          Pipewire gives me a lot less grief about BT than Pulse. It still doesn't *work*, but plausibly due to some sort of driver issue. (Extremely low range - a problem with the laptop BT driver?)

          I remember when Pulse asked me to install a modem driver to get Bluetooth support.

        2. bofh1961

          Re: Try it!

          I found switching to Fedora with pipewire cured the bluetooth issues I had. I did try installing pipewire on Mint first but it was just as bad as it had been with pulseaudio.

          Previously I also used to temporarily disable pulseaudio to play music through a usb dac into the hi-fi - pulseaudio gets in the way of good audio quality at the best of times.

    4. thejoelr

      Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

      In most distros, yes. The pulseaudio team have been rejecting patches to make it work for at least a year now. You can dig up the issues with discussion on their bug tracker. Switching to pipewire magically fixes this... It allows the bluez additions to work.

      1. David 132 Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

        >The pulseaudio team have been rejecting patches to make it work for at least a year now.

        Well, yes. It works perfectly on Poettering's setup. Therefore: 1) there is no problem with PulseAudio, 2) the patches are not needed, WONTFIX, and 3) he can go off to work his unique magic on some other aspect of Linux.

        Disk partitioning, for example. Why is that not handled by systemd? It would make sense, right? Right?

        (Please note icon. Tongue firmly in cheek.)

        1. Tom 38

          Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

          systemd-repart grows and adds partitions to a partition table, based on the configuration files described in repart.d(5).

          If invoked with no arguments, it operates on the block device backing the root file system partition of the running OS, thus growing and adding partitions of the booted OS image itself. If --image= is used it will operate on the specified image file. When called in the "initrd" it operates on the block device backing /sysroot/ instead, i.e. on the block device the system will soon transition into. The systemd-repart.service service is generally run at boot in the initial RAM disk, in order to augment the partition table of the OS before its partitions are mounted. systemd-repart (mostly) operates in a purely incremental mode: it only grows existing and adds new partitions; it does not shrink, delete or move existing partitions. The service is intended to be run on every boot, but when it detects that the partition table already matches the installed repart.d/*.conf configuration files, it executes no operation.

          1. David 132 Silver badge
            Facepalm

            Re: Will it finally fix the bluetooth HSP/HFP issue

            Oh, lord. Really?

            Reality once again out-ridicules parody.

            I grasped around for some aspect of the modern computing process that there was no way systemd would have infected. Something as far away from its nominal initial purpose - init scripts - as possible. Something that has been settled and a done-deal on the Linux platform for a long time, with a mature toolset that just works. Partitioning! Yes! That's it! I'll use that as my hyperbole example!

            Bugger.

  2. The Central Scrutinizer

    The audio handling of Mint 20.3 on my new desktop machine is appalling. Scratchy sound, perfect sound, scratchy, now no sound.

    Just mucking farvellous.

    Seriously, this stuff should not even be an issue in the 21st century.

    1. VoiceOfTruth

      Be careful with your criticism, a penguin might hear you

      If their sound card is working, that is. Prepare to be downvoted.

      -> Seriously, this stuff should not even be an issue in the 21st century.

      OS/2 had working sound 30 years ago. It didn't have many drivers, but it covered most of the top selling sound cards at the time. I had an Aztech Labs sound card back then, it came with a floppy with drivers.

      So why is this still an issue in the 21st century? Becoz.

      1. The Central Scrutinizer

        Re: Be careful with your criticism, a penguin might hear you

        Upvote, downvote, I don't care. I'm a big fan of Linux Mint but this sudden audio issue is driving me batty. I'm sure I will eventually get it sorted, but geez.

      2. coward02913

        Re: Be careful with your criticism, a penguin might hear you

        Because of Lennart Poettering, that's why.

    2. nematoad Silver badge

      I agree,

      I reluctantly used Pulseaudio as I was having a lot of problems with the sound on a new install and because it's the recommended service to use on the distro I use.

      When I went to play one of my games the noise was horrendous, hissing, howling and so on. I quickly knocked Pulseaudio on the head and reverted to using ALSA. The sound returned to normal and I seemed to have more control over the server with alsamixer.

      As Pulseaudio runs on top of ALSA what's the point of Pulseaudio? Or is it another of Poettering's attempts to have total control of your system.

      I can't wait to try pipewire. Things can only get better.

      Now where have I heard that phrase before? :-)

      1. Tom 38

        Like the article says, if you don't have any sound daemon then you can only play one thing at a time. Anything else that tries to play audio will get an error when it tries to open the sound device if something else is currently playing, which is not what most users expect.

        When I went to play one of my games the noise was horrendous, hissing, howling and so on. I quickly knocked Pulseaudio on the head and reverted to using ALSA. The sound returned to normal and I seemed to have more control over the server with alsamixer.

        The howling/hissing was probably because your computer was overloaded by playing the game, and the sound server could no longer keep up. This is one of the problems of pulseaudio, it requires a lot of cpu.

        If you're using ALSA, you're no longer using a sound server, but playing a game is a situation where you might want exclusive audio, so switching to ALSA might be a good compromise, even if pipewire does use less CPU.

        1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
          Unhappy

          However...

          If you're working specifically on audio creation you absolutely don't want some stupid audio notification jingle in the middle of a 30 minute recording.

          Mind you, I never want those anyway.

        2. VoiceOfTruth

          Linux for your grandmother, the play. Two parts, Grandma and her grandson Bob.

          Grandma: Hello Bob. Can you help me with this Linux thing?

          Bob: Sure thing. What's the problem?

          Grandma: The sound doesn't work properly. Mabel's laptop has Windows and it just works.

          Bob: Which sound daemon are you using, Grandma?

          Grandma: Oh, what's that Bob?

          Bob: Without it you can only play one sound at a time.

          Grandma: It's all so confusing, Bob.

          Bob: There's OSS and ALSA and PulseAudio and JACK, UncleTomCobley's emulated triangle sounds. We can always try PipeWire.

          Grandma: What's PipeWire? It doesn't give me a clue what it does.

          Bob: It's named like that so you couldn't possibly guess. It's a sound thing.

          Grandma: Why didn't they call it something like 'sound system version 2 or 20'?

          Bob: That would be too easy.

          Coming up next, Linux for your greatgrandmother.

          1. slimshady76
            Linux

            That could have also been a conversation between HAL and Dave with some minimal tweaking...

          2. iron Silver badge

            While you're conducting the seance could you ask Grandma what her first name was, please?

            I have no idea.

            Oh and a description might be nice too, we never met.

        3. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

          Note that this is only true if your sound card doesn't have a mixer.

        4. Munchausen's proxy

          "Like the article says, if you don't have any sound daemon then you can only play one thing at a time. Anything else that tries to play audio will get an error when it tries to open the sound device if something else is currently playing, which is not what most users expect."

          And yet, I have pulseaudio and pipewire both on my "taboo - never install" blacklist (OpenSuse Leap), and have no problem listening to a music stream while watching 2 simultaneous videos, each with their own volume control, working perfectly. Maybe I'm holding it wrong..

      2. bofh1961

        I switched to Fedora with Pipewire a year ago and it's solved both the bluetooth codec issues I was having and the denigrated sound quality I used to get when using the laptop as a sound source for the hi-fi. It sounds pretty much as good as going straight to ALSA. As far as I know, Poettering has nothing to do with Pipewire...

    3. coward02913
      Mushroom

      Hearing loss from PulseAudio "flat-volumes" feature.

      https://discourse.gnome.org/t/hearing-loss-risk-gnome-sound-settings/6230

  3. Graham Dawson Silver badge
    Megaphone

    Another Sound Server

    The thing that annoys me most about PulseAudio is just how unnecessary it seems to be. Improving ALSA's documentation would have obviated most of its functionality, while the rest could have been added in to ALSA itself if it was deemed necessary. Poettering (for it was he!) decided that he'd rather stake his claim on the audio daemon space and write a wrapper for ALSA that "fixed" the problems (chief being that ALSA didn't work the way he decided it should work), rather than contributing to existing software and improving it.

    (Given subsequent behaviour, writing wrappers for other things so he can stake control of the space seems to be his MO. I'm just surprised he hasn't written a wrapper for etc and called it "systemd-registryd". Maybe I shouldn't give him ideas...)

    PipeWire isn't a poettering special, but it feels like the devs have the same motivation: a wrapper around existing systems to "fix" them, rather than just working with the existing software to implement those fixes. Maybe I'm just jumping at shadows this time, because audio on Linux definitely suffers from the constant churn of new sound servers and wrappers and such. It'd be nice if someone fixed the underlying software instead.

    I was debating whether to also rant about PipeWire pulling in video as well as audio to the same service, but I can kind of see the point there. It's all signal processing when you get down to it.

    1. thames Silver badge

      Re: Another Sound Server

      Some things are not "fixable", and I doubt that you could "fix" the problems in PulseAudio without replacing it, especially as Pipewire handles video as well as audio.

      Ubuntu 22.10 is a non-LTS release so most users won't see Pipewire until a decision is made to put it into an actual LTS release and that hasn't happened yet.

      The same thing happened with Wayland (replacement for X). It was tried out in non-LTS releases but most users didn't see it until it was judged good enough for an LTS release.

      This is why there are LTS and non-LTS releases. If you want bleeding edge, then use non-LTS. If you just want to use your computer for daily work, then use LTS. Simples.

      1. thejoelr

        Re: Another Sound Server

        Except Ubuntu still uses X for Nvidia. I agree that they were right to skip pipewire for an LTS. It still has some issues.

      2. Maventi

        Re: Another Sound Server

        > Ubuntu 22.10 is a non-LTS release so most users won't see Pipewire until a decision is made to put it into an actual LTS release and that hasn't happened yet...

        > This is why there are LTS and non-LTS releases...

        Sadly I recall PulseAudio being shoved directly into an LTS release (Hardy?). That said it's caused me very little direct grief in the last decade or so, and its functionality has been very useful for some odd projects I've worked on.

        I do recognise there are still plenty of issues with PA, and I've met others who have had audio issues to this day. Fortunately PipeWire has proven a reliable fix for a such issues, so I look forward to it taking PA's place.

    2. Steve Graham

      Re: Another Sound Server

      Yes, ALSA can do much more than the basics, but the documentation is skimpy and obscure, and the configuration syntax is peculiar.

      I've fiddled with it a bit in the past. You can create virtual sound devices and mix them down to a real device, solving the "can't play two sources at once" problem. Or, the other way round, you can "tee" a single source into multiple sound cards. You can even route sound to a capture file if you want to steal streamed content.

      Of course, the process always involves searching the internet for someone else's solution to a similar problem, and then guessing what changes are needed to make it do what you want.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. AdamWill

      Re: Another Sound Server

      This...just isn't really right, though.

      We had sound servers before PA, as the article notes. GNOME used esd and KDE used arts. Every distribution shipped them. This wasn't Lennart's idea. PA was written, and generally adopted, in an attempt to replace and improve on both. It was generally considered to have achieved this, which is why the desktops and distributions adopted it.

      People who encounter bugs with sound servers generally get frustrated at their existence, but people trying to build desktops and applications that play sound are unanimous in the opinion that a sound server is necessary to do it properly. If neither PA nor Pipewire existed, another one would promptly be invented, GNOME and KDE would adopt it, and all distributions would ship it.

      Sound servers don't exist because nobody is "fixing the underlying software", really. They're just a layer of abstraction that's generally agreed to be useful. There's nothing exactly "broken" about ALSA, but it is by design written at a pretty low level of abstraction, and app and desktop developers don't like writing to that level.

      I don't think it's really true to say that "audio on Linux definitely suffers from the constant churn of new sound servers", either. I'd say on the whole it *benefits* from constant churn in sound servers. PA wasn't perfect but it was, on the whole, an improvement on esd/arts. Pipewire isn't perfect but so far it seems to be, on the whole, an improvement on PA. If neither PA nor Pipewire had been written, and we were still using esd and arts, would things be better? I question that.

  4. Winston1984
    Thumb Up

    Been using Pipewire in place of Pulseaudio and Jack on Ubuntu MATE for a few months now, and it just works. All the audio clients and utilities, such as pactl and qjackctl work with it. IMHO audio was the final thing to suck on the Linux desktop and now it doesn't.

    1. The Central Scrutinizer

      Yeah? I looked at it today and it's up to version 0.3 or something similar and I thought "nah". I might have to re-evaluate that.

      1. thames Silver badge

        According to the web site 0.3 means that the part that handles audio is ready to replace Pulseaudio and Jack.

        They have a list of other features to add, many of which are not directly related to audio (they also intend to handle video), but those milestones come later.

        1. The Central Scrutinizer

          So that's tomorrow's project

          1. VoiceOfTruth

            -> So that's tomorrow's project

            A project to turn on sound. Welcome to the Year of the Linux Desktop.

            1. sreynolds Silver badge

              Well not many applications use the native API. Perhaps mpv will support it.

              You could all start using a man's distribution like Arch or even Gentoo - sure the effort in the long term will be worth it - as you can customise to your hearts content.

        2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

          I thought that reading the article. That a version number lower than 1.0 means "don't use for important stuff".

          But if it means that this is a video player where the video doesn't work, I can see that.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    well thats good

    But can we get a fucking replacement for poetterings other fucking messy shit he took on linux, as quick as possible.

  6. James Dore
    Joke

    A new Linux standard?

    Yay. https://xkcd.com/927/

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: A new Linux standard?

      I do notice that there's only one standard XKCD cartoon that gets referenced each time in any standards-related discussion.

      Maybe someone should create another comic image, with other use-cases included?

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: A new Linux standard?

        Sooner or later, someone would have to produce a standards cartoon to replace all the others...

  7. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Which to install?

    Looking at my Debian testing system, the answer seems to be 'both.' Now I just have to figure out which it's actually using. Any bets on the same answer?

  8. rcxb1

    > Before PulseAudio became the standard, many distros used ESD, the Enlightened Sound Daemon, which came out of the Enlightenment project, best known for its desktop.

    Also ARTS (KDE).

    > You can play, or record, sound without a sound server, but if you don't have one, the current program that is playing sound owns the audio device: it has complete and exclusive control over it, meaning that the operating system can't mix sources.

    Not really true. Long before PulseAudio came along, nearly all sound cards allowed multiple simultaneous streams. Those that didn't were supported by "dmix" in ALSA, which is automatically loaded for the default sound device these days, though sadly not for additional devices (like the USB headset you plugged-in), still requiring a bit of a configuration mess.

    PulseAudio is a culprit here, too. It locks the sound device (even while nothing is being played) so those apps trying to output to ALSA can't access the sound card. PipeWire is supposed to fix all this, natively compatible with applications outputting to ALSA and PulseAudio, simultaneously. Here's hoping.

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