Surround Sound on Linux Mint


There is one annoying thing with MP3 files. They are stereo, and not surround compatible. Notice that when you have a 5.1 speaker system (or more), only the 2 front speakers are used to play the music.

I’ve got a Sound Blaster Audigy sound card running on my PC, and luckily it offers CMSS (Creative MultiSpeaker Surround) which allows me to duplicate my front channels music to all other speakers, creating a fake surround effect. It’s not really Dolby-like effects, but hey, it’s still better than having only 2 speakers playing my music.

What I really wanted was to have the same effect, but under Linux Mint, since I’m an avid fan of this distro. I thought it was already included somewhere, but alas no. I found that after browsing around in the control panel. The option could not be found.

My only solution was Google, and the answer came quite rapidly, although not from Linux Mint’s site or wiki or forum, but from Gentoo’s. At least it works, and it was very easy to implement. Read on…

First, if you want more information, read the source article here.

Basically, what you will need is to create (or edit, if it already exists) a file, named “.asoundrc“, no quotes and including the dot, and place this file in your Home Folder. Note that there is no extension or anything with the file, just a dot in front, indicating that it will be a hidden file. For simplicity, you can create/edit that file in Gedit, or any of your favourite editors. Save it in your home folder, ie. ~/

(Nautilus has the option to display hidden files from the View menu, in case you need to access any hidden file in the future.)

Inside that file, you will need to place this, which worked for my Sound Blaster (CA0106):

pcm.!dmix {
type plug
slave {
pcm surround51
channels 6
pcm.!default {
type plug
slave.pcm “dmix”
slave.channels 6
route_policy duplicate

Now, from the Gentoo wiki I mentioned above, you will see there are various blocks of code that you could have placed in the asoundrc file. I found that this code worked best for my Sound Blaster Audigy card. The others didn’t work at all. For you, the others might work, and this one might not. You got to try yourself.

Now, go into the Control Panel – Sound, and make sure you have ALSA selected for Sound Playback, and any the other “Playbacks” for good measure.

It’s not over yet. Open terminal, and type the following command: “alsamixer“.

You will see something that looks like a band equalizer. In fact, it’s a set of volume bars. You navigate with left/right arrow keys, increase or decrease volumes with up/down keys, and mute/unmute using the ‘m’ key on the keyboard. Navigate around those bars, and make sure that for “Front”, “Rear”, “Centre”, “Side” have almost equal volumes. Balance if you want rear softer than front, or any combination you see fit. I simply placed them all at the same level, and the result was great. For me, it was something like “Analog Front/LFE”, “Analog Rear”… “Analog Side”, but your columns might be tagged differently, and this requires some experimentation.

At this point, whatever you play in most players should be duplicated on all speakers. It worked in MPlayer and Amarok for me, directly.

If you are using Amarok, it’s better if you go to Preferences – Engine, select ALSA as the engine, and make 5.1 as the speaker setup from the dropdowns there.

That’s it. You should now have MP3 sound on all speakers. DVDs and other surround sources are not affected, and they will play normally on all speakers.

That’s all folks. Mind you, I didn’t try that with any other OS apart Linux Mint, and with no other card except Sound Blaster. It worked without a hitch for me, so I didn’t really have to do much experimentation.

Unfortunately, I’m still a Linux n00b, and I doubt I’ll be able to help you if any problem crops up. If you are stuck, better ask the people at Linux Mint forums, or Gentoo wiki directly, since it’s their distro/guide. You could also try out the other code blocks posted on the Gentoo wiki. Paste them in asoundrc, after deleting what you previously added.

Anyways, good luck readers. Hope it works for you, as it did for me. I can only say that ALSA produced the clearest sound I ever heard with my Logitech X-540 set, surpassing even Windows.

  • Matthew Mueller

    I realize this was posted AGES ago, but it actually helped me in Linux Mint 13 MATE! I wanted to thank you for your help, even if all I needed to get my music playing through all my speakers was to change my channel configuration in alsamixer (even though in the Sound panel it was set to 5.1, only 2 speakers were recognized. Now I know why).