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How to play sound under Linux


  • Obviously, to play sound on a computer you need the right hardware. Our PCs do not have built-in speakers and external speakers or headphones must be connected. To record sound, which is necessary when using software such as Skype, you also need a microphone (we tend to use webcams with built-in microphones).
  • If you do not have speakers, a webcam or a headset and would like them, please ask Reception.
  • On some computers the speakers must be plugged into the rear socket and will not work if plugged into the front.
  • While this page is focussed on Linux and XUbuntu, some of the techniques such as ensuring that you are using the correct "sound devices" can be adapted for Windows.

Configuring your PC to play sound

Sound output does not usually require configuration other than adjusting the volume. If your volume control is missing run to reset your graphical setup to the default. If you experience problems, click on the volume control then Sound Settings. Check that the Output Devices tab has the correct Port selected, and the same for Input Devices if you are using a microphone.

Error beeps

Error beeps are disabled by default but can be enabled by adding the command xkbset bell at the end of your .bashrc file. Unlike in SL6, these come through the PC speaker so external speakers are not required.

How to play CDs

When you insert the CD it will start playing automatically (with a program called "vlc").

How to play media files e.g. mp3s

  • Simply double-click on an mp3 file to play it. Try this for other types of file too. If it fails email help@maths.
  • Or type mpg123 file.mp3 at the command line.
  • If you have a collection of mp3 tracks you may wish to use the more powerful program rhythmbox which can store lists of tracks to be played in order.

See also