PulseAudio and XBMC for linux

Posted By: Team XBMC on Jan 09, 2009 in Site News

Since the release of Atlantis we have had dozens of new users, and a few noted one of our weaknesses, which was PulseAudio, link to thread. People usually experienced video that ran in great speed, this was because ALSA couldn´t create a stream. And the only way of making XBMC run like it should on Ubuntu was to kill PulseAudio, this is ok if you are only using the computer as a HTPC but will quickly take away the fun of having XBMC just as a media player along with the rest of the desktop, as without PulseAudio most of the other applications won´t work properly.

Anyway, the days of having to kill PulseAudio is now gone! in SVN we have added full native support for PulseAudio, this works in both DVDPlayer and PAPlayer. This is also a runtime drop in replacement for ALSA so if PulseAudio crashed or got killed XBMC would fallback and use ALSA. We also added a gui notification when XBMC failed to open either ALSA or PulseAudio so the user this time knows that there actually was an error without hitting the log. So if you see this please check your audiosettings and if nothing seems wrong provide a log on the forum

A feature of PulseAudio is that it´s network transparent, and as such you can connect to a remote computer and have it play the audio. And of course we added this to XBMC, just create an advancedsettings.xml as this:



<audiohost>PulseAudio Server IP</audiohost>



And it should connect to the other computer.

Known issues:

  • Navigational sounds is still dependent on SDL, export SDL_AUDIODRIVER=esd before entering XBMC might help.

Discussion - 56 Comments

  • Gamester17 Jan 10, 2009 

    Should be noted though that PulseAudio still do not support digital pass-through to SP/DIF :(

    …and also having the PulseAudio Server IP settings in the XBMC GUI someday would be really nice ;)

  • nat Jan 13, 2009 

    I pulled xbmc last night on a very vanilla install Ubuntu 8.10 and had all sorts of stability problems – is that something special to U8.10 or is it the pulseaudio issue? Is there any action that needs to be taken to resolve the pulseaudio issue on my end, or is it just fixed?


  • topfs2 Jan 13, 2009 

    Yup this is just fixed, we added PulseAudio support after XBMC 8.10 (atlantis) so if you want to run XBMC and PulseAudio you should download and compile XBMC from source, or wait until next stable release.

    In the meantime if you dont want to do either of the above suggestions you´d need to disable PulseAudio.

  • nat Jan 13, 2009 

    Excellent. I’ll do my best with that.

  • stuart Jan 14, 2009 

    Is 5.1 analogue out enabled now, with or without pulseaudio? This is the only thing stopping XBMC being perfect for movie playback on my machine (I cannot afford and do not need a £300 amp just to do surround sound).

    Keep up the good work.

  • topfs2 Jan 14, 2009 

    To be honest, I always thought it was enabled :)

    In anycase, I´ve tried 5.1 on pulseaudio with XBMC when I developed the pulseaudio support and it worked (I dont have 5.1 speakers but I got only left and right audio in my headphones, center and the others were left out so I guessed it worked).

    If it doesnt you should file a ticket on trac with full debuglog and explain the problem.

    Noteworthy you might need to enable 6ch in configurationfiles on PulseAudio to get the server to understand you have 5.1, currently we cant query this information (havent found a method for it in PulseAudio api) so we just assume its correctly setup.

    I hope you got your question answered, otherwise post and I will gladly try to explain myself better :)

  • TecnoBrat Jan 15, 2009 

    After talking to topfs2 in IRC, I was able to resolve a problem I was having with pulse + alsa with losing the menu click sounds after playing video (at least partially).

    First install libsdl pulseaudio

    sudo apt-get install libsdl1.2debian-pulseaudio

    Then I start XBMC normally and the menu clicks work before and after playing video. The only problem is there is a slight delay, probably about a 200ms delay or so (for the menu sounds only, not video).

  • topfs2 Jan 15, 2009 

    Thx TecnoBrat!, there is some talk about audio delay on the SDL mailing list and hopefully it will be resolved sooner or later.

    Did you end up using SDL_AUDIODRIVER=esd or SDL_AUDIODRIVER=pulse ?

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  • skazkafentazi Apr 03, 2009 

    Thanks for the interesting and informative site. That’s definitely what I’ve been looking for.

  • seeker83 Oct 12, 2009 

    nice to hear it’s working good, and with minimal noise from that fan. did you try the blu-ray player aswell? I havn’t tried playing blu-ray rips in xbmc yet, but they should work, right?

    does this box support Dolby TrueHD and DTS-MA aswell, if so, how well does it work together with XBMC and the HDMI port?

    anyway thanks for this nice review!

  • Starscream Oct 12, 2009 

    The latest bios for the unit allows you to turn off the blue LED its called “Good Night LED” mode.

    I’ve had mine for quite a while now great little unit for use with XBMC Live. seeker83 I’ve never had any problems with the HDMI port and my XBMC Live setup also 1080p @ 24Hz works just fine with my HDTV.

  • LastMile Oct 12, 2009 

    The latest BIOS (1.60) for the ASRock has an option to turn off power, HDD and LAN LEDs after power on. I think it’s called the “Goodnight LED” function or something similar.

  • Jeff Oct 12, 2009 

    I’ve been running one of these for a month or so, and I love it. Looks right at home on my TV stand. You could easily mistake this thing for a DVD player. That blue light is a bitch though.

  • Brandon Oct 12, 2009 

    I’m curious since it uses an ATOM proc, how’s the power usage while awake/sleep? Can the USB attached XBOX IR wake the machine from sleep? These kinds of things are key for me when considering a nettop for their HTPC and would be truly ideal if it could function more like an actual dedicated media machine with low or no power leaks.

  • Admiral Michael Oct 12, 2009 

    Thanks for the review, I was planning on buying a HTPC and was looking at this and the Acer Revo. I recently decided on the ASRock due to the optical drive and it would fit better in my setup, this review just sealed the deal.

  • Arkay Oct 13, 2009 

    I also have one of these. It’s perfect unter Ubuntu 9.04. All things work out of the box. Using the MCE remote receiver + Harmony One.
    Standby/Hibernate work perfectly as does wake via remote. This is the perfect XBMC setup (and also runs myth frontend Live/Recorded TV flawlessly)

    You can see some pics for size reference at http://www.xpmediacentre.com.au/community/mythtv-combined-front-backend/39459-ducks-nuts-frontends.html#post272897

    Thanks for the tip re the Blue light ;)



  • Arkay Oct 13, 2009 

    Pics at the top of the page for that last link….



  • Emil Oct 13, 2009 

    I’m suprised you find the system silent. I have an asrock 330 as well and find it quite noisy. It’s the fan that is making the noise so it would be easy to do somethibg about if i was’nt so lasy

  • wally007 Oct 13, 2009 

    so how does it play Flash video , or is that hw accelerated under Linux as well ? My old mac mimi 1.6 ( or is it 1.8 )Ghz strugles with 480p videos on Hulu so unless its accelerated Hulu is no go i assume.

  • Cocolino Oct 13, 2009 

    How silent/noisy is the fan? How is the temperature …

  • Michael Oct 13, 2009 

    I’m also interested to know about noise and temperature. The box looks very attractive but if it’s too noisy it’d be better to buy Zotac MB and build something completely noiseless.

  • patrick Oct 13, 2009 

    @emil, with bios 1.40 6/25/2009 a FAN Control mode is added.

  • Magnus Tjerneld Oct 13, 2009 

    To get the old xbox dvd remote working on my Asrock (with XBMC Live install) I had to do a lot of tweaking with Lirc and the xml-files (lirc.conf, & keymap.conf), did you get all the mappings included in your build?

  • DeFiNL Oct 13, 2009 

    I have been using this machine for two weeks together with a PS3 Mediaboard and it’s running like clockwork.
    The fan is a bit noisy in a silent room, but when you are playing music or a video you can’t notice it…

    Excellent device for the money ~ €250

  • blittan Oct 13, 2009 

    Didn’t know about the LED update to bios, I used 1.50 for my flash. Thanks for the heads up :)

    When activating the fan control in bios, noise dropped significantly. I would say it’s quiter than an xbox. Have no dB meter so can’t say how much noise it does.

    As for temperatures, I will do some testing :)

  • FuzzyKaos Oct 13, 2009 

    I also would like to know if it is capable of Dolby TrueHD and DTS-MA.

    I suspect that the HD Audio that it is referring to is the SP-DIF 2 x channels of uncompressed audio.

  • Lamm Oct 13, 2009 

    I use the 1.50 bios with fans in auto mode. i can hear it if i put my ear next to it. Another “feature” is when i return from suspend the first time after booting, the blue led is turned off untill i reboot the box.

  • Emil Oct 13, 2009 

    @patrick, thanks didn’t know this, I will try it out.

    Just to clarify my previous comment came out a little on the wrong side I feel.
    It’s not _noisy_ as such it is just that I don’t find it’s non-noisiness (!) remarkable.
    It’s well below annoying. In all other aspects I’m very satisfied!
    When using VSDPAU xbmc has handled everything i’ve managed to throw at it (1080p).
    Flash sucks though -even standard (i.e. not hq/hd) youtubing is a pain (ubuntu 9.04)

  • beryl Oct 13, 2009 

    yap, browsing flash sites is a pain, but this is a linux-flash problem
    I tried browsing under windoze, its much faster

  • blittan Oct 13, 2009 

    As for temperatures, i read out the cpu and it’s between 20-25 degrees celcius under load of a 1080p movie. The GPU isn’t supported currently (afaik) to be read by lm-sensors.

  • reza Oct 13, 2009 

    I bought mine a week ago and i been playing around with it for a while so i thought i give you my experience with the Asrock 330.

    I have tested WinXP and Win7 (64bit). Since i dont want to drag a cable through the house i needed WLAN so i bought a netgear WN111.
    My initial idea was to use WinXP since i thought it would run smother but the WLAN refused to work properly. The connection went up and down constantly. I even tested with my other WLAN dongle (Belkin N1) with the same result. I dont know why winXP does this to be honest but after 2 days of testing different drivers i gave up.

    Finally i installed win7-x64. I then used my Belkin N1 USB dongle and it worked perfectly.
    At this point after installing all the drivers from Asrock which i have to say is impressive (not many companies have such good support for Win7-x64 but Asrock surprised me there), i installed the latest K-Lite package and XBMC.

    It played all my xvid-divx videos just fine. Had some trouble with 720p in XBMC (at times playback felt like it was lagging , sound was a bit behind, also picture lagged a bit sometimes but catched up shortly after).
    i tested the same movie (Public.Enemies.720p.BluRay.x264) with Media player classic and it worked just fine.
    Actually i just found out in this article that “HD video playback in Windows is currently not hardware accelerated in XBMC”, so maybe that is why i had the problems.

    Only for me at this time is that WLAN will not work properly if i go to sleep. I have to disable/enable the wlan dongle. I have this problem with all dongles i tested so i am assuming this is something i have to live with. Although i might get me D-Link DAP-1522 instead of using the USB dongle. This baby cost a bit so maybe next month i get one of these. If you guys have a tips in this area please let me know.

    So as for the remote after searching the market i found a good looking keyboard/mouse–>Logitech diNovo Mini. After some research it seemed like this nice device does not work very well under Win7 so i will wait a bit longer until Logitech update their drivers.
    Finally i found out that my iPhone could work as a remote: http://remote.collect3.com.au/setup/
    It actually works quite nicely so i can recommend this nice app if you got a iPhone/iPod touch.

    As for the noise i think its definitely more quite then my XBOX. I can hear the fan if i put my ear close to the box it is quite enough for me not noticing it when i watch a movie.

    finally i would say i am very happy with this good looking litte pc. Only thing i would have wished is a build in wlan+BT chip but as usual you cant have it all :D

  • Jezz_X Oct 14, 2009 

    Running xbmc on windows on these sort of ION platforms really isn’t the best idea the Linux version will work so much better on them and will be able to play back full 1080p with vdpau

  • beryl Oct 14, 2009 

    hmm, you can read out the GPU temperatur by using the NVIDIA Control Center (or however its called)

  • blittan Oct 14, 2009 

    @reza: The Atom simply doesn’t have enough power to decode the 720p nor 1080i/p. If you use an external player (see forums for help on setting it up) it will play any HD content flawless.

    @beryl: I have it currently installed as a dedicated XBMC machine, meaning XBMC is my only window manager. If I buy it (sadly have to send it back, if I don’t buy it) I will partition the harddrive and install windows aswell.

  • fish Oct 14, 2009 

    I love my box! Asrock 330 Ion + Linux + Hauppauge 00226 = flawless HD playback and a fully working remote! <3

  • beryl Oct 14, 2009 

    I think you can read it out on console. Alternatively you could simply X-Export it to another machine.
    I mean this program: http://www.savelono.com/wp-content/uploads/nvidia-settings-clock-frequencies.png

  • sylvio Oct 14, 2009 

    I am also thinking of buying an ION-based HTPC, but there is one question nobody seems to think of.

    What if vdpau does NOT work ?

    There are so many encoding setting that the hardware acceleration cannot work for every 720p/1080p movie. It would be awful if I had some movies that are not hw-accelerated (maybe I have, dont know) and therefor I cant watch. The ION is too weak to play such movies. :(

  • reza Oct 14, 2009 

    Hi again,

    To be honest it played my 720p movie just fine using Media player classic (k-lite codes).
    Also i thought the decoding part was using the GPU (nvidia 9400) or maybe i’m wrong?
    Actually the cpu load is about 40% when i play the movie so its not that bad really.

    Still i would need to learn so much more in this field so thanks for the tips on external player :)
    Not sure what you mean by that though, are you refering to players like tvixbox ? Could you perhaps share a link to a thread?

    Also considering the linux setup but honestly i’m really bad with linux and not sure how well all the codec, xmbc updates will work on linux.

  • NinJustin Oct 14, 2009 

    Have you tried a newer Directx version of XBMC while using windows or was it the stable Opengl version? My system was jerky with 720p content until I upgraded it to a newer nightly build now everything is smoother. I don’t want to have a live cd or a dualboot system for my htpc so the addition or Directx is what has kept me excited for the future of xbmc.

  • Daniel french Oct 14, 2009 

    hello! I have my asrock for 1 month, c’est le top!
    At first I was a little above compare to my xbox then I learn about linux and now it gives me a max performance
    my setup: dual boot with win7 and TMT3 + SimHD / myXbmc passion
    plasma hd ready with 1810x1006i resolution under win7 and 1080p50 in MyXbmc set with Nvidia X
    asrock inaudible to me Oo believe that it is not all the same.
    I love it now! yes I was not playing I have with my 360 for!

  • iONrox Oct 14, 2009 

    40% CPU load is mutch compared to when running it in xbmc live with VDPAU on,
    when playing a demanding 1080p x264 video i get around 0-20% CPU load, and only one or two cores goes over 20%..
    On lower bitrate 720p videos they all usually stay in the 1% range..

    After a month or so I must say I love this little box of joy!
    I recomend all my friends who is looking into getting a HTPC to take this or atleast an iON based one with xbmc +VDPAU

  • >>X Oct 14, 2009 

    reza :
    Hi again,
    To be honest it played my 720p movie just fine using Media player classic (k-lite codes).
    Also i thought the decoding part was using the GPU (nvidia 9400) or maybe i’m wrong?
    Actually the cpu load is about 40% when i play the movie so its not that bad really.
    Still i would need to learn so much more in this field so thanks for the tips on external player :)
    Not sure what you mean by that though, are you refering to players like tvixbox ? Could you perhaps share a link to a thread?
    Also considering the linux setup but honestly i’m really bad with linux and not sure how well all the codec, xmbc updates will work on linux.

    Best advice I can give is stay away from codec packs they are totally unnecessary and pointless especially if you don’t know how to configure them to actually get used

    XBMC can launch an external player all the info how is in the wiki, I use it with zoom player and CoreAVC although you could use MPC-HC or its standalone filter both will get you hardware acceleration

    But unless you have certain requirements then I can only echo what others have said use Live or Linux XBMC with VDPAU

  • reza Oct 15, 2009 

    Thanks for the tips guys, i think i might give the linux + VDPAU a go during the weekend. It seems to be a popular choice.
    I’m noob at linux but it seems there are lots of guides so it should be enough to get it started i hope.

    the reason i like win is the fact that i remote desktop to it for downloading movies and such but maybe vnc works just as good under linux :)

    @ NinJustin : i searched for 10 min now and the best guide i find about your tips is this one:
    is this what you had in minds? Cant find the XBMC.bat file the guide mentions though
    I can download the latest xbox build from [REMOVED] but that is not gonna work out of the box and it seems it takes allot of
    workaround to make it work. Maybe in the future the genius people at xbmc could do this whole thing as standard for windows :D (cross my finger).

  • reza Oct 15, 2009 

    Found a better link to dx&gl version now for others who want to test:

    i’m at work now but will test this later on myself (before i test linux)

  • NinJustin Oct 15, 2009 

    [REMOVED by TheUni] Links to sites containing binary Xbox builds are not allowed.

    This is the site I get my builds off of you can do a clean install or just get the directory overwrite what you need. I just upgraded to r23718 and it seems to be working fine except for some of the Music visualizations and the newest version of the svn installer. So this ones good just don’t update the updater essentially. I have an Athlon 3200+ and now all my content is smooth on windows. An Atom 330 should be more powerful than it in some aspect just want to know how it transfers over.

  • seeker83 Oct 15, 2009 

    sounds like a winner! :D

    Working HD audio is a plus ofc, but I doubt I’ll hear any difference tbh ;) Still though has anyone tried Dolby True HD or DTS-MA over HDMI yet with this system?

  • blittan Oct 16, 2009 

    for remoting to linux I can recommend the FreeNX (www.nomachine.org) it’s a killer app :)

  • DEagleson Oct 17, 2009 

    Bought a ASRock Ion 330 some months a go and im impressed on how smooth XBMC really is on this box.
    Runnning on BIOS v1.60 and the Atom 330 OC’ed to 2,00 GHz to counter flash content. :p
    Upgraded the internal HDD to 500gb and the memory to 4096mb, but it wont use more than 3072mb even when using x64 OS.
    So with OS using 3072 and the Nvidia Ion gpu (9400m) using 512mb i wasted 512mb ram, but other than that its not a big problem.
    (DDR2 ram is cheap.)

    If your looking for a cheap ion box with good support, this is the box for you. :)

  • Crazy Ortík Oct 17, 2009 

    Please, can anybody test if (and how smoothly) FretsOnFire or FoFix works on linux on ASRock ION 330 and let us know.

  • Ari Oct 17, 2009 

    I’m also looking for this answer. I know that running a gnome-desktop and using firefox on the ION is a no-go as regards flash-based websites, but I’ve been wondering for a while if XBMC’s youtube plugin works smoothly (as well as other TV streaming that I regularly get with Navi-X plugin, e.g. NBC news and so on).

    Can anyone with an ION / Atom 330 & Linux & XBMC shed some light on this?

  • Dez Oct 17, 2009 

    gnome-desktop and using firefox is a no-go as regards flash-based websites — rubbish its fine mate. I had 32 bit ubuntu 9.04 and 64bit

    flash websites run well on my asrock.

  • DEagleson Oct 18, 2009 

    If the ASRock Ion 330 stutters with HD Flash just overclock it to 2,1 GHz.
    I can play 720p H.264 fine with the processor alone.

  • Manuel Oct 21, 2009 

    Ok…..i love this one but i wanna ask You some things….
    Can i power ON and OFF the ASROCK like a normal Television with a remote or make this means that the system go in hybernate/suspend mode?

    Which is the difference from [url=http://www.playonhd.com/it/#info]this[/url] ? It seems to recognize MORE file types at same res….

    Thanks in advice 4 any reply…. ;-)

  • Scott R Oct 24, 2009 

    I bought the $200 Acer AspireRevo and I love it. But I struggled with XBMC Live and XBMC for Linux for a week and: a) Couldn’t get 5.1 audio over HDMI working, and b) Couldn’t get perfectly smooth video. The Revo only comes with 1GB of RAM and others suggested adding another 1GB to possibly solve the video smoothness, but then I tried XBMC for Windows launching MPC-HC as an external player. It plays my 1080p uncompressed Blu-ray rips perfectly smoothly. As someone else reported, I’m seeing about 40% CPU usage doing that, so perhaps the Linux/Live version is better in that regard, and perhaps I will add another 1GB of RAM and try that again, but the lack of 5.1 support is a deal-killer for the Live/Linux versions. I’m sure the XBMC developers will get that sorted out. But hopefully they’ll also add GPU support to the Windows side.

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