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Simple Python/DBus/ncurses pulseaudio volume control, focused on individual audio streams
branch: master


Interactive ncurses UI to control volume of pulse streams.

Kinda like alsamixer, but focused not on sink volume levels (which can actually be controlled via alsamixer, with alsa-pulse plugin), but rather on volume of individual streams, so you can turn down the music to hear the stuff from game, mumble, skype or flash.

Control over individual process streams seem to be almost unique to pulseaudio, pity there aren't much tools built to harness it (at least weren't, initially). This one tries to fill the gap a bit.

Thanks to the most awesome contributors, the tool is now useable with system-wide pulseaudio instance, can mute streams/sinks, works with vi-style keys as well as cursor and has many other fixes and features.


Just copy the script to wherever is convenient (~/bin or /usr/local/bin comes to mind), do a "chmod +x" on it, run.

Make sure you have load-module module-dbus-protocol line in /etc/pulse/ (or /etc/pulse/, if system-wide daemon is used), especially on Ubuntu, where it seem to be disabled by default (see #1).

There is now also "" script in the repo, which is a rewrite of the original version, and might have some extra features and/or bugs.


As of pulseaudio-6.0, loading module-dbus-protocol issues following warnings:

[pulseaudio] module-dbus-protocol.c: module-dbus-protocol is
  currently unsupported, and can sometimes cause PulseAudio crashes.
[pulseaudio] module-dbus-protocol.c: The most popular use
  cases for module-dbus-protocol are related to changing equalizer
  settings and LADSPA plugin parameters at runtime.
[pulseaudio] module-dbus-protocol.c: If you don't use such
  functionality, it's possible that you don't actually need this module.

I haven't experienced any crashes with newer PA versions first-hand, and killing/restarting PA seem to only cause a brief sound disruption, but if that is indeed a problem, currently there is no way to use this script without the module (though probably not hard to rewrite it to use PA protocol instead, patches welcome!).


  • Python 2.7
  • dbus-python (standard python dbus bindings)
  • PyGObject (aka PyGI, likely installed if dbus-python is)
  • PulseAudio 1.0+


Run the script (either "" or "") with "-h" or "--help" option to see various other options, but there aren't that many - most stuff is configurable via config file (described below).

That's basically how it looks... in an overly narrow terminal (to fit on a github page), and without "inverted row" selection visible:

[++] HDMI 0 (hdmi-stereo@snd_hda_intel)                - [ ########################## ]
[81] ID 440 Analog (analog-stereo@snd_hda_intel)       - [ #####################----- ]
[35] mpv - Bax - Perceptions 206 on Jan-22-2015 - [ #########----------------- ]
[38] VLC media player (fraggod@malediction:24321)      - [ ##########---------------- ]
[54] Skype (fraggod@malediction:24202)                 - [ ##############------------ ]
[27] ALSA plug-in [PillarsOfEternity]                  - [ #######------------------- ]

Sink levels always displayed on top, "M" or "-" to the left of the bar is a mute indicator.

Controls are arrow keys (incl. numpad) or their vi/emacs-style counterparts to pick row and adjust bars left and right, "m" or "space" to toggle mute, "q" to quit and "1"-"0" number row keys to set specific level (1=0%, 0=100%, only in pa-mixer-mk2).

Script can read simple ini-like config from "~/.pulseauido-mixer-cli.cfg". See RawConfigParser docs for more details on format of that file.

For example:

adjust-step: 2
max-level: 131072
use-media-name: true
focus-default: last
focus-new-items: false

Such config is totally optional, and might be useful in case default options aren't suitable for a specific setup. See "pa-mixer-mk2.example.cfg" for the full list of these. Commandline values (where available) override the ones defined in the config file.

There is a shiny rewritten "" script version, which is probably way less tested, but have some extra features, which I can't be bothered to add/test for an old one, so maybe take a look at that one as well.


Since I wasn't able to easily couple ncurses eventloop with glib/dbus one (which should poll for async signals), I settled on splitting glib loop into it's own process. Both loops communicate via pipes, opened before fork(), waking each other up from the respective loop (to process data being sent via pipes) when necessary with POSIX signals.

Pulseaudio dbus interface was introduced in 1.0-dev branch (which is actually fairly old), but was merged mid-2011 into mainline versions. More documentation on it can be found via introspection or on PA wiki.

Since interface processes signals about new/removed streams and sinks, and not just polls the data on some intervals, it should be fairly responsive to these changes. There are signals for volume updates, but they aren't processed just for the sake of simplicity. Volume levels are polled on occasional changes anyway, so they should be updated on the ui update events.

DBus reconnection (sometimes via re-exec, because python-dbus seem to cache more stuff than it probably should) is built-in, so there should be no problem with transient pulseaudio processes, although the fact that the client is connected via dbus interface might keep them alive indefinitely.

Starting the mixer should also trigger pulseaudio start, if proper dbus autolaunch service descriptions are installed in the system.

Script should also work with system-wide pulseaudio daemon (usage of which is highly discouraged by developers, btw) - in that case neither dbus system nor session bus is accessed, since ServerLookup interface doesn't seem to be available on either one (at least in 2.1), and pa-private bus is accessed via well-known socket location at /run/pulse/dbus-socket (see also #4).

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