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ALSA Mixers

The basic concept of a mixer is explained in the glossary entry Mixer.

I created this page, because I heard that some mixer apps for ALSA (especially graphical ones like alsamixergui) don't treat the mixer devices right. alsamixergui for example doesn't allow setting the capture flag on the "Capture" slider. This basically makes recording on cs46xx-based soundcards impossible, since it is necessary to select Line-in, ADC and Capture for capturing from line-in.


So my first tip when it comes to mixers and ALSA is: Use alsamixer. It treats the ctl interface right.

If you know of any other mixer apps with problems like that, please report them here.

Actually I also think that every AlsaDrivers page should have a section on mixer usage, because this varies wildly from one driver to the next. It took me 2 days to find out that I had to enable capture on more than one slider with my soundcard.


gamix is very nice - some controls of my SB Live! soundcard aren't displayed or are displayed badly in alsamixer, such as the whole EMU 10K1 PCM section. gamix displays the controls in a more logical and human-readable form and makes it much easier to change levels.

Where can you get gamix? From:


  • Handling of multiple sound cards: displays each card in a separate horizontal subwindow, vertical subwindow, or separate tabs (menu selectable)
  • Handling of emulated OSS driver: ignores (I.E. does not show up as a separate mixer panel).
  • Handling of OSS driver: ALSA only?
  • stereo input and output: dual sliders. Use confusingly labeled sync button to select whether they are ganged or not. When not ganged, there is some confusing interaction between them (possibly the result of being implemented in hardware as gain/balance rather than independent controls.
  • Mute button visability: very poor: light grey vs dark gray on a small button plus there is a confusing little dot that appears in the last selected one as if it was a radio button (which appears to serve no purpose) that further hides the mute status.


And there's another very good mixer application for X and GNOME - the gnome-alsamixer. I like it much more than other mixers just because its logical separation of different kinds of controls - there are sliders for volume levels and checkboxes for switchable elements are on different panel.

gnome-alsamixer is available at


  • Handling of multiple sound cards: separate tabs
  • Handling of emulated OSS driver: ignores (I.E. does not show up as a separate mixer panel).
  • Handling of OSS driver: ALSA only?
  • Separate sliders for mic input gain and monitor on USB headset: no
  • stereo input and output: gain and balance sliders
  • organization of large numbers of sliders: horizontal scroll
  • Mute button visability: good (check marks)
  • Capture source selection: Pulldown menu under capture slider, can be separately selected for right and left channels, if desired
  • Dock into panel: no


Good mixer for KDE is kalsamix. It is only for ALSA and alsa support is good, it supports events. kalsamix is available at

Don't miss out on kalsamix even if you use Gnome. For me kalsamix features of being able freely group & choose which sliders should show as well as allowing renaming of the channels to whatever I want is invaluable. It's helps me keep sane with 2 soundcards with multiple in&outputs on each, connected to different external hardware. Amazing how there seems to be no native Gnomemixer capable of this.



  • Handling of multiple sound cards: Yes, pulldown menu selection
  • Emulated OSS driver handling: ignore
  • stereo inputs and outputs: no separate control, there is one balance slider for the master volume only.
  • Oranization of large numbers of sliders: tabs
  • Handling of ALSA: yes
  • Capture source selection: radio buttons under appropriate monitor volume sliders
  • Dock into panel: yes

Gnome volume Control


  • OSS Support: not directly, but through esd
  • ALSA support: not directly, but through esd
  • ESD support only (won't start if esd is suspended)
  • handling of emulated OSS device: shows up alongside ALSA devices in File->Change device
  • handling of multiple sound cards: yes: menu selection
  • Only has a small subset of the actual controls by default, you have to edit preferences to add missing controls.
  • stereo inputs and outputs: no separate control, until you add all controls in preferences and it still isn't clear how this happened as there were no obvious balance controls added.
  • separate control of record and monitor volume on USB headset: yes
  • Capture source selection: in separate switches tab.
  • Dock into panel: no

Note that I had severe problems with insufficient mic gain, even with the 20db boost selected, on a Gigabyte GA-K8N Pro SLI motherboard, with both KMix, gnome volume control, and even alsa-mixer until I tried gamix/GNOME Alsa mixer. Then all of a sudden it started working even though it doesn't appear to have been due to additional controls. Apparently before I was only getting between channel crosstalk.

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Category: Software