Subwoofer Not Working in Linux? Try These Tricks!

Linuxaudio Speakers

You’ve just finished installing Linux on your PC. You boot it up and notice that all your audio sounds like it’s coming out of a phone. You put your hand against your subwoofer and it isn’t working at all – even when you put on a song that would normally have very heavy bass.

Most major Linux distributions use both the Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) and PulseAudio for sound management. While they’re both excellent pieces of software, the default setup can be quite barebones. If you’re using a more complex speaker setup that has more than two channels (for example, a 5.1 surround sound system), you may end up losing subwoofer input due to how PulseAudio mixes input/output by default or various other reasons.

Here is how to fix the subwoofer not working issue in Linux.

First Things First

Before you start messing around with your operating system, check all of your cables to ensure that all of your speakers are plugged in properly. Also, if you have another operating system on your computer where your speakers may have last worked, now’s a good time to test them again.

Linuxaudio Cables

You want to make sure that you’ve eliminated all other causes for the problem so that you’re sure the problem lies in the way your Linux distribution handles audio as it’s currently configured.

Testing The Speakers on Linux

In your Linux distribution, you should be able to find a way to access system settings. If you have no such application in your menu, open your terminal and install “gnome-control-center.”

For Debian-based systems like Ubuntu/Kali/Mint/MX:

sudo apt install gnome-control-center

For Arch distributions like Manjaro/EndeavourOS/Garuda:

sudo pacman -S gnome-control-center

Now that we have this out of the way, it’s time to run the application and go to “Sound.” Check your output and make sure the right audio device is selected. After that, make sure the “Subwoofer” channel has an adequate amount of volume. For me, it’s maxed out.

Linuxaudio Level

Also, make sure your output device configuration matches the types of speakers you’re running. If you’re running a six-channel 5.1 surround system, you should choose “Analog Surround 5.1 Output” under “Configuration.”

Linuxaudio Output

After you have all these ducks in a row, it’s time to click the “Test” button. Click on each speaker and listen to where the sound is coming from. If you don’t hear sound at all from a speaker even when you approach it with your ear, it is all but a certainty that this is a connection issue and that your speakers are not working properly on the hardware level for some reason.

If you’re hearing some sound come from your center speaker while you click on “Subwoofer” and vice-versa, you’ve run into a pretty common problem that some sound systems come across, and this is going to be the first priority.

Center and Subwoofer Mixed Up? This Should Help!

Since the way that sound systems are built isn’t completely standardized, some companies choose to do some fancy wiring that ends up swapping the center and subwoofer channels. This makes your computer attempt to play center audio through the woofer and vice-versa.

In your terminal, type the following command:

sudo gedit /usr/share/pulseaudio/alsa-mixer/profile-sets/default.conf

In the config file, scroll down until you find a bunch of sections that start with “[Mapping …].” You’ll want to look for something that matches the audio profile of your speakers. For example, if you want to configure your 5.1 surround speakers, you have to look for a section headed like this:

[Mapping analog-surround-51]

Configuring a 7.1 system instead? Look for “analog-surround-71.”

The variable we want to change in this little section is “channel-map.” By default. it’s listed like this for a 5.1 surround system:

channel-map = front-left,front-right,rear-left,rear-right,front-center,lfe

In anything below a 7.1 surround system, the subwoofer comes last in the mapping for most operating systems. When your subwoofer and center outputs are switched around by the manufacturer of your speakers, you have to reverse this.

Switch the positions of “front-center” with “lfe,” and you’re set! If you’re following me in configuring a 5.1 surround system, it should look like this:

channel-map = front-left,front-right,rear-left,rear-right,lfe,front-center

If you’re configuring a 7.1 surround system, you should change “channel-map” from this:

channel-map = front-left,front-right,rear-left,rear-right,front-center,lfe,side-left,side-right

To this:

channel-map = front-left,front-right,rear-left,rear-right,lfe,front-center,side-left,side-right

Save and exit the file. After a reboot, your audio should output to the correct channel.

Subwoofer Audio Not Working? Here’s What To Do!

If the above trick doesn’t work, be sure you’ve tested your audio as described previously. See if the subwoofer responds. If you get a response but still can’t hear anything resembling bass coming from your speakers no matter what you play on them, you’ll need to do some more sniffing.

First things first, install “alsa-utils” if you haven’t done so already.

In Debian-based systems:

sudo apt install alsa-utils

In Arch-based systems:

sudo pacman -S alsa-utils

Now just run alsamixer in your terminal. This will display the levels on each channel of your sound device. Press F6 on your keyboard to select the appropriate audio output. For me, it’s the HD-Audio Generic card.

Linuxaudio Alsamixer

Navigate to LFE using the left and right arrow keys and make sure that its level is at 100 or whatever your preference is:

Linuxaudio Lfelevel

If you’re still not hearing any bass from your speakers, then it’s likely you’re attempting to play something that doesn’t have a native subwoofer input channel. Luckily, PulseAudio has a feature that synthesizes a low-pass filtered signal to account for this.

To get this delicious bass on your system, you need to edit the “daemon.conf” configuration file for PulseAudio.

sudo gedit /etc/pulse/daemon.conf

Look for two lines in the configuration file:

; remixing-produce-lfe = no
; remixing-consume-lfe = no

Remove the semicolons from the beginning of each line and change each “no” to “yes.”

Linuxaudio Pulseaudio

Save the file and restart PulseAudio from the terminal:

pulseaudio -k

If your subwoofer still doesn’t work after this, try a reboot. You should be set now!

Taking Things One Step Further

When it comes to audio management, the default option in Linux is a bit barebones. The good thing is, it can be easily configured to fix the subwoofer not working issue in Linux. Meanwhile, check out this amazing guide to using PulseEffects to squeeze everything out of your sweet rig!

Miguel Leiva-Gomez
Miguel Leiva-Gomez

Miguel has been a business growth and technology expert for more than a decade and has written software for even longer. From his little castle in Romania, he presents cold and analytical perspectives to things that affect the tech world.

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