AC3 audio with pulseaudio in Ubuntu Lucid

Update 2010-10-14 – This problem has been resolved since pulseaudio 1:0.9.22~0.9.21+stable-queue-32-g8478-0ubuntu14. You can now play AC3 audio with the Lucid packages.

Since upgrading my media PC to Ubuntu 10.04 “Lucid Lynx”, pulseaudio can’t play files with AC3 audio. Unfortunately this includes all of my ripped DVDs, which were encoded with AC3 pass-through audio. If I play such a file in Miro, the video hangs after a few seconds. If I play it in Totem, the same happens but a pop-up is also displayed: “pa_stream_writable_size() failed: Connection terminated”.

I fixed it by downgrading Pulseaudio to the karmic version. Here is how.

First, add the karmic repositories to your sources list. Create a file, /etc/apt/sources.list.d/ubuntu-karmic.list, containing:

deb karmic main restricted universe multiverse
deb karmic-updates main restricted universe multiverse
deb karmic-backports main restricted universe multiverse
deb karmic-security main restricted universe multiverse

Now downgrade pulseaudio to the specific version in karmic:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install pulseaudio=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1 libpulse0=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1 pulseaudio-module-x11=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1 pulseaudio-esound-compat=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1 pulseaudio-module-bluetooth=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1 pulseaudio-module-gconf=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1 libpulse-mainloop-glib0=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1 libpulse-browse0=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1 pulseaudio-utils=1:0.9.19-0ubuntu4.1

You may remove ubuntu-karmic.list after this, or disable it by renaming it to something not ending in “.list”.

Finally, tell dpkg not to upgrade again:

sudo dpkg --set-selections

Paste the following, followed by “Enter” and “Control-D”:

libpulse-browse0 hold
libpulse-mainloop-glib0 hold
libpulse0 hold
pulseaudio hold
pulseaudio-esound-compat hold
pulseaudio-module-bluetooth hold
pulseaudio-module-gconf hold
pulseaudio-module-udev hold
pulseaudio-module-x11 hold
pulseaudio-utils hold

I haven’t get discovered if the Gnome package updater in lucid will honour the holds. Synaptic and apt-get will, but when I last tested (with jaunty), the Gnome updater blindly upgrades without regards to dpkg preferences. Lets hope some sanity has set in since then.

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  1. TT Mooney’s avatar

    Pass through digital audio didn’t work by default in Karmic — the sound effects in the OS would block Pulseaudio. It was a simple fix — turn off the sound effects. Sometimes XBMC blocks it as well and requires a restart of the application.


    1. tyler’s avatar

      That’s a different but also annoying problem. In my case I’m doing software AC3 decoding, not passing through via HDMI or S/PDIF.



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