What is the relation between ALSA and PulseAudio sound architecture?

Well, this confuses me for a long time. As far as I know, ALSA is a package of many sound card drivers, and PulseAudio is a audio application that operate the sound data like mixing or equalizer.

But why there is a control bar called PCM in the panel of alsamixer. Does that actually change volume by controlling the chip on the sound card? If not, why it isn’t PulseAudio’a job?

What is the relation between ALSA and PulseAudio sound architecture?

Asked By: Kevin Dong

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PulseAudio basically sits atop ALSA and uses it internally. ALSA is unable to be used by multiple applications by itself. PulseAudio provides this functionality among others.

Summarized:

  • ALSA – dealing with the hardware, basically owning it.
  • PulseAudio – a software proxy providing additional featues (mixing, equalizer) between your application and the ALSA/OSS subsystem.

This diagram is from the Wikipedia page of PulseAudio:

PulseAudio operational flow chart

Answered By: meskobalazs
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