Why I Dislike PulseAudio

Pulse audio is un-friendly toward all Unix-like platforms (including and especially Linux). I have had every problem in the book with Pulse audio on Linux. I haven’t the disrespect to defile my NetBSD system with it(perish the thought!). I personally consider it hostile software and counterproductive to even engage with it. It’s not limited to taking up 90+ % of the CPU. It also:

  • Has buffering issues which cause sound to stutter, jitter, and basically sound like crap. Today. Now. On at least two Linux systems I’m forced to use (forced if I want to play these modest games under Linux). One is Ubuntu and the other is Fedora and they are patched to the hilt. It often takes more CPU than the games I play under Linux do!
  • Doesn’t actually support some of the sampling rates it advertises to clients. Ie.. insufficient checking on it’s operational parameters. Then it won’t re-sample, or if it does, does so in non-realtime (ie.. poorly).
  • Almost never works with the hardware mixer on the systems I use. Ie.. changing volume either creates noise, doesn’t work, or mutes the whole channel and makes it UN-adjustable.
  • Skips and jitters in bully-victim scenarios with other system daemons as they try to do (often very little) tasks on the system.
  • Mis-identifies mixer controls (ie.. headphone port is wrong or missing, line out is mismatched etc..)
  • Bugs out or overreacts to sound events like removing a headphone from the headphone jack.
  • SIGSEGV then takes some client apps with it (Chrome, Skype, etc..).
  • Often skips or jitters the audio while adjusting volume.
  • Breaks or jitters input streams when adjusting line-in or mic volume.
  • Often has a freak out when one client plays at one rate then another client uses a faster rate. The first (slower) client then goes at the higher rate and you get Alvin and the Chipmunks.
  • Tends to “ruin” other configurations. Ie.. it creates dependencies in Ubuntu that (especially recently) make it impossible to uninstall and replace with alternatives without custom compiling packages (firefox depends on it). Another example, you can’t get esound anymore since they force a (inferior and fake) replacement pulseaudio-esound compatibility crapware (that’s shares all of Pulseaudio’s issues plus adds a few of it’s own). You’ll have big problems just going back to ALSA or OSS. Especially with their version of mplayer (where they’ve married it to pulseaudio too closely). I love mplayer. How dare they sully it with this.

Pulseaudio is way too over-complicated. It’s some dream of Lennarts while he was at a rave or something. Maybe he fancies himself some kind of sound engineer. *YAWN* *SHRUG*. Here’s me … wholly unimpressed despite the clubware he sports at conferences. News flash, Lenny, while you are a brogrammer you aren’t a member of The Crystal Method, “G”. Hmmkay?

Every single other solution in the same or similar space is MUCH better. I’m thinking Jack, Arts, Esound, etc.. They may not have all the features, but they WORK, generally. I’ve had Pulseaudio on at least 7 machines. It worked acceptably on ONE. Hand waving about “it’s better now” was old 3 years ago. It’s not better, just more bloated.  I have (way) more complaints and buggy, anger inducing experiences with Pulseaudio, but I guess I’ll end here. I consider it one of the biggest PoS parts of Linux overall. It’s like the Kyoto Climate accords. It sucks the air out of the room and provides a very sub-par “solution” (that isn’t) that occupies the space where something much better should be. I doubt anyone is still reading this, so I’ll leave my further issues as an exercise for those who still choose to drink the Lennartix^H^H^H Uhh, I mean Linux kool-aid. I’m an enemy of Lennart’s way of doing things and I’m not the least bit ashamed to say so (long and loud) as I listen to flawless playback via Esound (esd).

PS: Stop writing comments saying it’s all fixed and magic now. It’s not. If you think I’m wrong. Wonderful, write your own blog entry about what an idiot I am.

~ by aliver on February 17, 2016.

4 Responses to “Why I Dislike PulseAudio”

  1. I agree with you, it should never have been included as a requirement for those programs and further never ever set as a main sound system on all those distros. It is has much more problems than functions than the normal user needs. Biggest issue is with disabled or muted sound which average user will never be able to figure out how to fix on his own. Like Linux did not have any sound before Pulseaudio came along. Most users have however experienced no sound at all after it’s appearance. Bloated piece of crap.

  2. I do agree. I write a DJ app in Java under Linux. I spent a not-so-glorious two weeks trying to figure out why the audio skipped in my app. After all I carefully choose the alsa drivers. Well. It turned out pulseaudio had inserted itself as a cancer in the alsa pipeline as well. So, I turned its ‘autospawn’ feature off (yes apparently pulseaudio can have little zerglings. A true pest in other words). Anyway… killed pulseaudio, turned the autospawn off and behold: the audio pipeline worked perfectly again. All my problems _gone_. Two weeks of useful time: _gone_. All because those pulseaudio idiots can’t program.

  3. Sound lost frequently with Pulseaudio, I have too reboot many times

  4. It took me over 60 hours of troubleshooting and trying different configurations, heeding every single guide and wiki out there until I was finally able to run pulseaudio for _basic_ things like listening to music. After fixing numerous issues, the most persistent one that took most of my time was fixing the frequent weird unexplainable micropauses. It has been the worst experience I’ve had with any software on Linux and possibly any software ever. It is beyond me why some people continue to be contrarians and defend this program.

    Even if it works for the majority, that’s an incredibly bad metric to pick. How would you feel if your operating system worked for 90% of people and then 10% had catastrophic issues that took upwards of a dozen hours to fix in order to get basic functionality?

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