Basic commands to control pulseaudio status and volume

Here are some basic commands for pulseaudio management. How to start, stop and restart pulseaudio server without logout. How to control volume level via both amixer and pactl utilities. It is preferable to control the sound of course via pulseaudio itself (pactl), but amixer also easily copes with this task. In any, I didn’t notice the problems.

Start, stop and restart pulseaudio without logout and sudo

This is useful when you are working with settings and configuration of pulseaudio and don’t want to reboot or logout from user session.

Here is the command to stop pulseaudio server, it doesn’t require sudo

systemctl --user stop pulseaudio.socket && systemctl --user stop pulseaudio.service

To start it again, use

systemctl --user start pulseaudio.socket && systemctl --user start pulseaudio.service

You can restart it with just one command

systemctl --user restart pulseaudio.socket && systemctl --user restart pulseaudio.service

Systemctl is a good tool for managing Linux services.

Volume control via amixer

To increase volume level by 5%, use

amixer -D default sset Master 5%+

To decrease volume level by 5%, use

amixer -D default sset Master 5%-

To set volume level directly, use

amixer -D default sset Master 40%

There is a pseudogui representation of amixer called alsamixer.


You can control the volume using the keyboard keys. Press the up arrow to increase the volume by 1%. And press the down arrow to decrease the volume by 1%.

Alsamixer - pseudogui representation of amixer
Alsamixer. You can see all available shortcuts by pressing F1.

Volume control via pactl (pulseaudio itself)

To increase volume by 5%

pactl set-sink-volume @[email protected] +5%

To decrease by 5%

pactl set-sink-volume @[email protected] -5%

To set volume level directly

pactl set-sink-volume @[email protected] 40%

Your can mute/unmute default sink by the following command

pactl set-sink-mute @[email protected] toggle

Pulseaudio allows other types of values, such as integer, decibel, linear factor. Each type has its own format. So for the percentage format you just use % character.

Unlike amixer, pactl allows you to set volume level over 100%, so be careful with that, don’t damage your hearing

If some utility doesn’t work with pulseaudio or conflicts with other applications

Pulseaudio is a modern sound server, so, some old applications may not include pulseaudio support by default. You can search for how to use pulseaudio as default sound receiver in such application. For example, old music player mpg123 can enable pulseaudio by using -o pulse option

mpg123 -o pulse some_music.mp3

But it uses alsa by default, so, without -o pulse option it will conflict with other applications that use pulseaudio as default, Firefox for example.

Maybe you will need to compile the application with pulseaudio support, or use some plugins. In any case, this problem sometimes arises and you can try to find how to solve it. Good luck!

Updated: March 31, 2019 — 12:31 pm