Xubuntu 11.10 & USB Headset Workaround

So you got yourself Xubuntu 11.10 installed and now want to Skype with your USB headset. Great, so you plug in your headset into the USB port, start Skype call a friend (or the test call bot) and BAM – audio out from the speakers and no mic recording in sight! You scratch your head… You dig around the ALSA mixer but nothing, no matter how many “Controls” you select it just wouldn’t happen and this is why ladies and gents Linux is still a basement level 10 paladin player toy OS to brag about on forums.

Anyway, rant over, now for my work/fix/what-ever I did and found to put it together to get it working which hopefully will help you out as well:

1. Download pavucontrol through terminal:

 sudo apt-get install pavucontrol

2. Start PulseAudio Volume Control from terminal:


3. Configuring your devices:

As you can see from the above image you may or may not have as many devices as me. Starting from the top down I have:

1. Graphics card HDMI audio going to the monitor – I don’t use it, so disabled

2. Internal, onboard sound card – I use with my optical audio cable, so enabled

3. USB headset, took a bit of trial and eror to find it – I use it only with Skype, so enabled

4. PCI dedicated soundcard – I don’t use it any more, so disabled

In my example (and is a bad example), there are a lot of devices which made it a bit trickier to configure and to initially get my head around. But I hear you asking yourself… “How do I know what’s what in the first place??!!” – Well no worries, we’re coming to that now. What I did was simply go to the Output Devices Tab find which device was outputing audio through the speakers, mute it and go through the other devices, systematically clicking the green tick!!

Output devices tab

That’s the trick! For some reason I don’t know if it’s the ALSA mixer or PulseAudio that if one output/input device is muted, then it will “fall-back” onto another, so the “trick” is to find out which one of the devices you have there is your headset and then, once you know what device your headset is you can select it when you’re on Skype like so:

In the above image when on Skype you can select where the output is going to go, either to your speakers (motherboard soundcard) or USB headphones. This way you can still watch youtube/play a game on with audio through the main speakers but be on Skype through the headphones!

What I did afterwards is got rid of the ALSA mixer from the panel as it was useless and added the PulseAudio Volume Control by simply adding a new item:

1. Right-click on the top panel and Add New Items

2. Select Launcher from the Add New Items window and click Add

3. Now a new icon has appeared on the top panel in the right-hand side. Right-click on it and select Properties:

4. In the new Launcher window click the Add button:

5. In the Add New Item window for the Launcher window for the new New Items panel shortcut (I know!! how many steps do you have to go through!!!)  search for Pulse:

Finally click Add then Close and whatever else is open and the PulseAudio Volume Control icon should appear in the panel! You’ve done it!!!

Anyway, I hope it made sense and that it has helped someone out there.


One Comment to “Xubuntu 11.10 & USB Headset Workaround”

  1. Hector

    Great it worked for me! Thank You! I have Logitechs USB speakers. I turned off the internal analog audio and voip audio using Pavucontrol and it worked! 😀


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