Lopsided Sound In Linux: Fix Sound Balance Issues (Linux Mint 17.X)

Linux Mint sound app showing the test sound window open.

So you been using Linux and changed hardware or have decided to make the jump and try out Linux on hardware directly.  Everything is working great, but sound is only coming from one speaker. What gives? Don’t worry, there is an easy fix for that.

This issue is caused by a bug in the sound software Alsa which is part of the Linux kernel.  There are some specific set ups that cause the sound levels to be improperly set depending on your sound card. I discovered it by running an old Sound Blaster Audigy SE card in my machine.  Ok, so how to fix it?  Easy:


Open up a terminal and run the following command:


This will open up the terminal mixer application where you can set the levels for each output on the card.  These options may be available in some GUI apps, however I am not aware of any myself and this is generally a one time set up so I have only used the terminal method.

In the terminal app, you can see it is a basic keyboard GUI app.

Image of AlsaMixer when first opened showing sound levels of the default selected sound card.
AlsaMixer console app when it’s first opened.

Now use F6 to find your sound card that you are using. This should open a window listing all available sound devices. Use the arrow keys to select your card.

AlsaMixer application showing the sound card selection menu.
F6 will bring up a selection menu to pick your sound card.

Don’t see your device? It may be named differently than expected. So if you don’t see it you can open another terminal and type the following command:


This command will list your PCI hardware information (ls like the list command, PCI for PCI devices is how to remember it) and somewhere in the list will show you the name or part of the name that is used in AlsaMixer. Below you can see that my sound card name contains the CA0106 that is shown in the drop down list in the mixer.

Screenshot showing lspci command and highlighted soundcard line in the output.
The line from lspci that shows my sound card with the problem is highlighted above. Command show below(run to see the output above)

If you still don’t see your sound card or it’s name, unfortunately that means there is a bigger problem than what this article will cover.

Ok, now back to AlsaMixer and having selected your sound card you will see something like whats shown below. Where only half of the colored bars are shown at volume.

AlsaMixer application showing right levels set to 0.
AlsaMixer showing right levels set to 0.

Now you will want to use the arrow keys to select the affected levels and you can then set them using the arrow keys or by pressing any number key. If you use the arrow keys you will need to drop the bars all the way to 0 or 100 and then back down to get them equal and using the number keys will set both to the same level immediately. So to do this the fastest just press the right arrow key and then something like 6 to put the level at 60%. Why 60? I picked that mainly because 63 was set as the default level for my left speaker in Alsa. Once done you can then press ESC to quit.

That’s it! You should now be able to go into your sound manager app and test that it is now indeed working.

Linux Mint sound app showing the test sound window open.
Open up your sound managing app and use the Test Sound option if available to ensure that you can now get sound out of both speakers.

This issue is really an easy thing to fix, but one that isn’t exactly straight forward for those who aren’t in the know. So hopefully you found this helpful. At least you may have learned some new Linux commands 😉 . If this article helped you, I would love to hear about it in the comments below! If you have any questions, feel free to drop them below as well.



2 thoughts on “Lopsided Sound In Linux: Fix Sound Balance Issues (Linux Mint 17.X)”

  1. Hi! it didn’t work for me. Is there anything I could try? Yesterday it was working just fine, and now i’m only listening to the right side of songs and movies and it’s freaking me out. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Nelo_MF, sounds like an update may have caused an issue if the sound has suddenly disappeared. Or perhaps the update applied a default config without your knowledge.

      Searching for similar issues I found one that may be of use. https://bugs.launchpad.net/ubuntu/+source/alsa-driver/+bug/1075405

      In this bug from 2012 it mentions the Audio manager allowing you to select a version of surround sound that may not be what you are using. Such as having a 2.1 set up but using 4 or 7.1. Honestly with my SoundBlaster it defaults to 7.1 in Windows and I have to manually change it to ensure proper sound. So if you levels are correct, dig around your settings to ensure your audio manager didn’t change things without your knowledge. Let me know if this helps or if it still leaves you stumped!

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