Perkify - Setup Audio

Written by Rich Morin.

Contents: (hide) (show)

Path:  AreasContentHowTos

Precis:  overview of audio support on Perkify

See Also:  Perkify - Audio

Perkify’s approach to adding audio support is somewhat different than it might be on a typical Linux installation. For background information, see Perkify - Audio. This page discusses setup details and suggests some sample commands for you to try out.

Note: Perkify’s sound support is quite experimental at the moment. Bug reports (and fixes!) would be greatly appreciated.


The Perkify build procedure starts with an Ubuntu “base box” from the Vagrant Cloud. It then adds a large number of packages, provisioning and configuring a few of them. To support the audio-related packages, it:

Whenever the box is brought up (via vagrant up), a bit more provisioning code in the Vagrantfile sets up the audio mixer.

Audio Files

The /usr/share/sounds directory contains various sets of sound files which can be used to play with the sound infrastructure. The sound-icons sub-directory, in particular, contains lots of short audio samples, in WAV format. We also included a few audio files in ~/_base/data.


Unless otherwise noted, all of the commands discussed below can be run from the Perkify command line. For brevity, I have trimmed the prompt to a dollar sign ($). (If you want to kill a long-running command, try hitting Control-C.)

aplay, arecord

The aplay and arecord commands are primarily intended to play and record audio files. However, they can also be used to provide information about the state of ALSA’s sound infrastructure:

$ aplay -L
    Discard all samples (playback) or generate zero samples (capture)
    JACK Audio Connection Kit
    PulseAudio Sound Server
    Playback/recording through the PulseAudio sound server

ffmpeg, ffmplay

ffmpeg is a very fast video and audio converter that can also grab from a live audio/video source. ffplay is a very simple and portable media player that uses the FFmpeg libraries and the SDL library. It is mostly used as a testbed for the various FFmpeg APIs.


The JACK Audio Connection Kit (JACK) provides basic infrastructure for audio applications. jackd is the JACK audio server daemon, a low-latency audio server.


mpg123 is a real time MPEG 1.0/2.0/2.5 audio player/decoder for layers 1, 2 and 3 (MPEG 1.0 layer 3 is also known as MP3).


The play command is part of SoX (Sound eXchange, the Swiss Army knife of audio manipulation). It will play any file format supported by sox, using the default audio device.

Most of Perkify’s sound samples are located in /usr/share/sounds; try going there and playing some of them:

$ cd /usr/share/sounds
$ play -q Oxygen-Sys-Trash-Emptied.ogg

Note: The -q flag turns off several lines of detailed reporting. Try leaving it off, if you’re curious…

The play command has a large number of options. For example, if you simply ask it to play this recording of Renaissance Portuguese Polyphony, it will take a few seconds to get past the silent beginning:

$ play -q ~/_base/data/Non_Mortui.mp3

However, by adding some mysterious options, you can skip that part:

$ play -q ~/_base/data/Non_Mortui.mp3 silence -l 1 5 2%


PulseAudio is a networked, low-latency sound server for Linux, POSIX, and Windows systems. The pulseaudio command is used to administer the server.

For example, the following pair of commands will tell us the status of the PulseAudio daemon for the vagrant user. The echo will print 0 if the daemon is running, else 1:

$ pulseaudio --check
$ echo $?


The alsa-utils package contains utilities which support use of ALSA. The speaker-test command, for example, is a good way to confirm that audio output is working. The command has quite a few options, but its default behavior is to generate pink noise:

$ speaker-test -s1
speaker-test 1.1.9
Playback device is default
Stream parameters are 48000Hz, S16_LE, 1 channels
Using 16 octaves of pink noise

To be continued…