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Sound Card Support for Linux with Laptops and Notebooks

This overview is a side effect of my work with the Linux Mobile Guide from which I partly quote.

The Linux status of the sound cards reported below, is changing and improving. Therefore, if a sound card is reported as "unsupported" you should give it a try. Why is this survey valuable though: To encourage people which want to buy a "working" stated machine (remember: no guarantees) and to collect technical information (what sound chips are used) about different models.

For a list sorted by sound cards see the list of sound cards.

Linux Compatibility Check

There are different ways how to detect, which sound card is used in your laptop:

  • Read the specs carefully.
  • One way to check this, is to compile the different sound drivers into the kernel and check whether they are detected or not. The best way to do so, is to compile them as modules because it's easier to load different parameters such as interrupts and IO ports than. For the new 2.2.x kernels, read the /usr/src/linux/Documentation/sound/Introduction document by Wade Hampton. This document may help you get started with sound.
  • If the sound card is a PCI device lspci might help.
  • If it's a PnP device lspnp might help.
  • You might find your laptop included in the list below. Since I just have started it, it's very small yet.
  • As a last resort you may look on to the inscription of the sound chip itself.

Please report the sound chip you have found out and it's Linux status to me.

Survey Sound Drivers

Many new laptops come with 16-bit sound. But MWave and some other sound technologies won't work or are very hard to get working, e.g. booting to DOS, loading a driver, then using the soundcard as a standard SB-PRO. So you might need a commercial sound driver. With the recent announcement of Linux support by IBM, it would be GREAT if IBM supported the MWave under Linux (hint, hint...). As a last resort you may try the speaker module pcsnd, which tries to emulate a soundcard.

  • Kernel Sound Driver by Hannu Savolainen, read the /usr/src/linux/Documentation/sound/Introduction
  • ALSA Advanced Linux Sound Architecture". The Advanced Linux Sound Architecture aims to: be a fully-modularized sound driver which supports kerneld/kmod, ensure compatibility with most binary OSS/Lite applications, create an ALSA Library (C,C++) which covers the ALSA Kernel API for applications, and create ALSA Manager, an interactive configuration program for the driver.
  • UNIX Sound System Lite / OSS provides commercial sound card drivers for most popular sound cards under Linux. These drivers support digital audio, MIDI, Synthesizers and mixers found on sound cards. These sound drivers comply with the Open Sound System API specification. OSS provides a user-friendly GUI which makes the installation of sound drivers and configuration of sound cards very simple. OSS supports over 200 brand name sound cards. OSS drivers provide automatic sound card detection, Plug-n-Play support, support for PCI audio soundcards.
  • pciaudio is a set of drivers for popular PCI soundcards. The drivers support OSS compatible mixer and PCM (wave) interfaces. It currently supports the Ensoniq ES1370/Ashai Kasei AK4531 and S3 SonicVibes adapters. Are these cards used in laptops?
  • Aureal has announced the first Vortex Linux driver. The driver supports the Vortex 8830, 8810 and 8820 chips. Which are used in Aureal SQ2500, Aureal SQ1500, Diamond MX300 and Turtle Beach Montego cards. Are these cards used in laptops?
  • OpenAL, the Open Audio Library, is a joint effort to create an open, vendor-neutral, cross-platform API for interactive, primarily spatialized audio. OpenAL's primary audience are application developers and desktop users that rely on portable standards like OpenGL, for games and other multimedia applications. OpenAL is already supported by a number of hardware vendors and developers.

PCMCIA Soundcards

Dave Hinds on linux.dev.sound, comp.os.linux.hardware, comp.os.linux.portable: "No PCMCIA sound cards have Linux support. Most new laptops have built-in sound these days, so there has not been much call for PCMCIA sound card support. Also... Linux doesn't implement support for DMA from PCMCIA devices, and some PCMCIA sound cards seem to require that."

The only exception I know:

  • Bullet II made by Communication Automation Corporation - CAC. The driver is written by Jont B. Allen: "One serious problem is that the card cost almost 1K$, which is why there isn't much acceptance. However, if two channels is adequate, and you might want floating point DSP, there is no other card.

    The codec is of very high quality, Sigma Delta 16 bit converter.

    We need more sound cards. Typically the audio input in laptops sucks. The output can be quite good, but the input is typically useless. This card solves that problem.

    I feel we need to nurture such special devices. I just got a call last week that ARPA/DARPA is using my driver for IP speech coders. They are attempting to convert it from 2.0.x to 2.2.x, and are having some problems, and thus contacted me."

Other currently not supported cards you may find at my page about "Unofficially" Supported PCMCIA Cards.

A Last Resort: pcspeaker

If you can't get a dedicated sound driver to work, you may try the pcspeaker kernel module.

Built-In Soundcards

Survey of Laptops (sorted by manufacturer)

Laptop Sound Card Contributor
COMPAQ Armada 1592DT Window$95 reports an ESS 1878 PnP sound card, which should be Soundblaster and SoundblasterPro16-Bit compatible. For details see COMPAQ Armada 1592DT. The 2.1.132 kernel detects: own research
DELL Latitude CPi D266XT ( and other notebooks) A patch to make Linux's OSS/Free sound driver work with the CS4237B sound chip used in Dell Latitude CPi D266XT and other notebooks. For details see DELL Latitude CPi D266XT [archived link]. Dan on comp.os.linux.portable
Fujitsu LifeBook 5110C The card is a "Yamaha Corporation YMF-744B [DS-1S Audio Controller]" own research
Fujitsu LifeBook C-6310 This model has the same soundcard as the Lifebook 5110c, beiing the Yamaha YMF744B. "After having installed kernel 2.4.17 (with a lot of improvements on the ymfpci-driver) I got the sound card working without any further problems." M. G. (Michael) de Bruin <m.g.debruin_at_kpn.com>
HP Omnibook 800 Soundblaster and SoundblasterPro16-Bit compatible, ESS1888. Set DSP_BUFFSIZE=32768 in kernel, at least for older models. For details see HP Omnibook 800. Xavier Redon, own research
HP Omnibook 3100 SoundblasterPro16-Bit compatible works (without midi yet), take the SB driver in the kernel: IO=220h IO=388 # for ADLib IRQ=5 DMA=1 DMA=0 For details see HP Omnibook 3100. Friedhelm Kueck <friedhelm.kueck_at_impress.de>
HP Omnibook 4150 "The Magic Wave 3d is a NeoMagic sound card it works with the OSS OPL3-SAx driver I solved the problem .. After adding card/device: "Neomagic NM2000 PCI *BETA*" and "4Front Tech. Virtual Mixer" in 'soundconf' from opensound my box always reboots. The clue was to also enable "Generic 256AV *NMA2*" card/device in 'soundconf', and now it works." <debian-laptop_at_lists.debian.org> 01/2000
IBM Thinkpad 600E CS461x sound card unknown
Micron TransPort Trek 2 The card is a Maestro audio card. For details see Maestro [archived link]. unknown
Olivetti Echos 133DM The card is an ESS1868 ISA PnP audio card. For details see Olivetti Echos 133. Kurt Saetzler <Kurt.Saetzler_at_IWR.uni-heidelberg.de>, own research
Sony VAIO PCG-C1XD Should work with latest ALSA driver, and commercial OSS, too. Jens Korte <jkorte_at_betty.fasta.fh-dortmund.de>
Sony VAIO PCG-F403 Should work with latest ALSA driver, and commercial OSS, too. own research
Sony VAIO PCG-Z600RE Should work with latest ALSA driver (see Andy's page), and commercial OSS, too. own research
Toshiba Satellite Pro 4270 It works! 8-) You can use the commercial modules from opensound.org or use the newest ALSA modules. I made the RPM packages from the CVS export and put it on my homepage http://lisas.de/~david/tsp4270/. David Vogler
Toshiba Satellite Pro 4600 Sound chip according to MS-Windows98: YAMAHA AC-XG. lspci reports: 00:1f.5 Multimedia audio controller: Intel Corporation: Unknown device 2445. Works with snd-card-intel8x0 ALSA module. Linux on a Toshiba Satellite Pro 4600
Toshiba Satellite Pro 445CDT The Toshibe Satellite Pro 445CDT has an ISA OPL3-SAx sound card. Kernel version 2.4.20 Kernel configuration:
alias sound-slot-0 opl3sa2
options opl3sa2 io=0x370 mss_io=0x530 mpu_io=0x330 irq=5 dma=1 dma2=3 multiple=0 ymode=1
alias sound-service-0-2 opl3
options opl3 io=0x388
multiple=0 prevents a spurious syslog message, ymode=1 should optimize the laptop speaker, dma=1 (and not dma=0 as suggested in /usr/src/linux/Documentation/sound/OPL3-SA2) was needed to get the ad1848.o module to run.
Laurenz Brein <brein_at_aon.at>

Other Resources

Related HOWTOs


  • linux.dev.sound
  • comp.os.linux.hardware
  • comp.os.linux.portable

Soundcard Survey

soundcard survey


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© Werner Heuser 1997-2015 · http://tuxmobil.org/sound_linux.html · last change Mon Nov 12 2007