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Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (known by the acronym ALSA) is a Linux kernel component intended to replace the original Open Sound System (OSS) for providing device drivers for sound cards.

ALSA has the following significant features:

* Efficient support for all types of audio interfaces, from consumer sound cards to professional multichannel audio interfaces.
* Fully modularized sound drivers.
* SMP and thread-safe design.
* User space library (alsa-lib) to simplify application programming and provide higher level functionality.
* Support for the older Open Sound System (OSS) API, providing binary compatibility for most OSS programs.

If you are experiencing sound issues on Ubuntu Jaunty 9.04 or just want the latest version, you may want to upgrade to ALSA 1.0.20 (Ubuntu Jaunty comes with Alsa version 1.0.18rc3 - you can check this by typing this in a terminal: cat /proc/asound/version). Read on!

How to Upgrade to ALSA 1.0.20

1. Upgrading ALSA needs compiling so the first thing we need to do is install the necessary tools to compile along with the kernel headers. Open a terminal and paste the following 2 commands:
sudo apt-get -y install build-essential ncurses-dev gettext xmlto
sudo apt-get -y install linux-headers-`uname -r`

2. Use the terminal to navigate to your home folder and download the ALSA files:
cd ~
wget ftp://ftp.alsa-project.org/pub/driver/alsa-driver-1.0.20.tar.bz2
wget ftp://ftp.alsa-project.org/pub/lib/alsa-lib-1.0.20.tar.bz2
wget ftp://ftp.alsa-project.org/pub/utils/alsa-utils-1.0.20.tar.bz2

3. Creating the necessary folders and unpack the downloaded ALSA packages. Open a terminal and paste the following commands:
sudo mkdir -p /usr/src/alsa
cd /usr/src/alsa
sudo cp ~/alsa* .
and then, to unpack:
sudo tar xjf alsa-driver*
sudo tar xjf alsa-lib*
sudo tar xjf alsa-utils*

4. Now we can start compiling each component:

a) alsa-driver:
cd alsa-driver*
sudo ./configure
sudo make
sudo make install

b) alsa-lib:
cd ../alsa-lib*
sudo ./configure
sudo make
sudo make install

c) alsa-utils:
cd ../alsa-utils*
sudo ./configure
sudo make
sudo make install

5. Now you may want to removed the downloaded ALSA files, as they are not needed anymore:
rm -f ~/alsa-driver*
rm -f ~/alsa-lib*
rm -f ~/alsa-utils*

That's it! You now need to restart your computer and after doing so, your computer should have ALSA 1.0.20 installed. Again, you can verify this by running the following command in a terminal:
cat /proc/asound/version

Also, you may want to change your sound settings to Alsa ( System –> Preferences -> Sound, change auto detect to ALSA)

Source: monospaceperso

Other sound related fixes for Ubuntu:

Update: there is also an ALSA upgrade script which, if run all the above commands for you.