How to use Bluetooth headphones with Linux

Configuring Bluetooth headphones

One of the irritating problems with Linux in general is Bluetooth. Below are the steps I had to follow to pair and use a Creative WP-300 Bluetooth headphones with Kubuntu 16.04. The procedure should be similar for any Bluetooth headphones or speaker and with any other variant of Ubuntu.

  • Make sure that your computer has a Bluetooth adapter and it is working. Do not just assume there is an adapter and its working in Linux! You should be able to see a Bluetooth icon in the system panel or system tray. In the Bluetooth settings you should be able to see the adapter.

  • Power on your Bluetooth headphones or speaker and put it into pairing mode. Refer to its documentation if you do not know how to do this.

  • Go to the Bluetooth settings in Linux and try to find device and once the device is listed, pair with it and connect to it.

  • Go to the audio settings and you should be able to see the Bluetooth device listed there. If it is not there, you might need to restart Linux. I know it is crazy, I had to do this, since no other solution offered online worked for me!

  • If your device is listed in audio settings then try to play some music or video and see if it plays in the device. Most probably, it will still play on the default speaker of your computer! Go to System Settings → Multimedia → Audio and Video → Device Preference → Audio Playback. Your Bluetooth device must be listed here. Grab it and move it above the built-in audio device. This tells Linux to use this as the default audio output.

Now you should be able to playback audio to your Bluetooth device 👍

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Audio format not supported by MX Player

Problem

I tried to play a video file using MX Player on my Android device. It played the video, but there was no audio. This error message is shown: This audio format (AC3) is not supported

Solution

  • Download codec: The required codec files are available here. You will find the codec files for the different versions of MX Player and for each you see the codec compiled for different chip architectures. I recommend downloading the AIO pack that matches your MX Player. If you download the wrong version MX Player will complain later when you try to use the codec.

  • Load codec: Open MX Player and go to Settings → Decoder → Custom Codec. Navigate to the directory containing the codec zip file and choose it. MX Player will restart after loading the codec. You can now play the video and should be able to hear the audio stream.

How to save audio of video as MP3

There are times when I want to save the audio stream of a video file as a MP3 file. I tried using Sound Converter for this, but it would fail while trying to install plugins. But using FFMPEG worked fine!

To save as a variable bit rate MP3:

$ ffmpeg -i in.mp4 -vn -acodec libmp3lame -ac 2 -qscale:a 4 -ar 48000 out.mp3

Tried with: FFMPEG 2.7.6 and Ubuntu 14.04

Fixing noisy HDMI audio output

Problem

I connected a Dell Inspiron 1320 notebook with HDMI output to a Toshiba REGZA LCD TV using a HDMI cable. The notebook is running Windows 7 Home Premium. When I play a video file on the notebook, both the audio and video from the TV seems to be fine. However, when you actually sit down to watch for a longer time you notice that the audio sounds kind of muffled or noisy and the spoken words are hard to distinguish.

Solution

First, I suspected the TV, since it has so many audio settings in its menus. After testing all possible audio combinations on the TV, there was no improvement in the audio.

Then, I decided to turn to the Dell Inspiron 1320. The HDMI video and audio from this notebook is generated by its Intel GM 45 chipset. I used the Support section of the Intel webpage to check if any of the notebook’s Intel hardware had newer drivers. And yes, there was a much newer graphics driver available. I downloaded, installed it and rebooted the notebook. When I connected the TV, the new driver could now detect that it was a Toshiba TV that was connected through HDMI and needless to say that the audio output was perfect! 🙂

Tried with: Dell Inspiron 1320 and Toshiba REGZA LCD TV

VLC: Boosting Volume

Problem

When watching videos, sometimes you wish the volume were a bit higher than the maximum your computer can play. The problem is especially acute with videos whose audio is actually pretty low or with the underpowered speakers of most laptops. By default, VLC can already boost the volume upto 200%. But, what if you need your volume to be a big higher than that?

Solution

It is possible to squeeze out a bit more volume, at the expense of audio quality. In VLC, choose Tools → Effects and Filters and in its Audio Effects tab you can see the Graphic Equalizer. Here you can get some volume boost by choosing to Enable it and dragging up the Preamp slider. You can get a further boost by dragging up all the individual sliders at the various frequencies.

If you want much more volume than this, you need some new speakers! 🙂

Tried with: VLC 1.1.3

VLC: Audio-Video Synchronization

Sometimes the audio or video might lag behind the other during playback of a video file. Fixing this so that the audio and video are synchronized is pretty easy in VLC.

Play the video file in VLC. Choose Tools → Track Synchronization. VLC pops up an Adjustments and Effects window with the Synchronization tab open. Increase or decrease the Advance of audio over video value until you feel the audio and video are in sync. It takes a couple of seconds for new settings to take effect.

This is a per-session setting, as it should rightly be. So, it is lost when VLC is closed and reopened and needs to be set again if needed.

 

Tried with: VLC 1.1.7

Windows 7: Volume Control

A new Volume Control was introduced with Windows Vista and continues on in Windows 7. In addition to the volume level slider that the user can drag up or down, there are 2 volume levels colored bright green and dull grey that animate in the background. What do these two levels represent?

The green and grey levels animate only when some audio is being output by any open application. The green level represents the current volume being output by any application as a fraction of the current volume level represented by the slider. The grey level on the other hand represents the current volume being output from any application as a fraction of 100% of the volume.

That is, if the user pulled the volume slider all the way to the top (100%), the green and grey levels would be equal. Since the green level is overlaid over the grey, only the green level would be visible in that case since it completely conceals the grey.

(Thanks to friend Poonna.)

Ubuntu: No Sounds

I do not like the startup, shutdown and notification sounds that desktop operating systems make. To have a completely silent experience with Ubuntu, do the following:

Turn off all sound alerts

Go to System → Preferences → Sound. Choose the No sounds sound theme.

Turn off the login sound

This is generated by GNOME when you login. Go to System → Preferences → Startup Applications. Disable GNOME Login Sound in the list.

Turn off the startup sound

Ubuntu makes a startup sound (typically an African drumbeat) when it presents the login screen. Go to System → Administration → Login Screen. Disable the Play login sound option. The system will request for superuser privilege to apply this.

Tried with: Ubuntu 10.04 (Lucid Lynx)