Upto: Table of Contents of full book "Programming and Using Linux Sound"

User level tools

This chapter looks at the user-level tools that are typical under a Linux system, including players, various sound manipulation tools and editors.



I think mplayer is fantastic and probably use it more than any other player. I usually run it from the command line but there are GUI versions available. It will play almost any media type, video as well as audio. I use it for both.

The man page for mplayer is MPlayer and the reference page is MPlayer - The Movie Player


VLC is my second favourite.

Its main page is VideoLAN and some documentation is at Welcome to VideoLAN's Documentation


Very commonly used

Sound tools


SoX is the Swiss Army knife of sound processing programs.

Its home page is SoX - Sound eXchange


ffmpeg is generally used as a converter from one format to another. There is a nice series of tutorials at A FFmpeg Tutorial For Beginners by shredder12

It can also be used to record from ALSA devices such as hw:0 or the default device. Recording from hw:0 can be done by

ffmpeg -f alsa -i hw:0 test.mp3

and from the default ALSA input by

ffmpeg -f alsa -i default test.mp3

There was a fork some years ago of ffmpeg to give avconv. avconv is the default on Ubuntu systems. There are some differences between the two, not enough to justify the nuisance factor to us users.


GStreamer allows you to build "pipelines" that can be played using gst-launch. For example, to play an MP3 file using ALSA you would have the pipeline

gst-launch filesrc location="concept.mp3" ! decodebin ! alsasink

The pipelines can do more complex tasks such as format conversion, mixing, etc. A tutorial is Multipurpose multimedia processing with GStreamer by Maciej Katafiasz

It can also play MIDI files by e.g.

gst-launch filesrc location="rehab.mid" ! decodebin ! alsasink

Recorders, editors, etc


"Audacity is a free, easy-to-use and multilingual audio editor and recorder for Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux and other operating systems" This is a fantastic tool and well worth using.

Its home page is Audacity


This short chapter has looked at some of the user level tools available under Linux. While we have listed several of the major tools, a casual search will turn up far more.

Copyright © Jan Newmarch, jan@newmarch.name
Creative Commons License
"Programming and Using Linux Sound - in depth" by Jan Newmarch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License .
Based on a work at https://jan.newmarch.name/LinuxSound/ .

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