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Fixing garbled or popping sound on Intel sound cards in Ubuntu Karmic

Enhancing my love/hate relationship (towards the “hate” side) with Ubuntu is a nasty audio glitch introduced in Karmic for some Intel sound cards. Different people describe it differently: I’ve heard it described as random “popping,” but my symptom is more like “laptop randomly starts sounding like a garbage disposal until you run killall pulseaudio”. I’ll be listening to an MP3 through Banshee, and randomly when it goes to the next track, every subsequent sound will sound like a train wreck until I kill the pulseaudio process. Some MP3s are more consistent than others with this problem.

Either way, I’ve found a potential fix for this problem. Here goes:

  1. Open the ALSA configuration file using GEdit as root from the terminal:

    gksudo gedit /etc/modprobe.d/alsa-base.conf
  2. At the very end, you should find a line that looks like this:

    # Power down HDA controllers after 10 idle seconds
    options snd-hda-intel power_save=10 power_save_controller=N

    You want to comment out the line starting with options, so that it looks like this:

    # Power down HDA controllers after 10 idle seconds
    #options snd-hda-intel power_save=10 power_save_controller=N
  3. Save the file and restart Pulseaudio by running:

    killall pulseaudio

That should solve your sound problems.