Switch to Phonon-VLC for Better Sound in KDE

Short Version

  1. Install vlc (version should be >= 1.1.1):
    apt-get install vlc
  2. Install phonon-backend-vlc:
    apt-get install phonon-backend-vlc
  3. Change backend selection in Phonon: Go to System Settings → Multimedia → Backend
    Choose VLC and click Prefer. Your screen should look like:
    Choosing Phonon backend

Long Version

KDE uses the Phonon framework to play media. Its architecture allows to switch audio backend. This small fact can change the sound quality immensely. Until now, under Linux there was official support for a single backend, namely Xine (and partly official support for GStreamer). About a week ago, the first stable version of VLC backend hit Debian testing and Ubuntu 10.10. If you don’t know VLC, it’s a very popular media player. Check out their website for details: http://www.videolan.org/vlc/

The backend is the piece of code that does all the playing. It gets the data to play (from file, stream etc.), runs it through codecs, apply equalizer and sends it to the audio server. No wander that the backend effects the quality of the sound. Turns out that VLC does a better job at channel mixing, gain control and more. Practically it just sounds better!

There’s only one thing that I miss at the moment is equalizer support. But even without an equalizer the sound quality is terrific.
A note about stability: After using this backend since April, I can say it is fast and stable, at occasions even better than Xine. Nevertheless remember this is still Beta software, still under development.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Switch to Phonon-VLC for Better Sound in KDE

  1. Where did you read that Phonon-VLC “does a better job at channel mixing” et cetera? The person writing at the link you posted as support of that statement **explicitly says he does not know whether it is better or not**. And to make matters worse, Amarok skips the first minute or so of every song with this crap plugin AND ReplayGain does not work anymore. And no equalizer. AND upon exit, every KDE app that has played a sound segfaults.

    This backend is not good enough to be pushed by anyone yet. Especially not with a bunch of completely unsupported bullshit like “It sounds better”.

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