Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I have Skype for Linux, and whenever I make a SkypeOut call to a phone, sometimes the microphone works, and sometimes it doesn't. It's completely random, and it's about 50% either way. By that I mean there's a 50% chance of the mic working every time you make a call, so restarting the program doesn't affect anything.

Every other application that uses the microphone works fine. My guess would be that Skype is switching between microphone configurations for some reason. It's very hard to search for this problem, of course, because there's no consistent way to describe it.

I'm running Ubuntu 9.04.

I have a Sound Blaster Live 5.1 running the emu10k1 driver.

Skype's "Sound In" is configured as: SB Live 5.1 SB0220 (hw:Live,2)

I've also killed pulseaudio, which has been known to cause sound problems, and it didn't help.

Has anyone else encountered this problem?

Here's the cross-post to the Skype forum.

share|improve this question

It sounds like you've run into a pulseaudio issue.

Pulseaudio is a great idea turned into a great program. Unfortuantely, its release version is still under 1.0 for a reason - there are the occasional kinks to work out.

First, I'd install the traditional pulseaudio manager. Yeah, it will cruft up your audio sub-menu a bit but it helps tremendously when diagnosing problems.

sudo apt-get install paman

After you get it installed, launch Skype and determine if it shows up as a client. If it doesn't then it simply isn't connecting properly.

Do you have a second sound card, like an on-board chipset, in conjunction with your SB card? I've seen cases where pulseaudio will become confused (I have an nForce2 and an older SB PCI card, and it wouldn't work properly until I removed the SB and used the on-board audio with nForce2).


I suspect that you are using the wrong "input". Pulseaudio sometimes provides multiple input sources if you have ALSA, OSS, and ESD available all at once. Try switching through each input, placing a loopback call each time and recording your voice twice. If you hit one that consistently records 100% of the time, that's the issue.

share|improve this answer
I get the same behaviour with pulse, and with using alsa directly. – Neil Aug 4 '09 at 1:21

I have had this problem but in my case it was an intermittent microphone cable. As the cable flexes over its service life, the stranded copper wire begins to become inflexible until there are specific points and angles where the wire will not make connection. This can be very frustrating because it is not always easy to replicate the problem at will until the cable gets really worn.

just my $0.02

share|improve this answer
That's definitely not it, the mic works fine for all other programs. – Neil Jul 25 '09 at 18:53
That is a weird problem. This might be a codec issue. If the codec is corrupted or another program installed a new one I could see this happening.. – Axxmasterr Jul 26 '09 at 1:57
I doubt a codec problem would be intermittent. – Neil Aug 4 '09 at 1:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .