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Home » Applications » Multimedia » Phonon

Phonon is a multimedia, multi-platform sound framework for the application developer. Phonon also provides several features and benefits for the end user.


  • Centralized configuration of audio and video: Configuration of hardware and media frameworks are offered in a single, centralized dialog.
  • Purpose driven design: Instead of demanding that you select special audio outputs for applications, Phonon applications describe what kind of sound output they make and lets you select for these categories individually.
  • Automated device selection: Pluggable audio and video devices like USB or Bluetooth headsets become easy to use with Phonon. Phonon acts on information and signals from Solid, which is KDE's hardware subsystem, and automatically makes use of new devices.


Phonon can be configured through the Phonon Configuration Module available in System Settings under Multimedia. For a guide of the available options, look at the Phonon handbook.


No sound

Possible causes for no sound.

Incorrect default ordering of devices

Phonon automatically chooses available audio devices for the best sound. Unfortunately this doesn't always work. Look at Getting Involved for information on how you can help fix this.

Missing device entries

Perhaps Solid or other system libraries are reporting the same name for several devices, which makes Phonon unable to properly display these devices. Please see Getting Involved on how to help fix this.

Unable to access audio device

If your user account has insufficient permissions to access the audio device, Phonon will be unable to play sound. Please consult the documentation of your distribution on how to ensure that your user account is properly set up. If Pulseaudio is not used, make sure that your user account is a part of the audio user account group.

Sound out of the wrong device

This is related to the point above this. Also make sure that the correct device is listed at the top of the Device Preference tab, which can be found in the Hardware -> Multimedia -> Phonon -> Sound and Video Configuration area of System Settings. In case an audio device isn't available (an USB-headset unplugged, for example), Phonon will attempt the next device in the list.

Phonon causes a crash

Please search on to see if the bug is already reported. If it is not, please report your bug in detail. If the report already exists but you have new information, please add your new information to the existing report.

Devices from ~/.asoundrc or /etc/asound.conf are not listed

Make sure you have a name hint set for your device. An example of a complete device entry, with a hint:

pcm.softvolPhonon {
     type softvol
     slave.pcm "default:CARD=0"
     control {
        name "Phonon"
        card 0
     min_dB -51.0
     max_dB 0.0
     resolution 100
     hint {
        show on
        description "My Soundcard with extra Volume Control"

Systemsettings crashes when selecting Phonon

This is likely because you have xine as a backend. Please remove the file ~/.xine/catalog.cache and try again.

Backend libraries

Phonon makes use of backend libraries to provide sound.

  • Phonon-GStreamer: GStreamer is a multimedia library from the GNOME project. Phonon-GStreamer is currently the recommended Kubuntu backend, and under heavy development.
  • Phonon-VLC: VLC is a very popular cross-platform media player. This is also under active development, and is receiving a lot of work from both VLC and Phonon developers.
  • Phonon-Xine: Formerly the most popular backend for Phonon; now unmaintained, and deprecated.
  • Phonon-DS9: Native backend for Microsoft Windows utilizing DirectShow 9.
  • Phonon-QT7: This is a native backend for Mac OS X, utilizing QuickTime 7.
  • Phonon-MPlayer: This was a third-party backend for Phonon, now unmaintained.
  • Phonon-NMM: This is an abandoned and unmaintained backend started by the Graphics Lab at Saarland University and Motama.

Getting Involved

There are several ways you can get involved as a user.

  • Promotion: KDE and Phonon are awesome! Spread the word.
  • Appreciation: Encouraging words can help lift the spirits of weary multimedia developers way beyond the clouds, when faced with nasty bugs and other challenges. Positive emails, messages on IRC, beer, pizza, gadgets and other developer fuel is very welcome!
  • Quality assurance: Simply run and use Phonon, and report bugs and irregularities to the developers.
  • Documentation: You can help expand this page and other Phonon documentation. It doesn't take much to help, and it helps!