What’s the standard Linux audio API?

Lennart Pottering’s post about the sound APIs available for Linux appears to have caused some consternation from people working with the modern out of tree OSS drivers who feel that the current, out of tree, OSS drivers are being unfairly maligned. This rather misses the point of his post. The fact that there are improved versions of the OSS code doesn’t really help developers who are trying to target current Linux distributions which only ship the old OSS drivers. From this point of view the new OSS drivers are probably best looked at as a completely different product.

Joss is right, though – most applications should be working with a higher level user space API than either ALSA or OSS. One of the most obvious examples of this is in the embedded space where there are often vast numbers of controls that need to be exported in order to support the complex audio routing that devices like phones can have. Most of these should only be touched very occasionally when changing use case and should therefore be hidden from normal applications where they’re at best irrelevant and at worst confuse end users. They do, however, need to be exposed by the kernel in order to allow user space the flexibility to manage the audio configuration of the system at run time.

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