Fedora 34 Might Try To Use PipeWire By Default To Replace PulseAudio/JACK

Written by Michael Larabel in Fedora on 23 November 2020 at 03:30 AM EST. 98 Comments
Red Hat for several years now has been working on PipeWire to overhaul audio/video stream management on Linux while being able to fill the duties currently managed by the likes of PulseAudio and JACK and being engineered with Wayland and Flatpak security in mind among other modern Linux technologies. With Fedora 34 next spring they may try to ship PipeWire by default in place of JACK, PulseAudio, and even legacy ALSA.

For a while now Fedora has offered PipeWire packages but not yet used by default when it comes to audio handling. A pending change proposal for Fedora 34 would now route all audio through PipeWire rather than the existing JACK and PulseAudio.

With the proposed plan, Fedora 34 next spring with PipeWire would take over all desktop audio duties by default from PulseAudio. PipeWire provides a functionally compatible implementation of the PulseAudio daemon so existing Linux software should continue to work fine. Similarly, PipeWire would provide F34's JACK support for professional audio needs. For legacy ALSA clients, an ALSA plug-in for PipeWire allows routing audio through it as well.

The plan is good and it's been a long time coming with knowing with the RedHat-backed PipeWire aspires to handle all Linux audio/video streams, but the timing is the unsettled part by some in the Fedora community. The Fedora Engineering and Steering Committee has yet to rule on this system-wide change proposal but there are already many developers and community members on both sides of the table.

While there are supporters to this change, some argue that switching over to PipeWire by default for all audio purposes may be premature. Pointed out are some areas of PipeWire not yet being a 1:1 replacement to PulseAudio functionality and other possible shortcomings if the PipeWire support isn't all ironed out before this spring. Some are already calling for this change to be delayed at least to Fedora 35.

For those interested there is the change proposal. The discussion at the moment is largely happening on the Fedora devel mailing list.

It will be interesting to see ultimately what's decided. At some stage certainly Fedora will go through with this move to PipeWire audio handling by default, but it will be interesting to see if it's ready for Fedora 34 in the spring or will be pushed back. Similarly, after Fedora's play, it will be interesting to see based on the outcome how quickly other Linux distributions begin switching from PulseAudio and JACK over to PipeWire.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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