How do I make audio work on a Chromebook running Linux?

2 minute read

My Chromebook is one of those models where sound is not supported under Linux and even after getting it to work on and off I’ve realised that the best option is to live with a workaround.

Having worked in IT for a fairly long time, the word workaround is music to an engineer’s ears when he’s at the point that he’s spent so much time trying to fix a problem in vain that it doesn’t make sense to keep going down the same path.

Logic dictates that the goal is to get the problem solved in a timely fashion and in a way that allows you to move forward. With that in mind I decided a while ago that trying to hack and tweak sound files or trying to inject sound drivers into the Linux kernel was going to take too much time and I had way too much other stuff to do.

I am of course talking about my wonderful Toshiba Chromebook 2 that I brought about 2 years ago and have been running Linux on ever since. For the price, build and amazing screen it has been an ideal Linux ultrabook and I know from all the comments I’ve received, that most of you love Linux on Chromebooks as well.

Unfortunately, my Chromebook’s sound has been hit and miss but that’s because the Linux kernel doesn’t have the drivers for my sound anymore. As newer Linux kernels were introduced I had to come to the realisation that the speakers and the mic were not going to work under Linux.

The workaround I went with in the end was to buy a dirt cheap USB sound dongle thingy that I can plug in headphones and a microphone. It‘s simple, plug and play without any configuration needed and works with any distro I choose to install on your Chromebook.

I know, I know. I can hear some of you hissing and booing because you don’t want some USB dongle sticking out of your shiny Chromebook but it’s the best workaround I could find.

There will be some of you who will reject this workaround but for those of you who want a really easy workaround to get sound working on your Linux Chromebook, well this is it…

There’s several USB sound dongles to choose from but I choose the Sabrent sound adapter because it’s small enough to not poke out too much avoiding accidental nudges and bumps and the silver colour match with my Chromebook is an added bonus. There is also a 2 feet USB extension cable that is handy if the sound adapter is too wide potentially blocking the SD card slot or other USB port.