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On my System (Debian Wheezy x64, Gnome 3) I don't have any system sounds. Other audio is working well.

When I go to settings > Audio > Sounds (hope it is called like this in english) as normal user, all sounds are greyed out. However, when i go to this panel as root, I can play all these sounds.

Is it a problem with privileges?

How can it be solved? I will need notifications in Empathy.

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    check whether your non-root user is in audio group – harish.venkat Dec 22 '11 at 6:12
  • thank you! I've checked that before: here is the output of groups: #groups: marcel adm dialout cdrom sudo audio video plugdev games avahi-autoipd avahi netdev bluetooth lpadmin fuse vboxusers pulse-access – Marcel Dec 23 '11 at 20:37
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I found the solution to this issue here.

What you need to to is fire up *d*conf-editor

Go to org/gnome/desktop/sound and there activate event_sounds after a restart empathy notification sounds should be working !

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