Is it possible to set the audio volume using the terminal instead of clicking the speaker icon in the top bar?

The reason I want to do this is that my keyboard does not have volume increase/decrease buttons and I find it annoying to reach for the mouse.

  • 2
    Read Master Volume level in number percent 0%-100%: amixer sget Master | grep 'Right:' | awk -F'[][]' '{ print $2 }' Increase Master volume level by 10%: amixer -q sset Master 10%+ Jan 21, 2019 at 18:04

8 Answers 8


For interactive usage you can use alsamixer. For scripting (e.g. binding to key combinations) take a look at amixer.

alsamixer is included by default in most systems.

To set the master volume use:

# Gets a list of simple mixer controls
$ amixer scontrols 

Then set it to the desired volume, as an example

$ amixer sset 'Master' 50%
  • 3
    What is the different between "sset" and just "set". (I tried both, and both work)
    – Venryx
    Dec 6, 2017 at 21:39
  • @Venryx man amixer suggests that the they are equivalent and that the "s" in "sset" stands for "simple". There's also a "cset" that sets card control contents. Oct 7, 2018 at 13:25
  • 4
    Added the following to my .bashrc to make this command easier: volume() { amixer sset 'Master' $1%; } Jan 24, 2020 at 16:21

Found in Openbox's configuration file rc.xml:

# increase by 3%
amixer -q sset Master 3%+

# decrease by 3%
amixer -q sset Master 3%-

# mute/unmute
amixer -q sset Master toggle

amixer manual page can give more details.


If your system is using pulseaudio you could use pactl:

pactl set-sink-volume 0 +15%


pactl set-sink-volume 0 -5dB

though you could also specify an integer or a linear factor:

set-sink-volume SINK VOLUME [VOLUME ...]
          Set the volume of the specified sink (identified by its symbolic name or numerical index). VOLUME can be speci‐
          fied as an integer (e.g. 2000, 16384), a linear factor (e.g. 0.4, 1.100), a percentage (e.g. 10%, 100%) or a
          decibel value (e.g. 0dB, 20dB). If the volume specification start with a + or - the volume  adjustment  will  be
          relative to the current sink volume. A single volume value affects all channels; if multiple volume values are
          given their number has to match the sink's number of channels.
  • 2
    Note from arch linux wiki: pactl commands that take negative percentage arguments will fail with an 'invalid option' error. Use the standard shell -- pseudo argument to disable argument parsing before the negative argument. e.g. pactl set-sink-volume 1 -- -5% Aug 25, 2015 at 8:01
  • 2
    @JamieCockburn - I'm not sure when was that written but I use archlinux and there is absolutely no need for the additional -- with negative values (percentage, db, integers... they all work fine). In fact, it's quite the opposite: if I use -- as per the wiki e.g. pactl set-sink-volume 1 -- -3% I get Invalid volume specification. Aug 25, 2015 at 10:02
  • Must be dependent on shell then? I'm on ubuntu 14.04, with Xfce, and running the command from bash (4.3.11). If I omit the --, I get an invalid option. Aug 25, 2015 at 10:58
  • 2
    @JamieCockburn - I don 't think the shell is relevant (for the record, it works fine for me with both bash and zsh). Probably earlier versions of pactl had this problem and upstream most likely fixed it (I'm using v. 6.0). Aug 25, 2015 at 11:08
  • 1
    @JamieCockburn i'm running ubuntu 16.04 xfce bash, and it works perfectly witout "--", just a note.
    – Reishin
    Feb 15, 2016 at 15:47

I know this is an old one. Since Alsa and pulseaudio are so connected, this answer from askubuntu helped me manage the volume from both my main sound and the HDMI:

increase volume

amixer -q -D pulse sset Master 10%+

decrease volume

amixer -q -D pulse sset Master 10%-

toggle mute

amixer -q -D pulse sset Master toggle

Other amixer sset commands work too.


These are "more natural for human ear".

To get the master in the alsamixer units, use:

amixer -M get Master

To raise the volume by 5% in the alsamixer units, for example:

amixer -M set Master 5%+



In OS X use the following:

# highest
osascript -e "set Volume 7"
# lowest
osascript -e "set Volume 1"
# middle
osascript -e "set Volume 3.5"  

You can even set the volume to other fractional levels:

# 25%
osascript -e "set Volume 1.75"

you can also try pamixer, a recent project that does exactly what you want. It is in the ArchLinux AUR repository with the same name.

  • it's even in community repository now Nov 7, 2018 at 22:33

So, answer the question first: To increase the Master volume level by 10%, consider this snippet:

amixer -q sset Master 10%+

You can also set it to a specific value:

amixer -q sset Master 78%

This can also be found in other answers, but I try to extend to the comment by Eric Leschinski, which basically is a TL:DR;-ish answer.

To read the Master Volume level (human readable), you can use:

amixer sget Master  

To get the number in percent (from 0% to 100%), you can pipe it into grep and awk:

amixer sget Master | grep 'Right:' | awk -F'[][]' '{ print $2 }'

On my notebook, I only have a mono-speaker, so the right code for me was:

amixer sget Master | grep 'Mono:' | awk -F'[][]' '{ print $2 }'

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