Dec 052008


Every computer you buy or assemble comes with some decent integrated sound card.  A while back (~2000), I bought a “prosumer” (entry-level professional) sound card, the Mia by EchoAudio.  It was a pain at first, because the Windows drivers for XP were just not mature.  However, after about 6 months of updating drivers every other week, I finally got a rock-solid sound card that blew the doors off any integrated sound card I have used, even up to this day (12-2008).  All the integrated cards sound so “tinny” and “weak”, compared to the rich, full sound of this card.

For some time, I have avoided moving my main workstation to Linux, in some measure, due to the lack of drivers for this sound card.  However, a few weeks ago, I noticed an entry for the EchoAudio Mia in the kernel config!  Here is how I managed to get it working on Gentoo Linux.

Default ALSA Installation

The most modern sound system on Linux at this time is ALSA.  The Gentoo wiki page for installing it is here:

One important note:  ALSA can be compiled into the kernel or compiled separately as loadable modules.  Currently, Gentoo has mostly abandoned the in-kernel approach (which uses the alsa-drivers package), and it now uses the loadable module approach.  There’s no reason to buck the system here, so we are going to use the loadable module approach.

When you activate the appropriate ALSA kernel options, make sure you include the driver for the EchoAudio Mia, or whatever Echo Audio product you may be using.  Otherwise, you can follow the above guide up to the point where you are ready to run alsaconf.

Make sure you:  Recompile the kernel.  Copy it into place.  Update grub.conf.  Reboot.  You know the drill.  🙂

Modified ALSA Installation for Mia

The Mia driver depends on alsa-utils, but it also needs other ALSA packages, which are not necessary for other integrated sound cards, like hda-intel.  Furthermore, the default make.conf flags do not include the Mia components.  To include these, and to use the latest version of ALSA ;), let us first add a few keywords and compile flags to the ALSA build configuration:

Now, we are ready to install ALSA, again, in addition to the other necessary packages:

# Use latest version of everything ALSA
$ echo -e "media-sound/alsa-tools ~amd64\nmedia-sound/alsa-utils ~amd64\nmedia-sound/alsa-firmware ~amd64\nmedia-sound/alsa-headers ~amd64\nmedia-libs/alsa-lib ~amd64" >> /etc/portage/package.keywords

# Include Mia during ebuilds
$ echo 'ALSA_CARDS="mia"' >> /etc/make.conf

# Check for weirdness:
$ emerge -pvt alsa-utils alsa-tools alsa-firmware alsa-lib alsa-headers

# Build!
$ emerge alsa-utils alsa-tools alsa-firmware alsa-lib alsa-headers

Now update the ALSA configuration using alsa-conf, and you should be good to go!

$ alsaconf

Other Tips

The best mixer to use is the echomixer, which is made for the EchoAudio products, like the Mia.

In the default configuration, most everything is muted, so you will have to slide up the appropriate sliders.  Just be careful not to overdrive the card.  Stop at “0 dB” or less.  Do not slide it up to “+6 dB”; otherwise, you get a fair amount of distortion.

Other pages that mention the “alsa-drivers” package are based upon the “IN-KERNEL” approach.  Those instructions are not compatible with these.  Be careful if you decide to “mix and match”.


  1. ALSA’s EchoAudio development status –

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