Another important function of the eBox is to provide easy access to my MP3 collection - basically so I can use it as an MP3 jukebox. As you probably already know, the requirements for this task aren't too great by today's standards. On the eBox I also have visualisation set up, so you see a pretty display while the music is playing, and OSD for song title display.
I am now using a Sound Blaster Audigy sound card in the eBox. Previously I was using onboard sound, which I had thought would be sufficient. However, it turned out that onboard sound was wasting a huge amount of CPU time, and causing audio/video synchronisation problems as well as cutting out occasionally during DVD playback. As soon as I started using the Audigy I noticed a marked improvement in DVD performance - perfect sync and no stuttering. Despite my original doubts, in side-by-side testing I have found the Audigy's sound quality to be very noticably better than the onboard AC97 sound as well.
So there you have it - if you're serious about sound, forget about using onboard sound - go for a decent sound card. I would recommend either a Sound Blaster Live! 5.1 or a Sound Blaster Audigy. The Audigy comes in several versions, but it appears that the actual sound card supplied is the same with all versions (as far as I know this applies also to the Live 5.1) - all that is different is the software or accessories bundled with the card. For this reason I chose the Audigy Digital Entertainment, which is the cheapest. The Audigy Linux driver, supported by Creative, is open-sourced and works well.
The Audigy driver module is fairly easy to install and works perfectly. There are also instructions for setting up the Audigy driver here, but mostly all you need to do is as follows. Download the driver from here (just emu10k1 - the tools are included in this package, the emu-tools package is not necessary if you get this). Untar the file, cd into the new directory, then run the following:
make make make install make tools make install-tools
No, that's not a typo - the first
make configures the makefile (same as
./configure with other projects) and
the second one actually builds the driver. I haven't looked too much into the tools, but they look quite powerful - it looks like you can
get access to all the EAX effects features, audio routing, etc.
To install the driver, just type
modprobe emu10k1. This will also load the ac97_codec module which is needed by the emu10k1
driver. You'll probably have to add this to your startup scripts, and if you're also using a Dxr3 decoder card like me I'd recommend loading
the emu10k1 driver before the dxr3 driver (em8300) because it installs its own sound device as well.
XMMS is by far the most comprehensive music playing application on Linux, and this is why I chose it for the eBox. An extensive array of 3rd-party plugins are available, several of which I am using on the eBox:
If you're looking for something more command-line oriented, try mpg123 or mpg321. There are a ton of other Linux command-line and graphical MP3 players out there to choose from too.
aumix is a graphical and command-line mixer application rolled into one. It works just fine and is included with a lot of distributions (for Slackware, look in the unsupported directory for the aumix package).