Virtual Cable Management With Helvum And qpwgraph

Many Virtual Cables, One Real Solution

I remember having to buy Voicemeeter Banana a while back on Windows to be able to record Discord, my game and anything else separated from each other in OBS among other things. The software is good and I’m completely satisfied by my purchase save for the issue with licensing (Why we simply cannot manage our license/s from our emails and disable them on individual machines is beyond me)

Voicemeeter Banana
Voicemeeter is a necessary program for Windows if you don’t own a mixing board.

I also remember the times of switching from ALSA to JACK and Pulseaudio, how many times Pulseaudio broke installs and stopped working if you so much as glanced in its direction. It is far better now, much more stable and only crashes here and there if you’re doing more fringe workloads.

But the long reign of Pulseaudio has given way for a much more powerful tool, one that’s built with more modern usecases in mind, Pipewire.

Pipewire is a fantastic solution in my own opinion, I’ve watched this grow exponentially from its early conception almost 5 years ago now, to being included in almost every newer distro by default and completely replacing every other solution there almost without issue.

With Pipewire, you get access to other tools that allow better cable management much like how JACK for Linux used to provide the ability to use a patchbay like Catia.

Catia for JACK Audio System
This is Catia, a patchbay for the JACK audio system

But unlike JACK, there are substantially less issues with audio latency, letting a normal kernel achieve some pretty impressive ~10ms latencies. This is combined with the fact that one can have multiple rates (48Khz, 44.1Khz, etc) with varying buffer sizes, all easily changeable and configurable without breaking your entire system. I would even fully argue that the merits of Pipewire even outstrip Windows WASAPI very easily, allowing a user to take full control of their audio stack and use it to it’s full potential.

But remember we were talking about virtual cables with Voicemeeter? Well, imagine 3 tools that would make your life even easier. Though, 2 of these tools allow you to manage how you route your audio in an easy to understand GUI. These of course being Helvum and QPWGraph, 2 very great patchbay solutions available for almost every distro out there, and if not, you can easily build from source.

Helvum - Pipewire Patchbay
Helvum is a very simple to use patchbay, it would be what I’d recommend for a lot of people who need a simple program to route audio.
qpwgraph
qpwgraph however, offers a bit more versatility and complexity, allowing you to change and tweak just a bit more than Helvum.

As seen from the images above, both Helvum and qpwgraph are fairly similar in what they offer, with qpwgraph being a bit more complex. Typically, you can do 90% of what you need in Helvum.

So, you might be asking, what would I even do with these solutions? Well, here’s something I’ve tried recently.

We Were Here is a fantastic free game on Steam, it runs great on Linux and has virtually no issues… Minus one. The ingame voicechat is broken on Linux.

We Were Here
We Were Here is a game that has issues with the ingame voicechat that’s easily solveable through Helvum & qpwgraph.

Well, with Helvum, it’s an easy fix to get that voicechat working again.

As you can see above, we currently have a room open for the game We Were Here. If you look to the right hand side, ‘We Were Here.exe’ is accepting input (Under Input_FL/FR) from USB Audio CODEC, which is my Behringer audio device, even though I have the game set to use my Blue Snowball. This is a surprisingly easy fix.

This isn’t what we want
So disconnect the previous device by dragging and dropping the connection in Helvum.
And reconnecting your actual input device by again, dragging and dropping.

And that’s it! Problem solved, you’re now able to play this game using it’s ingame voice chat.

But what if your audio needs a bit of tweaking or tuning? What if you need to slightly tweak some input setting on your microphone? Well, that’s incredibly easy as well using EasyEffects.

EasyEffects
Adding Noise Reduction to an Input is easy as hitting “Add Effect” and clicking on “Noise Reduction”
It looks a bit complicated, but trust me, once you spend around 15 minutes with this program and Helvum, you’ll be ready to leave your worries behind and tweak your microphone input into perfection.

Changing Pitch, Noise Gates, Noise Reduction and a ton more are available through Easy Effects. Allowing you to take total control of your inputs and outputs, turning your PC into something of a digital mixing board in a way.

Allowing you to do some pretty crazy stuff, like adding multiple microphones into a single mix, individually setting left and right channels with different effects, routing your microphone to a monitor and a game while sending it to OBS as well. The possibilities aren’t endless, but there’s quite a bit to unpack there. I was even able to use this stuff with a remote solution like FreeRDP with RemoteFX to send my microphone to the remote computer for audio recording over the internet.

Anyways, I hope that this little article shows you the amazing premise of Pipewire, Helvum, qpwgraph, EasyEffects and others. Allowing you to take your PC to the next level in terms of audio.

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