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Enable bluetooth headphones on Linux Debian 10 and auto-switch between a2dp and hsp/hfp.

· 3 min read
Pamparau Sebastian

This was tested on Debian 10, running KDE.

I bought the following headphones: Coocheer ANC8.

I wanted to use them on a desktop machine running Debian 10 with KDE. Here's what I did:

  1. Since my desktop environment had not bluetooth capabilities, I bought the following Bluetooth USB Adapter: TP-Link UB400. Inserting it in one of the USB ports of my machine, KDE detected it instantly and activated the bluetooth capability.

After this single step, I could see my headphones on the list of available bluetooth devices but got the following error when trying to connect to it (seen in journalctl)

a2dp-sink profile connect failed for 30:21:07:9D:72:05: Protocol not available

  1. I installed the pulseaudio-module-bluetooth package.
apt-get install pulseaudio-module-bluetooth

After this (also restart the bluetooth systemctl restart bluetooth) I could successfully connect to my headphones and listen to music. The ugly part is that the music sound pretty bad. This was because the connection was using the Bluetooth profile Headset Head Unit (HSP/HFP). file

To improve the quality of the sound I did the following step:

  1. I added the following lines in the /etc/bluetooth/main.conf:
# Automatically connect both A2DP and HFP/HSP profiles for incoming
# connections. Some headsets that support both profiles will only connect the
# other one automatically so the default setting of true is usually a good
# idea.
MultiProfile = multiple

This enabled the a2dp profile by default when connecting the headset. This profile provides more qualitative sound. Also, the setting MultiProfile = multiple theoretically allows you to use multiple profiles for a device. I want that because the a2dp profile while high-quality, it's unidirectional, so the microphone of my headphones will not work. The HFP/HSP profile enables both the speakers and the microphone of my headphones.

Ok, so the last thing was to find a way to set the a2dp profile as the default one (for high-quality audio) while switching to HFP/HSP when I'd like to use my microphone. Fortunately, pulseaudio offers an easy solution to this, by appending auto_switch=2 when loading the module-bluetooth-policy.

  1. Modify /etc/pulse/
#load-module module-bluetooth-policy ORIGINAL LINE
load-module module-bluetooth-policy auto_switch=2

After restarting the bluetooth service, I encountered the following error:

Failed to register as a handsfree audio agent with ofono: org.freedesktop.DBus.Error.ServiceUnknown: The name org.ofono was not provided by any .service files

  1. Install the ofono package:
apt-get install ofono

Restarting the bluetooth again I was good to go. When listening to music, the profile would be a2dp so I have good quality. When some application requests microphone usage, the profile changes to HFP/HSP and the microphone is activated.

Note: You can also commute manually between profiles: file

This is necessary as sometimes, after reconnecting, the headphones won't work and you must switch between profiles to restore them. Also, sometimes the auto-switch will hang, so you must do it manually.