I'm trying to execute shell-commands in emacs which play sounds or otherwise involve audio output, but I'm not having much luck.

When I execute:

 (concat "espeak -v mb-en1 -k5 -s150 " "'" "hello" " " "world" "'" " --stdout|paplay"))

No audio output is generated and I find the following message:

Connection failure: Connection refused
pa_context_connect() failed: Connection refused
1 (#o1, #x1, ?\C-a)

A different though related problem, if I try:

                (concat "mplayer -really-quiet " "/usr/share/sounds/speech-dispatcher/test.wav" " 2> /dev/null"))

Again, I don't actually get any audio output and I find the message:

(Shell command succeeded with no output)
0 (#o0, #x0, ?\C-@)

Both commands work as expected from the actual terminal shell (i.e. they produce audio output).

Edit: Ok, this seems to be part of a more general problem. On my home computer I finally got everything to work by allowing greater permissions to pulse-audio. However, now on my office computer, I'm having trouble getting notify-send to work when issued in shell-command in Emacs. I'm getting the same odd 0 (#o0, #x0, ?\C-@) message when I try to do this.

  • 1
    How was your Emacs process launched? Was it from a menu in your desktop environment? If so, try running Emacs from a terminal and see if it works. It might be a problem related to the environment being richer in an actual terminal shell. Dec 3, 2014 at 7:31
  • 1
    Also, try removing 2>/dev/null from your mplayer command, so that you can see whether there are errors. Dec 3, 2014 at 7:32
  • @Francesco: Thanks. Emacs was run as a daemon, autostarting as a process by systemd, and running as a process owned by my username. I then launched an emacsclient instance. The errors from mplayer had to do with connecting to ALSA. Dec 3, 2014 at 14:20
  • 1
    Since this question is about your operating system and only peripherally about Emacs, Unix & Linux would be a better place for it. Do not repost there unless your question is closed here; you can flag your question to request that moderators migrate your question. Dec 4, 2014 at 0:43
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    What distribution are you running? What else can you tell us about your environment: apparently you're using systemd, which desktop environment do you use? Have you set up SELinux or other hardening mechanism? How do you start Emacs: from your GUI session, or do you start a daemon first? Dec 4, 2014 at 0:44

1 Answer 1


Running paprefs and checking the box next to "enable network access to local sound devices" and under that also the "don't require authentication" box worked as a workaround for the problem.

  • You are aware that this enables any system in your local network to play sound on your speakers?
    – user227
    Dec 3, 2014 at 14:25
  • Do you have suggestions on a more limited way of granting permissions such that I can actually get audio output via shell-commands from Emacs? Dec 3, 2014 at 18:32
  • Though, actually, now I'm having trouble with notify-send (see above edit). Dec 3, 2014 at 18:40
  • 2
    Start Emacs through your desktop environment, so that it gets proper permissions to access PulseAudio and your DBus session bus (for notify-send).
    – user227
    Dec 3, 2014 at 18:55

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