Get Started

This document is intended to help users set up the software environment for the development of audio applications using hardware based on the ESP32 family of chips by Espressif. After that, a simple example will show you how to use ESP-ADF (Espressif Audio Development Framework).

Development Board Overview

For easier start with ESP-ADF, Espressif designed ESP32, ESP32-S2, and ESP32-S3 based development boards intended for audio applications. Click the links below to learn more about the available boards.

If you do not have any of the above boards, you can still use ESP-ADF for the ESP32 and ESP32-S2 based audio applications. For this, your board needs to have a compatible audio codec or DSP chip; alternatively, you can develop a driver to support communication with your specific chip.


The ESP-ADF is available as a set of components to extend the functionality already delivered by the ESP-IDF (Espressif IoT Development Framework).

To use ESP-ADF you need set up the ESP-IDF first, and this is described in the next section.


ESP-ADF provides support for specific ESP-IDF versions. If your have already set up another version, please switch to a supported ESP-IDF version, or you may not be able to compile ESP-ADF applications. In addition, the python version needs to be between 3.7 and 3.11.

Quick Start

This section provides quick steps to run a simple ADF sample project on an ESP device for experienced users. For beginners, please go through the complete steps from Step 1. Set up ESP-IDF to Step 9. Monitor to build a project.


If you encounter issues in the following steps, you could refer to the complete steps from Step 1. Set up ESP-IDF to Step 9. Monitor or describe them in GitHub Issues or ESP Forum.

Linux and macOS

The operating environment below is on Linux Ubuntu 18.04 and above.

  1. Download the full ESP-ADF repository from GitHub by running:

    git clone --recursive

    For users located in China, it is faster to download from Gitee:

    git clone --recursive
  2. Configure the $ESP-IDF and $ESP-ADF compilation environment by running:

    cd esp-adf
    . ./
  3. After completing the above environment variable configuration, you can compile the ADF sample project $ADF_PATH/examples/get-started/play_mp3_control. Switch to the project’s directory, compile, and flash it onto your ESP device by running the following command. Then, you will see the serial port of the routine is printed.

cd $ADF_PATH/examples/get-started/play_mp3_control build flash monitor


  1. Download the full ESP-ADF repository from GitHub by running:

    git clone --recursive

    For users located in China, it is faster to download from Gitee:

    git clone --recursive
  2. Install the $ESP-IDF compilation environment in the command prompt window:

    cd esp-adf

    Or first download the full ESP-IDF Windows Installer from ESP-IDF Windows Installer (Please download the ESP-IDF versions supported by ESP-ADF). And then turn off the antivirus software (Because it may prevent the installation as the software writes the Windows system regedit) and install the downloaded file. After the installation is complete, open the ESP-IDF CMD shortcut icon on the desktop, the script will automatically help you download submodules, and set environment variables such as IDF_PATH.

  3. Set the ADF_PATH by running the following commands:

    echo %ADF_PATH%
  4. If your ADF_PATH variable prints correctly, it’s time to compile the ADF routines:

    cd %ADF_PATH%\examples\get-started\play_mp3_control build flash monitor

Installation Step by Step

This is a detailed roadmap to walk you through the installation process.

Setting up Development Environment

Creating Your First Project

Step 1. Set up ESP-IDF

Configure your PC according to Getting Started section of ESP-IDF Programming Guide. Windows, Linux and Mac OS operating systems are supported. Please select and follow the guide specific to ESP32 or ESP32-S2 chip. The chip name is provided in the board name.


This guide uses the directory ~/esp on Linux and macOS or %userprofile%\esp on Windows as an installation folder for ESP-ADF. You can use any directory, but you will need to adjust paths for the commands accordingly. Keep in mind that ESP-ADF does not support spaces in paths.

To make the installation easier and less prone to errors, use the ~/esp default directory for the installation.

If this is your first exposure to the ESP-IDF, then it is recommended to get familiar with hello_world or blink example first.

After getting familiar with ESP-IDF, decide on which ESP-IDF version to use for your application depending on the Espressif chip that you have and your project type. For this, consult Versions section of ESP-IDF Programming Guide.

Once you successfully build, upload, and run examples for your version of ESP-IDF, you can proceed to the next step.

Step 2. Get ESP-ADF

Now you can start installing audio-specific API / libraries provided in ESP-ADF repository.


Open Command Prompt and run the following commands:

cd %userprofile%\esp
git clone --recursive

Linux and macOS

Open Terminal, and run the following commands:

cd ~/esp
git clone --recursive

Step 3. Set up the environment

Before being able to compile ESP-ADF projects, on each new session, ESP-IDF tools should be added to the PATH environment variable. To make the tools usable from the command line, some environment variables must be set. ESP-ADF provides a script which does that.


ESP-IDF Tools Installer for Windows creates an “ESP-IDF Command Prompt” shortcut in the Start Menu. This shortcut opens the Command Prompt and sets up all the required environment variables. You can open this shortcut and proceed to the next step.

Alternatively, if you want to use ESP-IDF in an existing Command Prompt window, you can run:


Linux and macOS

In the terminal where you have installed ESP-IDF, run:

. $HOME/esp/esp-adf/

Note the space between the leading dot and the path!

You can also create an alias for the export script to your .profile or .bash_profile script. This way you can set up the environment in a new terminal window by typing get_idf:

alias get_idf='. $HOME/esp/esp-adf/'

Note that it is not recommended to source from the profile script directly. Doing so activates IDF virtual environment in every terminal session (even in those where IDF is not needed), defeating the purpose of the virtual environment and likely affecting other software.

Step 4. Start a Project

After initial preparation you are ready to build the first audio application. The process has already been described in ESP-IDF documentation. Now we would like to discuss remaining key steps and show how the toolchain is able to access the ESP-ADF components by using the ADF_PATH variable.

To demonstrate how to build an application, we will use get-started/play_mp3_control project from examples directory in the ADF.


cd %userprofile%\esp
xcopy /e /i %ADF_PATH%\examples\get-started\play_mp3_control play_mp3_control

Linux and macOS

cd ~/esp
cp -r $ADF_PATH/examples/get-started/play_mp3_control .

There is a range of example projects in the examples directory in ESP-ADF. You can copy any project in the same way as presented above and run it.

It is also possible to build examples in-place, without copying them first.


The ESP-IDF build system does not support spaces in the paths to either ESP-IDF or to projects.

Step 5. Connect Your Device

Connect the audio board to the PC, check under what serial port the board is visible and verify, if serial communication works as described in ESP-IDF documentation.


Keep the port name handy as you will need it in the next steps.

Step 6. Configure

Navigate to your play_mp3_control directory from Step 4. Start a Project and configure the project:


cd %userprofile%\esp\play_mp3_control set-target esp32 menuconfig

Linux and macOS

cd ~/esp/play_mp3_control set-target esp32 menuconfig


If you are using an ESP32-S2 based board, then the second command above should be set-target esp32s2.

Setting the target with set-target <target> should be done once, after opening a new project. If the project contains some existing builds and configuration, they will be cleared and initialized. The target may be saved in environment variable to skip this step at all. See Selecting the Target in ESP-IDF Programming Guide for additional information.

If the previous steps have been done correctly, the following menu appears:

Project configuration - Home window

Project configuration - Home window

You are using this menu to set up your board type and other project specific variables, e.g. Wi-Fi network name and password, the processor speed, etc.

Project configuration - Board selection

Project configuration - Board selection

Select your board from the menu, press S to save configuration and then Q to exit.


The colors of the menu could be different in your terminal. You can change the appearance with the option --style. Please run menuconfig --help for further information.

Step 7. Build the Project

Build the project by running: build

This command will compile the application and all ESP-IDF and ESP-ADF components, then it will generate the bootloader, partition table, and application binaries.

$ build
 Executing action: all (aliases: build)
 Running ninja in directory /path/to/esp/play_mp3_control/build
 Executing "ninja all"...
 [0/1] Re-running CMake...

... (more lines of build system output)

 [1064/1064] Generating binary image from built executable v3.0-dev
 Generated /path/to/esp/play_mp3_control/build/play_mp3_control.bin

 Project build complete. To flash it, run this command:
 /path/to/.espressif/python_env/idf4.2_py2.7_env/bin/python ../esp-idf/components/esptool_py/esptool/ -p (PORT) -b 460800 --before default_reset --after hard_reset --chip esp32  write_flash --flash_mode dio --flash_size detect --flash_freq 40m 0x1000 build/bootloader/bootloader.bin 0x8000 build/partition_table/partition-table.bin 0x10000 build/play_mp3_control.bin
 or run ' -p (PORT) flash'

If there are no errors, the build will finish by generating the firmware binary .bin file.

Step 8. Flash onto the Device

Flash the binaries that you just built onto your board by running: -p PORT [-b BAUD] flash monitor

Replace PORT with your board’s serial port name from Step 5. Connect Your Device.

You can also change the flasher baud rate by replacing BAUD with the baud rate you need. The default baud rate is 460800.

For more information on arguments, see Using the Build System in ESP-IDF Programming Guide.


The option flash automatically builds and flashes the project, so running build is not necessary.

To upload the binaries, the board should be put into upload mode. To do so, hold down Boot button, momentarily press Reset button and release the Boot button. The upload mode may be initiated anytime during the application build, but no later than “Connecting” message is being displayed:

... v3.0-dev
Serial port /dev/ttyUSB0

Without the upload mode enabled, after showing several ....._____, the connection will eventually time out.

Once build and upload is complete, you should see the following:


Hard resetting via RTS pin...
Executing action: monitor
Running idf_monitor in directory /path/to/esp/play_mp3_control
Executing "/path/to/.espressif/python_env/idf4.2_py2.7_env/bin/python /path/to/esp/esp-idf/tools/ -p /dev/ttyUSB0 -b 115200 --toolchain-prefix xtensa-esp32-elf- /path/to/esp/play_mp3_control/build/play_mp3_control.elf -m '/path/to/.espressif/python_env/idf4.2_py2.7_env/bin/python' '/path/to/esp/esp-idf/tools/'"...
--- idf_monitor on /dev/ttyUSB0 115200 ---
--- Quit: Ctrl+] | Menu: Ctrl+T | Help: Ctrl+T followed by Ctrl+H ---

If there are no issues by the end of the flash process, the board will reboot and start up the “play_mp3_control” application.

Step 9. Monitor

At this point press the Reset button to start the application. Following several lines of start up log, the play_mp3_control application specific messages should be displayed:


I (397) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [ 1 ] Start audio codec chip
I (427) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [ 2 ] Create audio pipeline, add all elements to pipeline, and subscribe pipeline event
I (427) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [2.1] Create mp3 decoder to decode mp3 file and set custom read callback
I (437) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [2.2] Create i2s stream to write data to codec chip
I (467) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [2.3] Register all elements to audio pipeline
I (467) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [2.4] Link it together [mp3_music_read_cb]-->mp3_decoder-->i2s_stream-->[codec_chip]
I (477) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [ 3 ] Set up  event listener
I (477) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [3.1] Listening event from all elements of pipeline
I (487) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [ 4 ] Start audio_pipeline
I (507) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [ * ] Receive music info from mp3 decoder, sample_rates=44100, bits=16, ch=2
I (7277) PLAY_FLASH_MP3_CONTROL: [ 5 ] Stop audio_pipeline

If there are no issues, besides the above log, you should hear a sound played for about 7 seconds by the speakers or headphones connected to your audio board. Reset the board to hear it again if required.

Now you are ready to try some other examples, or go right to developing your own applications. Check how the examples are made aware of location of the ESP-ADF. Open the get-started/play_mp3_control/Makefile and you should see


The first line contains ADF_PATH to point the toolchain to another file in ESP-ADF directory that provides configuration variables and path to ESP-ADF components reacquired by the toolchain. You need similar Makefile in your own applications developed with the ESP-ADF.

VS Code Extension

  1. Follow VS Code Extension Quick Installation Guide to install ESP-IDF Visual Studio Code Extension. If the previous steps have been done correctly, the following toolbar appears:

VS Code Extension Toolbar

VS Code Extension Toolbar

  1. To install the ESP-ADF extension, open Command Palette and enter install adf. Then, a progress bar shows up in the lower right corner.

If you have cloned the ESP-ADF repository before, please enter open settings(ui) in Command Palette. Go to User > Extensions > ESP_IDF and manually set the ESP-ADF path in idf.espAdfPath or idf.espAdfPathWin (for Windows). You can also set the ESP-ADF path in .vscode/settings.json.

  1. In Command Palette, enter show examples project, and then a window will be opened with a list of example projects.

  2. Select an example, click Create project using example XX, and select the directory to save the current example.

  3. On the toolbar at the bottom of VS Code, click the gear symbol menuconfig to configure the example and click the column symbol Build to build the example. See available shortcut keys for VS code extensions.

  4. On the toolbar at the bottom of VS Code, click the plug-in symbol Select Port to configure the serial port and click the lightning symbol Flash Device to flash firmware. After the firmware is flashed successfully, click Monitor Device to start the monitor function. Or, you can also use the flame symbol to build, flash, and monitor the example at the same time.

IDF Eclipse Plugin and Espressif IDE

Install and Set up Environment Variables

  1. Follow IDF Eclipse Plugin Quick Installation Guide to install IDF Eclipse Plugin or download and install Espressif IDE from Espressif IDE Download Link. If the previous steps have been done correctly, you can create, build and flash IDF project in the Eclipse environment.

Espressif IDE (Reskinned Eclipse)

Espressif IDE (Reskinned Eclipse)

  1. To install ESP-ADF, follow section Step 2. Get ESP-ADF.

  2. To set ADF_PATH environment variable, open Window > Preferences > C/C++ > Build > Environment panel, click Add button and fill in ADF_PATH. After you complete the above steps, select ADF_PATH in Environment variables table and click Edit and OK button without changing any value (There is a bug in Eclipse CDT that is appending a null value before the path hence we need to click on edit and save it.).

If this step does not work, you can delete ADF_PATH set in Eclipse and set ADF_PATH as system environment variable. For Windows, set environment variable in Advanced System Setting panel. For Linux and macOS, add export ADF_PATH=your adf path in file /etc/profile. However, it is not recommended. Doing so activates ADF virtual environment in every terminal session (including those where ADF is not needed), defeating the purpose of the virtual environment and likely affecting other software.

Create a New Project

  1. To create new project, go to File > New > Espressif IDF Project and provide a project name.

  2. Click Finish to create an empty project. Or click Next and check Create a project using one of the templates to create a project using ESP-IDF templates.

After creating a new project, you can use ESP-IDF and ESP-ADF to develop the project.

Import Existing Project

To import existing ESP-ADF examples, go to File > Import > Espressif > Existing IDF Project and select an ESP-ADF example (Opening an existing project directly may not be able to set the ESP target).

Quick Start

  1. Select a project from Project Explorer.

  2. In the Launch Mode drop-down menu, select Run.

  3. In the Launch Configuration (auto-detected) drop-down menu, select your application.

  4. Select ESP target from the third drop-down, which is called Launch Target. Click gear symbol Edit button of Launch Target to set Serial Port.

  5. Double click sdkconfig file to launch the SDK Configuration Editor.

  6. Click Build button to build the project.

  7. Click Launch button to flash the project.

  8. Click Open a Terminal button and select ESP-IDF Serial Monitor to view serial output.

For more information about IDF Eclipse Plugin and Espressif IDE, please refer to ESP-IDF Eclipse Plugin.

Update ESP-ADF

After some time of using ESP-ADF, you may want to update it to take advantage of new features or bug fixes. The simplest way to do so is by deleting existing esp-adf folder and cloning it again, which is same as when doing initial installation described in sections Step 2. Get ESP-ADF.

Another solution is to update only what has changed. This method is useful if you have a slow connection to the GitHub. To do the update run the following commands:

cd ~/esp/esp-adf
git pull
git submodule update --init --recursive

The git pull command is fetching and merging changes from ESP-ADF repository on GitHub. Then git submodule update --init --recursive is updating existing submodules or getting a fresh copy of new ones. On GitHub the submodules are represented as links to other repositories and require this additional command to get them onto your PC.