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Source Volume Vs. Amp Volume

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
Need some help guys. I've seen this question asked/answered a few times, but always with different opinions. So I'm hoping I can get some more viewpoints and maybe find out what the general consensus is.

I'm using a portable amp connected to my PC sound card. I can adjust the volume through my PC on a 1-100 scale. The portable amp also has volume control. So what is the best balance between the sound card volume and the portable amp volume? One thing to keep in mind, because I am using the portable amp with my PC, I don't have to worry about conserving a battery.

So far, I've had people tell me to set the PC to about 80 and adjust the amp from there and I've had other people tell me to max the volume of the amp and then adjust the PC from there.

Any help would be appreciated!
post #2 of 19
i always go max volume on things and adjust from there on - any time i use a line out from the headphone.

seriously, try it and see if you'll hear a difference (any distortion/breaking up). i never seem to with any of my portable stuff
post #3 of 19
From my time working as a Roadie I was always told.

Have the your inputs lower than your outputs.

In your case have the PC volume lower than the amp. Which would mean almost max out the amp and adjust your PC volume to your comfort level.
post #4 of 19
I've always maxed out the volume on my PC and attenuated with my amp.
post #5 of 19
I've always put my source at about halfway or so of the maximum and adjust the vol of my amp to about 3/4 or so. My reasoning is that my source has an amp and putting it at half way, the distortion or noise would be at a lower level (high S/N) before I re-amplify the input again with my amp.
post #6 of 19
^ that is my reasoning too.

The key is to avoid distortion.
post #7 of 19
So, can I infer from the answers all over the map that there is not right or wrong in this?

So far I have seen nobody say they measured a difference, or heard a difference either way, nor has any respondent said they stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
post #8 of 19
^^
Typical, LOL :-)
post #9 of 19

Thread resurrection...

 

Wondering same as the OPer - If you're going from a PC -> DAC+Amp -> HPs does it matter if you max out the PC (source) volume and then modify the volume solely on your Amp or is it best to keep the Amp maxed and the source lower?

 

I've had a play with and noticed a difference when I used my ipod -> XM6 (not going through the XM6's DAC) whereby it sounded better to me by maxing out my ipod and then modifying the volume on my Amp but that was a long time ago, in truth I've not really had another test since...

 

Is there a Head-fi standard procedure or just whatever you think sounds best/not really fussed?

post #10 of 19
I always thought it was about 70% on your source and adjust your amp from there. I was under the impression if you put your source to max you get distortion.
Edited by noxa - 8/22/11 at 2:48pm
post #11 of 19

70% on the source and then the rest on your amp? Even if your source is digital going directly to a DAC via USB it makes a difference?

 

Is this the general consensus?

post #12 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by gwilo View Post

From my time working as a Roadie I was always told.

Have the your inputs lower than your outputs.

In your case have the PC volume lower than the amp. Which would mean almost max out the amp and adjust your PC volume to your comfort level.


This is the right way.  The reason is that if you have a dedicated external amp, common sense will tell you that your dedicated portable amp will have a much better amp section than your computer sound card.  As a result, you do not want amplify any signal or noise from your source (i.e. computer),  so just output the source signal as low as you could and let the better external amp to do the job of amplification.

 

post #13 of 19

Even with a digital signal? (Tbh never really considered how an amplified digital signal would look at different levels of amplification? :D)

post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by kyledotroberts View Post

Even with a digital signal? (Tbh never really considered how an amplified digital signal would look at different levels of amplification? :D)

No, what I said above assumes an analog out from sound card.  If your computer has USB/Coax/Optical out, then they will be output to an external DAC and from the Dac to your external amp.  In that case, there is no controllable source volume.  Your external amp will have to do all the amplification.
 

 

post #15 of 19

Although this topic could be argued pro and con endlessly, I have always run the source near max for best s/n ratio as well as for maximum dynamic range.   Below is an excerpt from a professional sound recording site that may be of value in understanding the rationale for a high source level.   Although we are considering a headphone amplifier, for all practical purposes, it can be considered the equivalent of a mixer.

 

Quote:

 

Maximising the dynamic range

All equipment has dynamic range. This is the range between the quietest and loudest signals it can accommodate, or between the noise floor (beneath which a sound cannot be heard) and distortion. A signal entering a mixer needs to be as loud as possible without overloading the circuitry and causing distortion.

Setting the best signal to noise ratio

All circuits produce a fixed level of noise (hiss). If the source signal is loud enough this noise will be less noticeable.


Edited by HiFlight - 8/23/11 at 10:20am
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