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Would a volume attenuator hurt sound quality?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Some IEMs come with an in-line volume control, but not all of them. If I were to buy a low-end model (or even a high-end model) to compensate for the ones that don't, are there any general compatibility issues I should look out for? Is there a chance the sound quality would suffer?
post #2 of 15
Thread Starter 
Bump. I've been reading around and it seems they do, but I'd like to get some imput.
post #3 of 15
If you happen to use an iPod, the fiio E1 might be interesting. I provides volume controlled access to the LOD.

+ better sound quality, straight from LOD
+ volume control, play pause, track skip forward/back
+ works on all iPod models

- ipod only
- cable is too long, really
- volume control is finicky until you get used to it
- might reduce playback time

I don't have experience w/ other in-line volume controls. I'd guess it wouldn't hurt the sound unless it was built poorly, but ???
post #4 of 15
I've only experience with the Shure attenuator that comes with the SE530, and IME it does hurt sound quality. With one phone more, with another less, it's pretty much hit or miss. BA phones seem to suffer more than dynamic driver based phones. In some rare cases the change in SQ might even be welcome, as it tends to bring out the bass, but as a general answer I'd say stay away.
post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Thanks for both the answers. I listen on my laptop (I know, cringe) and I don't have an iPod, so it looks like instead of a sound control, I might be better off getting the Fiio E5 amp; I've heard good things about it, and I'd like to keep the listening experience as neutral as possible while still getting some external control over the sound.
post #6 of 15
An attenuator will have a bigger impact on IEMs which use a crossover than those with a single driver. The added resistance of the attenuator will change the characteristics of the crossover network.
post #7 of 15
trust me volume control HURTS the quality
at mid level on my cx500 no matter how loud u turn it on the PMP it will sound muffled
you have to turn it to max and leave it there
post #8 of 15
When you use an attenuator, you're changing resistance (impedence). This can affect bass output. The higher the impedence, the weaker the bass.
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bilavideo View Post
When you use an attenuator, you're changing resistance (impedence). This can affect bass output. The higher the impedence, the weaker the bass.
that's just plain out wrong.

I can't even begin to correct this. ;(
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by theKraken11 View Post
Some IEMs come with an in-line volume control, but not all of them. If I were to buy a low-end model (or even a high-end model) to compensate for the ones that don't, are there any general compatibility issues I should look out for? Is there a chance the sound quality would suffer?
attenuation, on its own, cannot hurt sound quality.

what does affect things is what happens when you send audio thru a ganged pot (stereo pot). there is a triangle like curve on the RMAA test suite (or any audio analyser program) and as you go up in frequency, the separation goes down. this is due to the parallel tracks in a typical pot and as you go up in frequency, the tracks 'work off each other' and you lose separation (channel bleed thru). as frequency goes down, the effect goes down. you can see it on any amp you put thru RMAA that has 2 mono atten controls vs a single stereo control.

stepped attens and other things like that don't have this problem and don't hurt sound at all.

a pair of resistors in a series/shunt config is quite find and harmless to your sound. this will also not have the 'pickup problem' that pots have.
post #11 of 15
It's not harmless to sound at all. In every single configuration I've tried, added resistance always changes the frequency response.

The amount of change depends on the earphone but the sound will change. My um2 experienced a drastic change with added impedance. The more impedance, the more change.

Using the tf10 with its attenuator has less of an effect than the um2 does, but the tf10 has noticeably less treble when used with the attenuator.

I have tested these with and without external amplification.
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Punnisher View Post
It's not harmless to sound at all. In every single configuration I've tried, added resistance always changes the frequency response.
I have the same experience. I get the following problems:
1) Attenuation is uneven in respect to frequency. Treble rolls off quicker.
2) Everything sounds smeared and I lose dynamics and details.
3) Problems gets worse as I lower the volume. The problem is very apparent with my westone UM3X and SA-6. With my er6, its noticeable but tolerable.

I suggest avoiding normal inline volume adapter solutions using typical pots unless you are on a budget or don't care for such results. Stepped attenuators and higher end pots are usually too big to be used with portable amps. Most portable amps from long ago were designed to overcome the inadequate power output of portable players and provide enough gain for full size headphones like the Senn HD600. With so many IEMs in the market today, I am glad some of the headphone amp makers recognize the opposite problem where we need refined controls to attenuate the output properly.
post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Punnisher View Post
It's not harmless to sound at all. In every single configuration I've tried, added resistance always changes the frequency response.
I'm curious, then; when you do ac analysis of a r/r network, do you get impedance or resistance?

perhaps your amp's output is the problem; but on better amps they are not going to change freq response simply by adding R's. this is not how circuits work...
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by linuxworks View Post
I'm curious, then; when you do ac analysis of a r/r network, do you get impedance or resistance?

perhaps your amp's output is the problem; but on better amps they are not going to change freq response simply by adding R's. this is not how circuits work...
I'm sure it's not because of amp problems. It happens regardless of amp.

It has much to do with crossover networks in multi-driver iems, but I'll try to find some info as to why this happens.
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Punnisher View Post
I'm sure it's not because of amp problems. It happens regardless of amp.

It has much to do with crossover networks in multi-driver iems, but I'll try to find some info as to why this happens.
Crossovers are just resistor-capacitor (RC) low pass and high pass filters. Specifically, the low pass filter uses a resistor followed by a capacitor between signal and ground.

In essence, the frequencies that the "woofer" renders will change based on the resistance you're adding.
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