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I wasn't reducing the digital volume.
The effect I'm referring to was reducing the volume on a completely analog headphone amp (i.e. volume reduction in the analog realm).
I often use a CD player into a DAC, there's no way to reduce the digital volume even if I wanted to.
Or I use an iPod into a digital dock, there's still no way to reduce the volume via DSP even if I want to.
I find it's easier to listen at low levels without reducing detail with the better DAC I just purchased.
The DAC I used before didn't sound very good unless I turned the volume up.
The DAC before that was just plain foggy with really good 'phones.
That's all I was saying...
I have also found that using a lower quality digital source requires me to up the ante on the volume. I recently found the FiiO E17 the antithesis of detail, even compared to my tablet output. I could hear a very slight improvement from my iPhone 4S, but, to my ears, it was not worth shelling out 129 bucks. I returned it as soon as I got it for a full refund because I had already heard much more competent, less pricey dac and amp setups. One of those that comes to mind, by the way, was a HiFiMeDIY Sabre dac and Objective 2 combo.
I've invested far more into my loudspeaker system than headphone rig, and even I doubt this argument. Headphone users are a major segment and on the rise for a variety of reasons.
IMO it would normally take a lot of money on a loudspeaker rig with acoustic treatment to get the extra things loudspeakers bring - like imaging, sound stage and visceral bass - without losing ground to a good pair of headphones on things like coherence, dynamics and loudness, bass and detail across the frequency spectrum.
I think this is the point for the JDS Labs C5D. I don't know if the EU guys make one like that tho...