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High volume on the amp and low volume on the audio player, or vice versa?

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 

Hey there.

 

Well, this is the question: supposing I have both a very good quality amp and music player, which one of the three following is the recommended?

 

a) Setting the player to the highest possible volume, and then controlling the output volume using the amp volume control.

b) Setting the amp to the highest possible volume, and then controlling the output volume using the player volume control.

c) Neither one. It's better to use both the amp and the player at, let's say, "balanced" volume levels.

 

I'm not sure whether this has been discussed before (I did a fast search and didn't find anything). If so, would you be so kind to link me to that thread?

 

Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 14

I have always read here on HF to do the 'a' option but I'm can't technically explain why this bests the other two. So for example, my laptop volume is 100 (max) and then I just use the volume pot on my E10 to adjust to my desired comfort level. I never touch the volume controls on my laptop when using the E10.

post #3 of 14

A rule of thumb is to set your source at 3/4 volume then use only your amps volume control.

post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cla55clown View Post

I have always read here on HF to do the 'a' option but I'm can't technically explain why this bests the other two. So for example, my laptop volume is 100 (max) and then I just use the volume pot on my E10 to adjust to my desired comfort level. I never touch the volume controls on my laptop when using the E10.

 

I used to have an article saved on that but can't remember where it came from. In short it is due to the rounding when your volume is not at max. 

 

I just have my laptop volume maxed (although my dac does that to my computer automatically) and then volume control from the amp.
 

 

post #5 of 14

I've read,but forget where too,

 

                                         Set player Volume to 80%. And control volume to Phones with your external device of choice.

post #6 of 14

Maxing out the source or the amp can introduce clipping, especially for sources as they are solid state.

Always good to keep the source at 75% as H20 mentions.

post #7 of 14

If your source and amp are truly of high (or reasonable) quality, you do (a).  Some poorer sources have issues at max volume, and some amps will clip some inputs that are too high in amplitude, so in practice it is a safer bet to set the volume to 80% or something else, as others have described.

 

Lowering volume on the source means reducing the SNR.  The music becomes more noisy, relative to how loud the music is.  Thus you want to avoid lowering the volume on the source as much as possible, unless this creates issues.

 

The exception to the rule is if you're using exceptionally sensitive headphones, generally some models of IEMs.  Most amps, particularly those that aren't that expensive, use a dual potentiometer for analog volume control.  That's the volume control knob.  Because of the way those work in these circuits, at the bottom range of the volume control, the left and right channels may no longer be matched very closely in volume.  If the source is near max volume, with particularly sensitive IEMs, you may need to turn the amp down really low, into this region where the left and right channels are annoyingly not quite the same volume.  Also this means that it's easily possible to accidentally turn up the volume a lot and blast your ears off.

post #8 of 14
Thread Starter 

Thanks guys! I'll put your advices into practice :)

post #9 of 14

Windows XP uses bit-level volume control where you are only getting the full (detailed) bit rate at max volume. This shouldn't be an issue for Vista+. However my old xp laptop has an analogue wheel volume control which has no effect on windows volume levels and so no bit reduction at lower volumes. I think that's what you guys were referring to.

 

 

post #10 of 14

Good question about which I had also wondered; thanks for asking. I tested it a little bit myself last night and apparently arrived at the same conclusion as the viewers in this thread -- I set my source to 100% and was adjusting my external device's amp (seemed like there was less 'hiss' this way).
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fernito View Post

Thanks guys! I'll put your advices into practice :)



 

post #11 of 14

It depends on the source and amplifier, the best way to know for sure is to actually test it.

 

post #12 of 14
Thread Starter 

Well, I tried with my Cowon D2 + FiiO E6 (which, of course, are not the best out there, specially the amp), and if I set the player to 100%, I get a lot of distortion. But, I don't know whether it's because of the player distorting at high volume levels, or because the amp can't "handle" all the power the player delivers.

 

Anyway, currently I'm doing the "80% on the player, volume control on the amp" thing.

post #13 of 14

I could be wrong, but I believe that the aim is to keep the upstream signal as strong as possible (ie you want as much amplification as possible to happen at the source rather than the amp) while ensuring that it is low enough that there is no clipping.

 

So if your source starts noticeably clipping at 90% Volume (remembering that different tracks will cause clipping at different volumes dependant on the power needed to produce each), you might set it to 80% and then use your amp to raise it to the desired volume.

 

If you set the amp to max then use your source to adjust, then you'll be amplifying any noise picked up between your source and amp (not to mention possibly clipping the amp if you're driving it at 100%)

 

That said, I've only applied this to car audio, where clipping is easy to detect - never tried it with IEMs because I assumed that they didn't take enough power to start clipping (my Etys, before I lost them, didn't see much use above ~75% on my Clip+))

 

I would never suggest setting a consumer-grade portable source to 100%, as I'd imagine it would almost certainly clip.


Edited by Dragunov-21 - 4/14/12 at 5:38am
post #14 of 14

Also, it depends on if this you're using the LOD or the headphone jack, the headphone jack is amplified and can clip.

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