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USB Dac and Windows volume control

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

I recently read that you should max the volume in Windows (If your dac doesn't bypass it altogether) in order to get the full bitstream to your dac. I've been using my dac with the Windows volume at whatever level it happened to be at which is usually around 50%. So I gave it a shot with the volume all the way up and turned my amp volume down to compensate. I don't know if it's just in my head and I'm going crazy, but it does seem as though the sound has seriously improved. Do any of you know the technical factors behind this?

post #2 of 5

I think what is happening is the DAC is doing its job fine in either case, but your amp does not have to work as hard with the volume on your PC at full.  This lets your amp run in the comfort zone for its components rather than struggle to deliver a clean signal to your headphones/speakers.

 

If your DAC is being fed by a stereo jack on your PC then I doubt the DAC is really doing anything.  The amp section is doing the work here not the DAC.

 

What DAC / Amp are you using and how do you have it plugged into your computer.

 

In the end it is as simple as the gain on your PC slightly increases the voltage out of the jack to your amp.  Let's say you amp can multiply this signal by 100.  If you originally fed it .01 volts with the volume down then the max output in ideal conditions for the amp would be 1 volt.  If you turn up the volume on the PC to 100% the voltage out becomes say .05 volts.  Now your amp can multiply that voltage by 100 and get 5 volts.  Prior to that it was at 1 volt max.  All of these numbers are arbitrary for my example, but you get the idea.

 

If you are running a cable from the stereo jack on your PC into your DAC then the signal is already in analog form and the DAC is doing nothing to it.

post #3 of 5
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply. I'm running Foobar into an Audinst MX-1 via USB, not the stereo jack. As far as I can tell, Foobar is actually sending out a digital signal.
 

post #4 of 5

Lower it Slightly below 100%. You will get the sweet spot at this point. 

100% can "stress" the signal without notable gains over say 98% which will still have max fidelity. (Applicable when user utilizes gain settings on their hardware amp only) 

If no gain settings are being applied and power is under control leave windows volume @ 100%

 

Always leave player volume default don't mess with it, it defaults 100%.

 

Forget the 44100 and 48000 debate, default two setups one 44100 divisible and one 48000 divisible for music/games vs movies respectively.

 

Bit depth is where the real quality is gained or lost, so ensure 24 bit content isn't hindered by 16.

 

 

 

 

Max volume on any volume control is not ideal. Bit depth will not be reduced by increments of 2.

 

I wan't to make this final as I've found this thread and seen many others ask the same question so i wan't to make a definitive answer.

 

thread question has otherwise been answered...


Edited by Godson-ca - 8/3/16 at 7:08pm
post #5 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by mrip541 View Post
 

I recently read that you should max the volume in Windows (If your dac doesn't bypass it altogether) in order to get the full bitstream to your dac. I've been using my dac with the Windows volume at whatever level it happened to be at which is usually around 50%. So I gave it a shot with the volume all the way up and turned my amp volume down to compensate. I don't know if it's just in my head and I'm going crazy, but it does seem as though the sound has seriously improved. Do any of you know the technical factors behind this?

The reason you experienced improvement can be attributed to the following

  1. Digital volume control effectively lowers the signal to noise ratio. Small reductions should not make a difference, but once it gets below -30dB you may start hearing the background noise
  2. Digital volume alters the original signal, so your DAC does not receive the “bit perfect” content.
  3. As mentioned by @NA Blur, lower level of signal on the DAC output will require more amplification to get to the same volume level. More amplification means more THD, and in extreme cases also may lead to non-linear amplification of the peaks

Since you’re using foobar2000, your best bet would be to use ASIO (if available) or WASAPI/event output and keep that volume at 100%. At the same time play a bit with the replay gain settings if you haven’t done so yet – they do wonders to CDs recorded above the nominal level, and in general will make you reach for the volume control much less.

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